Tag Archives: The New Normal

Fall 2012 Review: The New Normal

14 Sep

Maybe I had this preconception going in, so it’s unfair, but The New Normal felt like it definitely oozed a lot of the Glee Ryan Muprhy sensibility (probably not as much American Horror Story).  Not so much songs, but very slickly and cleanly produced and very quirkly, while also wearing social and racial issues on its sleeve, without a trace of subtlety.  This is exemplified by the grandmother character played by Ellen Barkin whose one note is calling everybody racist or homophobic names, and who comes off as a very poor man’s Jessica Walter in Arrested Development.

Let’s start with our premise.  An otherwise contented and career-wise successful gay couple decides they want a child.  The more flamboyant of the couple does something or other in an office where he has a sassy black female assistant who he lavishes with gifts that she buys with his dime, while the sport-loving more masculine member (played by Doug, the groom from the Hangover’s Justin Bartha) is a gynecologist.  The two find an egg donor they love (she looks like Gwyneth Paltrow) but the original surrogate for their baby attempts to blackmail them, threatening to smoke and drink unless they cater to her expensive needs.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the Midwest, Goldie is working as a waitress/bartender (guessing based on uniform) and regretting her past mistakes, having a kid at 15 (her greatest mistake, in both senses of the word, etc, etc) which never let her live out her dream of going to law school.  She’s on her way to work with her aforementioned homophobic, racist, grandmother, and her daughter, when she has to stop back at home after forgetting something.  She finds her douchebaggy husband having sex with another woman, and sees this as a moment to leave everything behind and drive straight to the west coast.  Although she is originally consigned to coming back, having no money, she decides to attempt to stay, forge a new life out west, and make a go of it.

Eventually our two halves are matched up as David and Bryan (the gay couple) get matched up with Goldie who has decided to be a surrogate and as it turned out specifically requested a gay couple.  Everything’s going swimmingly as Goldie and her daughter and David and Bryan get along famously, until her grandmother storms implores her not to carry a gay couple’s baby (using more choice language, I assure you).  Goldie goes through with it, and she’s back with the couple and her daughter and we’re right about to see whether the baby took or not when the show ends (I’ve got a sneaking feeling it did).

It’s kind of Modern Family light.  There’s a big all families are different but loving message and although unorthodox totally the opposite of dysfunctional (well, grandmother aside, maybe).  It’s probably warmer and sweeter than it is funny, and generally quirky without being over the top ridiculous.  It’s not bad at all.  I felt glad for the couple too, and for Goldie to start her new life, in just that episode.  It’s not that good either though.  There’s nothing, after watching it that really pulls me back.  With comedies, it’s not really about seeing a finished product as much as it is seeing signs that can improve into something you want to watch every week.  To its credit, the show seems to come out fully formed.  Unfortunately fully formed, while not bad, is not good enough.  I have a hard time seeing this turn into a show I eagerly anticipate the next episode of .

Will I watch again?  I don’t think so.  I don’t think it’s bad, but there’s nothing compelling enough to come back for a second episode with so many other choices out there.  Even Modern Family, which had strong moments was never really my favorite kind of show.

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Fall 2012 Preview and Predictions: NBC

11 Sep

(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall (now spring!) television season, I’ve set up a very simple system of predictions for how long new shows will last.  Each day, I’ll (I’m aware I switched between we and I) lay out a network’s new shows scheduled to debut in the fall (reality shows not included – I’m already going to fail miserably on scripted shows, I don’t need to tackle a whole other animal) with my prediction of which of three categories it will fall into.

These categories are:

1.  Renewal – show gets renewed

2.  14+ – the show gets thirteen or more episodes, but not renewed

3.  13- – the show is cancelled before 13)

NBC

NBC has the first debuts this year so we’ll start there.  The last place network, which is coming off a super popular Olympics high, has six new shows initially scheduled to air this fall.  Let’s take a look.

Go On – 9/11

Go On aired a special pilot sneak preview in August, as NBC tried to take advantage of the one time people were actually watching, during the Olympics to promote a couple of its new shows.  You can read my full review of the pilot here, but here’s the basic premise.  Friends veteran Matthew Perry is an egomaniacal sports talk radio shock jock who is forced by his employers to attend grief therapy while dealing with the death of his wife.  He helps out the other members of the therapy group, while also learning from them, etc, etc.

Verdict:  14+ I don’t see it going that far – it’s just not that good, and while obviously that means little to nothing in what happens to shows on network television, I don’t think audiences will connect – I don’t really see it’s audience – not Community enough for that crowd, or Whitney enough for that crowd (I hope that’s not really a crowd).  Perry’s name will get it the full season pick up though.  Also, it’s better than Mr. Sunshine, which is worth something I suppose.

Animal Practice – 9/26

The other NBC show which got a shot at airing during the Olympics, a full review can be found here.  It’s about a veterinarian who loves animals, but not so much their owners.  He’s now forced to work with the new owner of his animal hospital, who is an old flame, who is returning after having not seen him for a couple of years.  Also a couple of wacky sidekicks and a monkey that does human stuff.  So that’s cool.

Verdict:  13-  Honestly, a quick look over the fall shows (and maybe I’ll regret this when I get to CBS or Fox) tells me there are far fewer crazy obvious instant cancellations like The Playboy Club and I Hate My Teenage Daughter (and Last Man Standing…oh, wait).  Something’s got to get cancelled.  Probably quite a few somethings.  This utterly forgettable show will likely be one of them.

Chicago Fire – 10/10

Too soon for a reference to a disaster that killed hundreds and destroyed over three square miles of downtown Chicago?  House’s Jesse Spencer is the lead in an ensemble show focusing on the exciting and fast-paced lives of firefighters and paramedics in Chicago (the non-police two thirds of Third Watch).  It’s less overused than cops for sure, so small amount of credit there, but it offhanded screams out generic procedural (I really think the logic was um, cops, been there – how about firefighters?), maybe with some personal life business to get you all attached to those characters.  We’ll see though.

Verdict:  Renewed – crapshoot 101.  NBC has not been a big home to procedurals of late, but they’ve got new management and probably want to follow the CBS model to success, with at least one.  Prime Suspect did fail miserably last year, but boy, NBC would take almost anything right now.  Oh, and it’s produced by a guy named Dick Wolf who used to have some pull around NBC.   Dick Wolf claims he chose Chicago over Law & Order’s NYC to be different but if you don’t think it’s because of the name you’re kidding yourself (future overseas spin off The Great London Fire?  Think about it).

Guys With Kids – 9/26

Jimmy Fallon co-created this sitcom which stars Law & Order verteran Anthony Anderson, Whitest Kid U Know Zach Cregger, and general actor who is in a bunch of things but no one super notable role Jesse Bradford as three dads with young kids, “desperately trying to remain dudes” as the official NBC web site tells us.  Two are married, one is divorced.  Anderson is married to Cosby Show daughter Tempest Bledsoe and Cregger is married to Sopranos daughter Jamie-Lynn Sigler.  Can they remain “cool” with little kiddies by their side?  Only time will tell.  It seems incredibly uninspired but who knows these days.

Verdict – 13- – it’s got the Jimmy Fallon backing and early reports say that it might be better than I instinctively thought (any show about dudes trying to remain dudes just reeks off the bat but comedies are less premise dependent than dramas) But again, it’s NBC so I have to assume that a fair amount of their shows will get cancelled.

The New Normal – 9/11

Ryan Murphy kind of owns television these days.  Glee is still going str…well, going.  American Horror Story made some splashes last fall and will be back.  And this year he’s got a more traditional comedy featuring a less traditional group of folks.  A career oriented gay couple decides they want a kid, and hire a surrogate mother from the Midwest who has an 8 year old kid of her own who comes out west where they live.  She’s accompanied by her racist, homophobic grandmother (I’m kind of guessing about the racist, homophobic part).  And now, they’re THE NEW NORMAL.  It smells a lot like Modern Family, for better or worse.

Verdict:  Renewal – Ryan Murphy’s on something of a role these days, and what network wouldn’t kill for even a shot at the next Modern Family, which will be winning Best Comedy Emmys like Rafael Nadal wins French Opens (Congrats Andy Murray by the way!).

Revolution – 9/17

JJ Abrams 101.  A post-apocalyptic future where the power is out, for good.  Without electricity, the world descends into chaos with militias and warlords and what not ruling their own patches of earth.  Is the supernatural involved?  Who knows.  Our own roving band of misfits is being pursued by a particular militia.  Actors included Twilight grad Billy Burke, Lost grad Elizabeth Mitchell (and a star of V, cementing her sci-fi TV cred), Gustavo Fring himself, Giancarlo Esposito, and a bunch of relative newbies.  After failure after failure (see:  Terra Nova, The Event, V., Flashforward), hope for the next Lost remains.

Verdict: Renewal – I know this is wrong, I just know it, I’m making the exact same mistake I made with Terra Nova, but man, one of these shows has to succeed eventually, right, or they’d stop making them?  Plus the JJ Abrams imprimatuer could buy it a couple of extra episodes at least?  Maybe?