Review: How Normal is "The New Normal"?
As the token gay member of the DadCentric baseball team, I get to write reviews about any TV show or movie that’s about gay people, peripherally involves gay people, or mentions gay people in any way. Seriously, we had a meeting about it. I call dibs on all gay-related stories until the next member of DadCentric comes out of the closet. (I’m not saying who that might be. I just think it's worth mentioning that Beta Dad has seen every episode of RuPaul's Drag Race. And between you and me, he has a penchant for jaunty hats.)
I sat down last night to watch the first two episodes of The New Normal, the latest TV series from creator Ryan Murphy, he of Glee and American Horror Story. It’s a show about two gay guys who decide they want to become dads. And since I’m a gay guy who is a dad, I officially get to say whether the show is good or not. So there.
My verdict: yes, It’s good.
The premise is pretty fresh: gay couple decides to have a baby, meets a surrogate baby mama who's nice as Girl Scout into their lives, along with her own daughter and bigoted, homophobic foil of a grandmother. Wacky Sitcommy Fun!
As comedies go, I can’t say the show had me laughing out loud. But what it lacks in belly laughs, it more than makes up for in charm, and a sweetness that you don’t see too often on TV. I know, I know – we already have Modern Family, a show that boasts it’s own American Gay Sweethearts. I like that show as much anyone, but I have to admit: the gay couple over in that particular TV cul-de-sac is a little too cliché for me. And the same might end up being true for David and Bryan, the couple on The New Normal. Bryan (The Book of Mormon’s Andrew Rannells) is a flamboyant peacock with a penchant for capri pants and aging movie stars, while David (The Hangover’s Justin Bartha) provides balance by being a sports-loving doctor. Feels slightly cartoonish to me.
But here’s what I’m liking about the show: not the Look How Quirky Life is! premise, or the predictable humor mined from pre-parenting naiveté (Bryan to the surrogacy arranger: “I would like a skinny blond child who doesn’t cry. Is that extra?”) Nope, what I’m liking is that the couple at the heart of the story actually has heart. There relationship is comfortable, kind and romantic – way more so, actually, than what you see in any hetero couple of television. Gee, it’s almost as if Murphy has a political point to make here...
In making a statement about the legitimacy of gay relationships, Murphy may be shellacking the story with a gloss that’s a bit too sticky-sweet. For an audience used to TV couples who use sarcasm and snark as foreplay, this show may feel a little cloying. I predict that Murphy is going to catch some shit for making the central relationship too perfect.
But that's a pretty minor issue, especially since The New Normal is arriving at such an important time in our culture’s evolution. Now is time to illustrate that gay couples are just like straight couples in so many ways. They make the same commitments, they share the same foibles -- and, say it with me: they deserve the same rights.
Ok, Mr. Murphy. My DVR and I are in. Here's hoping the show makes it to Election Day.
The New Normal airs Tuesdays at 9:30 Pacific time.