Yo, what is this “new normal” thing that gets bandied around? I mean, what’s weird that is now normal?
Is it the venom directed at that young woman Kristen Stewart who had a fling with some guy while dating another guy and is now the subject of the most extraordinary sneering and voyeuristic media coverage? Is it now normal to obsess about the sad face and nervousness of an embarrassed 22-year-old who committed an indiscretion? She’s 22. Since when do we beat up on the young for such a folly? Since when is a young person’s gaucherie the source of such glee?
Is it the rise of the talentless Kardashians to pop-culture superstardom? Is it the fact that nobody wants to drink 14 pints with me any more? Is it the fact that What-Happens-in-Vegas-Stays-in-Vegas turns out to be untrue, especially if you’re a prince parading your equipment and surrounded by drunk people with cellphone cameras?
One could go on and on, but this thing, The New Normal (NBC, CTV, 10 p.m.), is a perky little sitcom about two gay chaps who want to have a baby and arrange a surrogate mother and run into some hassle with the surrogate’s grandmom, an acid-tongued, gay-hating termagant who, it turns out, has her reasons. And such. Total tomfoolery.
The show is the first sitcom from the currently-considered-a-genius Ryan Murphy who brought us Glee and American Horror Story, both of which are often funny, but more on the seriously sarcastic side of funny.
The show is indeed funny but like so many network forays into comedy about contemporary mores, it is full of itself and not half as clever as it wants you to think it is. It’s a normal sitcom, with vicious humour and a heart of gold.
I mean, take note of NBC’s summary of this show: “These days, families come in all forms – single dads, double moms, sperm donors, egg donors, one-night-stand donors.… It’s 2012 and anything goes.” To which one is tempted to reply, “Well knock me down with a feather boa! Who knew.” Or point out that over on ABC they’ve been airing this award-winning show called Modern Family for some years now.
And yet the show (tomorrow it movies to its regular time slot, Tuesdays at 9:30 on NBC and CTV) has generated controversy. A group representing “conservative moms” has made it the target of complaints and an NBC station in Utah has declined to air it. Maybe it’s the title that makes some people in the United States so antsy. Maybe the new normal in the U.S. is willful blindness of the new normal in family units.
Anyhoo. The set-up is silly but enjoyable. In some Midwestern place, super-nice and super-pretty Goldie (Georgia King) is a waitress and single mother with a mouthy, reactionary grandmother. Just before Goldie and her super-cute kid decide to take off for L.A., the grandmother makes statements such as this: “I love the gays. I could never get my hair this way without them.” And super-cute kid says, “Nana, you’re a bigot, I’m going to unfriend you right now.” And she does. Later on, just to show that the comedy is packed with up-to-the-minute jokes, Nana is told, “Why don’t you take your Callista Gingrich hairdo back to.…” Good one. Gingrich reference. Good hair joke.
Meanwhile in L.A., Bryan (Andrew Rannells) and David (Justin Bartha) are a gay couple with great careers, great style and enjoying a wonderful, committed, loving relationship. One of them decides they should have a baby. The other says, “Sweetie, you know you can’t return a baby to Barneys.”
You get the picture? The New Normal is full of sizzle and fine one-liners and visual jokes. One of the gay chaps announces, “I would like a skinny blond child that doesn’t cry.” When they are auditioning surrogate moms they are told by the facilitator, about one particularly odd candidate, “Celine Dion gave her a great reference.”
There is also an excellent joke about Gwyneth Paltrow. But, pretty soon, someone is saying, “A family is a family. And love is love.” It turns out that the bitchy, bigoted Nana suffered a trauma and, well, everybody just needs to get along.
And there you have it. A good new sitcom, clever but not startlingly so. In fact it is quite touching at times. Ellen Barkin is having a whale of a time as the Nana who gets the best gay-bating lines. Rannells and Bartha are excellent and inhabit their gay-couple roles with gusto.
Thing is, they are like most sitcom couples. Normal as all get-out. If you’re offended by this show you are definitely not normal.
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