EDITORIAL NOTE: To understand how we do our reviews, please refer to our review of Revolution, here.
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. Bryan (Andrew Rannells, “Girls,” “The Book of Mormon”) and David (Justin Bartha, “The Hangover”) are a Beverly Hills couple and they have it all. Well, almost. With successful careers and a committed and loving partnership, the one thing missing is a baby. And just when they think the stars will never align, enter Goldie (Georgia King, “One Day”), an extraordinary young woman with a checkered past. A Midwestern waitress and single mother looking to escape her dead-end life and small-minded grandmother (Ellen Barkin, “Ocean’s Thirteen”), Goldie decides to change everything and move to L.A. with her precocious 8-year-old daughter. Desperate and broke – but also fertile – Goldie quickly becomes the guys’ surrogate and quite possibly the girl of their dreams. Surrogate mother, surrogate family. “The New Normal” is produced by 20th Century Fox Television and Ryan Murphy Productions. Murphy serves as creator/executive producer and director along with executive producer/creator/writer Ali Adler (“Glee,” “Chuck”) and executive producer Dante Di Loreto (“Glee,” “American Horror Story”) – NBC
Score: 33 out of 100
Initial Impressions (May 20, 2012): Remember how we said all but a couple shows look great? Well this is the first one that looks horrible. Ryan Murphy is simply not content with having a show without a a political agenda that serves to mock and insult middle-America. The problem we have with this obvious and vulgar attempt of one-upping the brilliant Modern Family is that even in the trailer it’s done with such a sense of mean-spiritedness and political preachiness that it puts David E. Kelley’s crap to shame. Don’t believe us, simply watch the trailer. Three times they made a point to focus on the Ohio license plates on the car (perhaps this is a not so subtle attempt by the producers to make Ohio voters feel guilty and remind them they are in a battleground state this November?) and then they made the point to portray the main character’s grandmother’s as a small-minded white bigot and homophobe… because, of course, all white people from the Midwest over 30 are bigoted homophobes. And the loudmouth, stereotypical black woman (who admits that she’s a thief, thereby promoting yet another stereotype) bawling out the grandmother and making a reference to Calista Gingrich (a name for when 95% of the audiences hear it they will collectively say, “who?”) was a nice touch, as well.
So, the bottom line is that people from Ohio are small-minded bigots and homophobes and will do anything for money and that Calista Gingrich is one as well because of her haircut. Fantastic. Oh, did we mention that all the agenda advancing aside, the show looks like an absolute disjointed mess filled with nothing but bad sitcom clichés. So, yeah, it’s got that going for it, as well.
Shawn: The New Normal has been sparking more controversy than any comedy in recent history and it hasn’t even officially aired a single episode. We would like to state how proud we were to be included in the controversy by NBC Universal personally declaring war against the ‘Tastic over their new flagship sitcom that they apparently think is going to make people forget about how great ABC’s Modern Family is.
“Oh… how’s that,” you say? Well, here’s how the story goes:
Any time we do a preview or review of a television series, the first thing we do is to go to the YouTube channel of whatever network the show is on and immediately download their official trailers and upload them to our own YouTube Channel. We do this for two reasons; first, the networks have a tendency to remove their trailers after a couple of months, especially if a show has been unceremoniously canceled quicker than expected, and what happens is that if we use the network’s YouTube embed code, it winds up leaving a big fat hole right in the middle of our piece. Second, and more importantly, we do this to foster debate, criticism and commentary that the networks tend to filter out on their own YouTube channels. The networks generally don’t care if we post their videos, usually because it’s one more outlet to advertise their show on and there are usually far more users going to NBC’s YouTube channel than TV-Tastic’s dopey channel. The New Normal‘s trailer was no exception but surprisingly to us, it quickly became one of our most popular trailers.
The problems came because of the comments and the debate. While fans of Andrew Rannells and Ryan Murphy’s Glee gushed obnoxiously about how great this show looked and what a hit it would be, we begged to differ, expressing the same concerns about the show in the comments section that we did on the blog and furthermore expressing our opinion that we felt the show would fail because the bottom-line is that it’s an agenda-driven show and audiences are tired of being preached to, regardless of the content. For this opinion, we were called every name in the book and accused of being bigoted and homophobic when nothing could be further from the truth.
But then a funny thing happened back in July…
All of the sudden, the tide was beginning to turn with the content of the comments with more and more users agreeing with us that the show did indeed appear to be a mean-spirited, agenda-driven hit-piece and that it would be hurt because of that with audiences. And that’s when NBC dropped the hammer and personally filed a copyright infringement claim against us to have the trailer taken down, claiming that it was a complete episode. Y’see, it wasn’t just the mounting negative comments that the trailer was garnering so close to premiere date that got NBC Universal all butt-hurt over it… it was the fact that we had over 25,000 hits on the same video compared to their meager 4,000, outpacing them by nearly six to one.
So, basically, NBC Universal, who apparently consider themselves paragons of diversity and champions of fostering an open exchange of ideas, has no problem suppressing our “Fair Use” rights through intimidation and abuse of power if they don’t like what people think about their new shows. And if you’re skeptical as to if that was really their motivation, we have ten other trailers of theirs on our page for new 2012 – 2013 shows and they haven’t said a word about them. For the record, we talked to the right people about this issue and we don’t consider this matter closed with NBC Universal and we’ll keep you updated on the progress.
So, that is our little contribution to The New Normal controversy but that doesn’t even come close to the controversy caused by NBC’s Salt Lake affiliate, KSL, who has decided to not air the show in their prime-time lineup this fall. And of course, the knee-jerk reaction by the folks at GLAAD, some members of the cast and the media is that KSL, a station owned by Mormons, is homophobic and won’t air a show because they hate “teh gays.”
Lunatic and shrew, Ellen Barkin posted this on Twitter:
“Anyone in Utah interested in @NBCTheNewNormal please clog up @ksl5tv feed 4 their blatantly homophic decision 2 not air the show #KSLBigots”
…and then this:
“Shame on u @kslcom not airing @NBCTheNewNormal So L&O SVU (rape & child murder) is ok? But loving gay couple having a baby is inappropriate?”
Ahhhh… good old Ellen Barkin… lovely and charming as usual.
From The Hollywood Reporter:
“Same-sex families are a beloved part of American television thanks to shows like Modern Family, Glee and Grey’s Anatomy,” GLAAD president Herndon Graddick said in a statement. “While audiences, critics and advertisers have all supported LGBT stories, KSL is demonstrating how deeply out of touch it is with the rest of the country…”
“Graddick suggested that a meeting between Simpson and local LGBT families might change the CEO’s opinion.
“We know that if he would, he would see that not only are our families normal, but by citing ‘crude and rude’ content and refusing to affirm LGBT families, KSL and Mr. Simpson are sending a dangerous message to Utah,” Graddick said. “They should make that right.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa…
What exactly did KSL claim as their reasons for not airing The New Normal?
“Jeff Simpson, CEO of KSL parent company Bonneville International, revealed Friday the station planned not to air New Normal, citing crude language and offensive characterizations. The same station decided not to air NBC drama The Playboy Club last fall.
“After viewing the pilot episode of The New Normal, we have made the decision to keep it off our fall schedule,” Simpson said. “For our brand, this program simply feels inappropriate on several dimensions, especially during family viewing time.””
Gee, that’s funny, because not only does KSL not mention ANYTHING about the inappropriateness of a gay couple having a child or their opposition to such a portrayal on television, they point to the EXACT SAME ISSUES THAT WE HAVE WITH THE SHOW and that was before we even saw one episode! Kind of curious, though, how similar the backlash against KSL is to the backlash we received without once complaining about the gay couple. Folks, this is the same affiliate that refused to air The Playboy Club last year based on similar criteria and we’ll go so far as to state that this show is far more offensive based on those criteria, gay couple who wants a baby notwithstanding.
Now, is it possible that their opposition to the show is over the gay couple? Sure, but all you can go on is their stated reasons which are very credible because they mirror our observations and those of others far more respectable than we are. Sorry, but no one is in any position to judge what’s in someone’s heart by any other standard than their words and actions and KSL’s words and actions don’t pass the litmus test for “homophobic.”
And that’s the thing, The New Normal is far more mean-spirited and offensive than we could have imagined. The characterizations are vile and stereotypical and as we noted, the only purpose of this show seems to be to stand on a soap box and tell Middle-America how evil and rotten they are and how wonderful and progressive Hollywood is. It’s sycophantic and self-aggrandizing on a scale like we’ve never seen and it puts David E. Kelley to shame.
Ironically, the only saving grace to this show is the gay couple, even though they’re terribly stereotyped, as well. Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha are actually very charming and funny as the couple who desperately wants a child. Their performances are quite heart-warming and endearing.
Unfortunately, though, those characters cannot save this show. The problem is that they are supposed to be the main characters yet they are almost treated as background noise in favor of agenda-advancing on what is supposed to be a comedy. It’s one thing to want to promote tolerance and acceptance, it’s another thing to do so by denigrating and alienating every one else in the process.
Oh, and did we mention, that other than Rannells and Bartha, the show is completely devoid of humor?
Chance of Renewal: 50%
Even though The New Normal is far worse than we expected, thanks to the very likable Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha we are now leaning toward it probably lasting for the full season and perhaps a second season (instead of getting canceled after two episodes like we initially predicted before we saw the pilot). This reminds us of Harry’s Law where audiences (like us) really wanted to like the show but just got tired of being preached to so if it does in fact survive for a second season, that will be its last. But then, again, this is NBC we’re talking about so it could be canceled after two episodes, so don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Watch the pilot of The New Normal, right now, ahead of the September 11th premiere, here.
For a different take on The New Normal, go here.