Give “The New Normal” a minute to explain
Ryan Murphy’s newest primetime television show caused a fair amount of controversy earlier this fall, the first network television show to center on a gay couple. “The New Normal,” aptly named, revolves around a young gay couple, Bryan and David (Andrew Rannells of “The Book of Mormon” and Justin Bartha of “The Hangover”) who seek to add a little member to their family by surrogacy. The surrogate they find, single mother Goldie (Georgie King), has a daughter of her own, Shania (Bebe Wood) and a conservative, Sue Sylvester but richer mother (Ellen Barkin) still trying to control her daughter’s decisions. Murphy and co-creator Ali Adler create a recipe for hilarity.
Unfortunately, “The New Normal” opened to less than shining reviews. The humor often seemed forced, the script and story unrealistic and the characters difficult to believe. Ratings have dropped steadily since the premiere in September. However, after viewing the latest two episodes, “Bryanzilla” and “The Godparent Trap,” airing on October 9th and 23rd, respectively, I urge anyone who may have given up hope on the show to give it a second chance and anyone who hasn’t seen it yet to dive in.
Murphy and Adler, of “Nip/Tuck” and “Glee” fame, certainly have a specific style and sense of humor, amplified when working together. Murphy himself is a bit far-sighted, envisioning a world in which racism, sexism and homophobia are all recognized social diseases and as such deserve to be pointed at and laughed about. However, as many critics and myself may have felt, the rampant racism and gay stereotypes made the show feel flat and one-dimensional. For instance, in the episode “Obama Mama,” Bryan and David try to convince Goldie’s mother that they are not racist by inviting their African-American friends to dinner, all one of them. While this seems funny to people dedicated to many liberal viewers who may feel the sting of hypocrisy in their own lives that Bryan and David display, it does little to actually work towards a better future and may in fact move backwards.
Murphy and Adler, however, may have gotten a hint more recently as the stories have gotten a little deeper, more personal and more human. “Bryanzilla” tackles the question of marriage. Bryan wants to get married, but David wants to wait until everyone can all throughout the United States. I won’t give away what happens, but I can say that the layers of Bryan and David’s characters finally start to move beyond stereotypes and kitschy portrayals of committed gay relationships. The episode restored some hope for me, but the episode “The Godparent Trap” really surprised and hit home. Worried about the spiritual future of their child, Bryan and David start looking for godparents. The show had earlier hinted that David was from a Jewish background and Bryan had been raised in the Catholic Church, but suddenly this became a main focus. Bryan engages in a conversation about homosexuality and the Church with a resident priest and finally the breakdown of stereotypes begin. The priest explains that the Church isn’t against gay people and reaffirms that Bryan and his family are welcome at Mass. Even further, the priest challenges them to fight for their spiritual equality, just as the gay community has fought for marriage equality and other civil rights. The episode invoked feelings I haven’t received anywhere on television before and really excites me for the continuing growth of the characters.
While “The New Normal” may have started at a slump, I encourage viewers to give it a chance. Anytime norms are challenged, the road is rocky, but Murphy and Adler may have just hit the pavement.