In the last few years, gay rights have come to the forefront of politics, and the equality movement has trickled down into television yet again with Ryan Murphy’s The New Normal. The show centers on a gay couple, Bryan (Andrew Rannells) and David (Justin Bartha), who try to have a child using a surrogate. The New Normal breaks barriers in the television world. Sure, gay couples have adopted children in other progressive television shows — like Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell (Jessie Tyler Ferguson) do on Modern Family. But that was just a part of the show — not the show’s premise. The New Normal, however, is fresh and funny. Rather than being bogged down in the politics of such a controversial topic, it has the wit of Drop Dead Diva and the spunky nature of Glee (think season one).
The pilot episode begins with lively banter between Bryan and his secretary Rocky (NeNe Leakes). Despite my dislike for Leakes — who has a starring role as top b**** in Bravo’s reality show The Real Housewives of Atlanta — I found this first scene entertaining and immediately heartwarming because, as soon as Rocky leaves the room, Bryan starts recording a home video for his future child about how much he is loved, even before birth. OK, slightly cheesy, but cute nonetheless. Bryan then narrates the story back to the “beginning” of how he and his partner became parents, as he introduces the audience to the couple’s future surrogate, Goldie (Georgia King); Goldie’s grandmother, Jane (Ellen Barkin); and Goldie’s daughter Shania (Bebe Wood).
Between Goldie’s childish spunk — a product of being a mother at 15 — Jane’s bigoted hyperbole and Shania’s precocious maturity, the dialogue sparkles. But there has to be more to a television show than snide remarks and fluid back-and-forth. The New Normal touches on more issues than just gay couples having children, and it moves into all types of different non-traditional families, including teenage pregnancies (Goldie is a part of a family with three generations of teenage mothers).
I do, however, have reservations about the new show, including whether, by trying to point out stereotypes, the show is playing into them. For instance, Bryan and David are not exactly unfamiliar characters. Flamboyant Bryan is obsessed with fashion and expensive clothing and was the one who decided he wanted a child because he saw one in the mall and said, “Oh, I must have one.” Meanwhile, David is the ‘man’s man’ gay guy who enjoys a good beer.
The recycled characters don’t stop with Bryan and David. Goldie and Shania have a relationship far too similar to Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory’s (Alexis Bledel) in Gilmore Girls. Talk about been there, done that.
Despite these slight flaws, I am hoping that in the following episodes these kinks will be figured out and the characters will develop relationships that go far beyond stereotypes. I look forward to watching and seeing where this show can really go — who knows if it could be the next big hit. Let’s watch and see.