Wednesday, September 12, 2012

'The New Normal': Initial Reaction

The New Normal (Tuesdays @ 9:30 NBC)

First off, I didn't pay close attention to NBC's schedule of its new series. The New Normal's pilot actually aired on Monday after The Voice.  Tuesday had NBC broadcasting the second episode, called "Sofa's Choice," in the show's regular Tuesday night time slot.  Fortunately, it is easier to write a review (or reaction) to a show when you have seen more than one installment.  Unfortunately, I think two episodes of The New Normal may have been two too many.

The New Normal was created by Ryan Murphy.  Murphy also created Fox's Glee.  And I have really come to hate Glee.

One factor for my dislike of Glee is the same part that nearly all of its audience loves: Coach Sue Sylvester.  Sue Sylvester was the main reason I even bothered watching Glee.  But early in season two, I lost any motivation I keep tuning into the show. I just got tired of her jokes (more accurately described as offensive remarks).  It's strange that a show that is basically the longest PSA for acceptance of gays and anti-bullying relies on stereotypical jokes for the bulk of its humor.  Of course, Sue isn't the protagonist of Glee.  So it manages to get away with these types of jokes.  Additionally, the music of Glee was never for me.  Therefore, I no longer have any business to continue watching.  

Well, The New Normal doesn't have music.  But it does have its own version of Sue Sylvester.  Jane Forest, or Nana (Ellen Barkin), is basically Sue without the track suit.  I guess she's also more politically conservative than I recall Sue being.  And yes, I did laugh at some of the racist jokes.  However, after watching two episodes, I don't know anymore about the Nana character other than the fact that she is an extremely intolerant person.  Or at least, she presents herself as intolerant.  But I'm positive that at the conclusion of future episodes, Nana will always end up displaying some redeemable quality that allows the audience to forgive her behavior for the first twenty minutes.

Now, Ellen Barkin's Nana isn't the main character of the program.  The central characters are David (Justin Bartha) and Bryan (Andrew Rannells) who are trying to adopt a baby.  Nana's granddaughter, Goldie (Georgia King), is going to serve as the surrogate mother for the gay couple's child.  There's also Shania (Bebe Wood), Goldie's daughter.  The stuff that goes on between those four characters is fine. The characters of David and Goldie are more of the "straight men" characters while Bryan and Shania are responsible for the non-Nana laughs.  Those laughs became fewer and fewer as I watched the two episodes.  In "Sofa's Choice," Shania, a seven or eight year-old, adopts the personality of Little Edie from the 1970s documentary Grey Gardens.  It's a pop culture reference that the majority of viewers probably didn't understand (though some may have seen the HBO film of the same name that starred Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange).  People watching may have found what she was doing to be cute, but it really had nothing to do with the story. 

Furthermore, The New Normal employs a similar cinematographic style as Glee.  It does that zooming in and out tactic that provides a light atmosphere to the setting.  That visual style fits the Fox musical more appropriately than this show because in Glee, the cinematography is complemented by the similarly light and bouncy background soundtrack (I'm not referring to the pop songs that the club performs).

It would be hard to describe The New Normal as horrible.  The real problem is, for a comedy, it's not that funny.  More problematic is the familiar characters.  So if I stopped voluntarily watching Glee two seasons ago, there's no point to start up on starting up on a slight variation (without the music) of it today.

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