Why I love The New Normal

Can I tell you a secret? Good. Nobody else is there, right, reader? Okay, here goes.

I kind of liked Glee.

I got into it on night shifts and really dug it’s sense of humour and, yes, the music on the show. But, about halfway through the 2nd series it seemed to go a bit Grey’s Anatomy, by which I mean, every character started becoming a massively irritating douche (seriously, I can’t name a single character on GA I gave a damn about past halfway through the first season). Seriously, I found it hard to warm to any of them and even the characters I’d previously liked started losing my sympathy.

So, when I heard that the show’s creator Ryan Murphy had a new show out I was a little bit divided, but the premise seemed decent and the trailers E4 ran were pretty amusing so I thought I’d check out The New Normal.

newnorm

I’m glad I did because it is fast becoming one of my favourite shows on TV at the moment.

The premise of the show is that single mother Goldie (Georgia King), who after catching her husband in bed with another woman hits the road with her young daughter, Shania (Bebe Wood) and goes to California, where she decides to become a surrogate to a gay couple wanting a child.

The gay couple are the fairly level headed obstetrician David (Justin Bartha) and his long term partner Brian (Andrew Rannells), the delightfully camp and slightly shallow producer of a television show called Sing, a thinly veiled parody of Glee. David and Brian chose Goldie, and despite the normal procedure spend time with her and Shania, becoming close to both.

While they bond and deal with the challenges of becoming parents for the first time they have to deal with Goldie’s Nana, Jane (Ellen Barkin) an outspoken, bigoted woman who disapproves of Goldie’s decision and of David and Brian becoming parents.

The show has a few similarities with Glee, most notably in style, which can appear unrelentingly glossy and happy at first but actually covers storylines and characters that deal with rather serious issues (spirituality, homophobia, family and the responsibilities that come with parenthood). It also has similarities with Murphy’s previous show’s entertaining scripts, which are filled with pop culture references and a delightfully catty sense of humour.

And, as with Glee, many of the best lines belong to the older blonde lady antagonist.

Ellen Barkin’s Nana, is an un-PC treat, firing off shockingly intolerant one liners and hinting at a more fragile individual underneath her suited, tough exterior, which she’s had to adopt as a single mother and grandmother. I’m sure over time they’ll soften the character more and more, but I must admit I rather like the bitchy grandma and the way she sparks off the other characters.

Barkin as Nana- an un-PC treat

Barkin as Nana- an un-PC treat

It’s the characters that made me fall for this show, Goldie is lovably naive and sweet, with a kind of shyness that she struggles to overcome as she attempts to build her new life and stand up for herself against her overbearing Nana.

And they’ve managed to get her daughter Shania right as well, with Bebe Wood managing to make her quirky and weird without lurching into the “annoying child” zone, and I find the mother-daughter relationship really believable and cute.

Goldie and Shania- cute

Goldie and Shania- cute

I also love the way that the show has them slowly forming their new family unit with David and Brian, who are quite possibly my favourite couple on TV.

Their relationship is wonderfully realized and my favourite aspect of the show, as they are unbelievably sweet and cute together. They argue and disagree, and seem totally opposed in terms of character at time, but there’s a real feeling of genuine love between them and they seem like a rock solid, dedicated couple.

Brian (Rannells) and David (Bartha), who's relationship is one of the show's major strengths

Brian (Rannells) and David (Bartha), who’s relationship is one of the show’s major strengths

Special mention should go to Justin Bartha’ who’s David is kind of the show’s straight man, in that unlike many of the other more out spoken characters he’s sort of the everyman who has to deal with things and is shown to be a mature, moral kinda bloke.

This contrasts nicely with the more flamboyant Brian, who could become something of a queeny cliche, but who is kept rounded enough by scripts that suggest there’s more to him deep down and Rannells performance is a treat, with him getting some fantastic lines and showing genuine comic skill. He’s an adorable character and I like the fact that they ensure he feels like a real person beneath his superficial exterior. The bond he forms with Shania is another aspect of the show I find really well handled.

Due to it’s subject matter the show deals with several of the issues facing the gay community such as homophobia and issues regarding adoption and marriage. There’s an incredibly painful moment in one episode where while out shopping the couple are confronted by a bigoted father who insults them in a manner which left me fuming, and which also made them have to confront the possibility that their child might be subject to some of the same intolerance was handled very well, as it forced the characters to deal with their own approaches to bigotry.

Another touch I found rather nice was when Brian and David attempted to find godparents for their future kid and had to confront their own lack of faith. I found this episode was handled rather well, with their decision to pick the two spiritual guides feeling right. One aspect I loved about this show was the Catholic priest that Brian met, who went against the anti-gay stereotype and served to highlight that while the Church’s policy might be hardline anti-gay it’s wrong to assume that all members of the religion feel the same way.

I also rather liked the way that he made Brian confront the fact that he’d backed down on the issue, and suggested that one of the problems with the church accepting homosexuality is that most gay members leave rather than fighting their ground. It was an interesting idea and a new way of looking at the whole thing, and the scenes between Brian and the Priest were amusing as well.

But aside from all this it’s essentially just a very funny, well written sitcom filled with great characters.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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