Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pilot Season: The New Normal (Preachy, Oh So Preachy)

I would like to start this review off by stating that I have a bias here. I do not like Ryan Murphy. I find him obnoxious and preachy. Also, not the world’s best writer. Could use a “no-man”. I just wanted to get that out of the way.

The New Normal, Murphy’s latest contribution to our television screens, is a perfectly passable dramedy, of the vein made popular by Ugly Betty

The story revolves around a well-to-do gay couple (Justin Bartha and Andrew Rannells) who hire a surrogate to have their kid. The surrogate (Georgia King) and her young daughter (Bebe Wood) are escaping a stultifying life of dismayed expectations. Goldie, the surrogate, wants to go to law school and make a better life for her daughter. David and Bryan are anxious to help her. It’s all very sweet.

The problem is, it’s all very sweet. Look, I appreciate heartwarming. I watch Raising Hope and I cry during Planet Earth. (Seriously. Every time.) But there is a sort of knowing heart-string pulling going on here that I don’t appreciate. When Bryan records a video to his future child, I find myself cooing. When David freaks out because of their “non-traditional family”, I roll my eyes and want to toss my laptop off a cliff.

For serious? I hate to break it to Mr. Murphy, but there probably aren’t many people in his audience that need preaching to. With all of the press that this show has gotten, it’s unlikely that anyone watching is unaware of its content. He’s preaching to the choir here.

And preaching is precisely what he does. Though it’s sometimes saved by the acting, and really they should be giving Rannells his Emmy already for making Bryan actually sympathetic, the storylines are usually transparent vehicles for a delivery of sermon. David freaks out about having kids, so Bryan takes him to a park and points out all the families. Goldie’s bigoted grandmother (a severely misused Ellen Barkin) insults a lesbian couple, so Goldie goes off on a speech about how love is love.

That's all fine and good, of course, except for the part where the show just keeps bashing you over the head with it. A spoonfull of sugar may help the medicine go down, but you need a hell of a lot more than sugar if you're about to swallow the whole medicine cabinet.

It’s not that I object to a good rant, in principle, it’s that the whole thing gets tiresome when you’re fending off sermons every few minutes. Murphy has a good setup with the show. It’s a funny premise, the actors are phenomenal, and there’s a lot of potential for heartwarming and funny.

What sticks in my craw is the self-righteousness of the show. Instead of just making a show where a gay couple hires a surrogate and wacky hijinks ensue, Murphy is clearly making a statement show. This show is supposed to mean something. It can’t just be.

For me, though, it’s too much. I’ll check back in a few months, but for now I’m out.

The New Normal airs on Tuesdays at 9:30 PM on NBC.

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