Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Impossibly normal

Like probably many of you, I watched “The New Normal” this week because of The Impossible Dream. You know the dream. The dream that American television will finally give us a great gay show that isn’t called “Glee.” Not that I hate “Glee.” I do not. I still sort of love it in spite of myself. But, you know, I always want more. I continue to crave representation. Sure, we’re integrated many places – “Modern Family,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Pretty Little Liars,” “Lost Girl,” “The Good Wife” – I could go on. But the hope for a show with central leading gay characters, not just the part of a sprawling ensemble, still exists. And, no, “The Real L Word” does not count.

So how “The New Normal” do then? Well, um, let’s just say, uh – eh. Part of the problem is our generation’s “Gay Shows” seem to come from the same few voices. For lesbians, we get Ilene Chaiken who has given us “The L Word” and “The Real L Word,” highlighting among many other things her shocking lack of creativity when naming TV shows. Gay men, in turn, get Ryan Murphy. And, well, we all know how that’s going on “Glee.” And that’s the thing, “The New Normal” already feels like a Ryan Murphy brand show. Andrew Rannells’ Bryan is basically Kurt all grown up complete with sassy black sidekick and Highly Successful boyfriend. And Ellen Barkin’s Nana From Hell is basically early Sue Sylvester in a Chanel suit instead of a track suit.

But, even more damning, “The New Normal” feels like a Ryan Murphy show because it’s already wildly schizophrenic. Is it a snarky comedy? Is it a sentimental drama? It doesn’t help that half the cast is playing it one way, the other half the other. David, the non-gay acting half of the gay couple, and Goldie, the single-mom surrogate seeking a life change, seem to think they’re in an inspirational family drama. Bryan and Nana, meanwhile, seem to think they’re on “The Real Housewives of Snark County.” Together, they don’t mesh. In fact they almost seem in competition. Which show will win out? Hard to say. But I know it won’t be pretty while they duke it out.

The jarring nature of the show’s two personalities mutes what should be its emotional center. Namely, Bryan and David’s love and excitement over starting a family. Instead of providing the universal connection we want it to, with non-gay viewers in particular, this moment is treated like – at best – a punchline. Bryan sees a baby at Barneys and wants one. Rim shot! Thank you, gays, I’ll be here all week! Worse still is the total lack of chemistry between Bryan and David. Sure, it’s early, but I’ve seen potted plants with more spark than these two. Though I do love Little Miss Sunshine Shania, particularly her Little Edie impersonation.

And can we, just for a minute, discuss Ryan Murphy’s continued affectionate and respectful representations of lesbians? Oh, wait, sorry, I meant the opposite of that. Yes, granted, this man gave us Santana Lopez. But that’s only because the fans demanded it from him while brandishing pitchforks. In the pilot we get the lesbian couple who gets called ugly men. And last night we were “frowners” and shaped like gingerbread men. Rim shot! Thank you, gays, I’ll be here all week! (p.s. Oh, hai, Julie Goldman – so sorry you got Ryan Murphyed.)

Will I keep watching? Probably. Maybe. A very firm, eh. Sigh. The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the impossible dream will never die.


Anonymous said...

Isn't Ali Adler, the co-creator and co-writer, a lesbian? It's not ONLY Ryan Murphy's show, so let's also blame her if the Lezzers are portrayed badly. I often feel that gay recappers/bloggers instinctively hit out at Murphy, it's a gut reaction. Pilots are often rubbish, let's wait a bit before brandishing the pitchforks.

Anti Grown Up said...

I think you need to give this show a fair chance before condemning it this way. It's only on episode two. It's still in its infancy. Give it, and Ryan Murphy, a chance to figure out what kind of show It's going to be. In the meantime, celebrate the fact that a non-traditional family is the focus of a program on nbc. Maybe sometimes you're a little too quick to see the negatives while pushing the pretty awesome positives to the side. Optimism never hurt anyone.

egghead said...

"old lesbian couple"?? really? this is 2012?

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything you said and can only hope this little offering goes bye bye. Neither gays or straights need it. I have met many gay men and none of them are remotely like Ryan Murphy's cartoonish gay men.
I love Ellen Barkin so anything she says is just fine. The lesbian joke made me die laughing it was hysterical and unfortunately very true.

lisa said...

As always, right on spot, Ms Snarker.

Katie said...

My analysis of the show from previews alone: [(Glee - music) x (Modern Family - cleverness)]/Sue Sylvester with makeup and a wig. You said it much better than me.

I'm still a l loyal Glee watcher, but only because there are usually 5-6 scenes in the course of a season that I think are worth watching and waiting for. Because of the rest of the crap they put out there, I'm Ryan Murphy'd out. This show isn't edgy or funny-seeming to me, it's just another show full of stereotypes that I've already seen, potentially taking up a half hour of my time where I'd much rather be watching Rizzoli and Isles reruns, quite frankly.

I would love for this show to prove me wrong, but for now, I'm skipping it.

Kate said...

Knowing Adler & Murphy were involved was all I needed to avoid this show. Their bad representation of lesbians & standard sexism is in no way appealing. It's what turned me off of Glee, which I can honestly say, I don't miss.

In some ways, Murphy is exactly like Chaiken: good with the concept; lousy with the follow through. The L word sucked after season 1 and Glee sucked after season 1.

Anonymous said...

This show will be gone before Holloween. And not because of the gay stuff.

Colleen said...

Yeah, that pretty much sums up my reaction too. I try not to judge shows entirely on their pilot, so I'm gonna give it a few more episodes.

The only thing I'd add is that not only are the characters copies of Glee characters, they're copies of characters from Ryan Murphy's show from 13 years ago Popular. Sue Sylvester is just Nicole Julian and Finn Hudson is a better singing Josh Ford. I think Leslie Grossman just played a grown up Mary Cherry on the New Normal pilot. If only the New Normal starred Sara Rue and Tammy Lynn Michaels, then I'd really be sure to watch.

Kel said...

We did watch it and decided the same as you Ms. Snarker! It was cute enough to watch it again - MAYBE - and it does seem to be poking fun... I imagine a hetero couple watching it and shutting it off half way through. No chemistry except between Goldie and Bryan. Nana seems to be there for the straights to agree with her comments damning 'the gays'. I don't think they missed too many slurs in the 1st 2 episodes. just my .02