Tuned In: 'The New Normal' is at its funniest when concentrating on outrageous characters

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There's definite bite to the humor in NBC's "The New Normal," and that's sure to attract as many viewers as it will repel.

This single-camera comedy (re: no laugh track), with a pilot script by series creators Ryan Murphy ("Glee," "American Horror Story") and Ali Adler ("Glee," "Chuck"), follows gay couple Bryan (Andrew Rannells, "Girls," "The Book of Mormon") and David (Justin Bartha, "The Hangover") as they plan to have a child via a surrogate.

Perhaps "plan" is not the right word. In "The New Normal" (preview at 10 tonight, WPXI; time slot premiere 9:30 p.m. Tuesday), stereotypes dominate, for both the gay characters and the homophobes. So Bryan is depicted as a fashion-obsessed gay who decides he wants a child only after encountering "a miniature person whose skin was flawless" during a shopping excursion. His more down-to-earth, doctor partner, David, eventually gets on board with the idea after an outing to a park where all sorts of nontraditional families (late-in-life single mom, deaf couple, little person mother) trot through in a montage sequence.

'The New Normal'

When: 10 tonight, NBC.

Starring: Justin Bartha, Andrew Rannells.

"Face it, honey," Bryan says. "Abnormal is the new normal."

Bryan and David are on a collision course with Goldie (Georgia King, "One Day"), a single mother who escapes her dead-end Ohio life and the bigoted grandmother (Ellen Barkin) who raised her after stealing Nana's car and driving across the country with her preternaturally mature 8-year-old daughter in tow.

Just as Bryan typifies a gay stereotype, Ms. Barkin's Nana is depicted as a conservative stereotype, making snide remarks about gays, blacks and Asians.

"You people are so good at computers," Nana tells an Asian woman. "And thanks for helping us build the railroads."

To appreciate the humor in "The New Normal," a love of politically incorrect humor is essential, along with a willingness to see it applied to both liberal and conservative characters. Of course, the misbehavior of Nana stings more because she's mean and oblivious, whereas Bryan is simply a self-obsessed blithe spirit. Perhaps that's why NBC's Salt Lake City affiliate, which still refuses to air "Saturday Night Live," has declined to broadcast "The New Normal," a prudish decision at best, homophobic at worst.

"The New Normal" is at its funniest when it's most outrageous; other times it feels as if it might have worked better as a one-shot movie than a weekly TV series.

The "New Normal" pilot shifts its point of view pretty equally between Goldie and the gay couple, even though NBC is marketing the show more as "My Two Dads: The Next Generation." Given NBC's mandate for broader comedy, "The New Normal" will be an interesting test case to see how the show evolves going forward.


TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.


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