The New Normal – Student Review

The pilot to The New Normal starts with the augmented chord of an Apple Computer’s error tone. Compared to many television shows portraying the LGBT community, so far this sitcom has relatively few errors. (Well, okay, there may some errors in the family matriarch’s statement “I am extremely tolerant to all peoples: when they opened that Chipotel [sic.] here I was the first of my friends to go, and that is Spanish food.”) Perhaps the most complex character in the pilot episode, she is a strong and powerful woman who has been dealt challenging life experiences. She is also–as her great-granddaughter puts it– a bigot.

I’m not sure whether the target audience of this sitcom is LGBTQ and allied youth. I personally cannot yet relate to any of the characters. Certainly not the upscale gay couple (sweet as they are) with their spoiled pooch having a baby, or their first pick for a surrogate mother who tries to blackmail them, or the single mother with the precocious daughter. Moreover, not all of the jokes worked for me.

A significant problem is that all of the characters—gay and straight—have relatively stereotypical personalities. We have the wealthy gay couple with the effeminate and the masculine partner the precocious quirky child born into the dysfunctional family (a la Lisa Simpson et al), the struggling small-town single-mother, and the politically-backward elder.

That said, this show looks to be one of the better recent portrayals of a gay family in a major network sitcom. It could become stronger with development of the existing characters, and hopefully exploration of class and gender struggles that could grow organically from the pilot. As the first prime-time sitcom on a major network in which the gay couple are the main characters, rather than taking a supporting role, if The New Normal shapes postive public views of same-sex parents that probably would not be a bad thing.

The pilot had an estimated 6.9 million viewers, which is considered decent since many saw the episode online in advance. NBC’s Utah affiliate elected not to carry the program citing the possibility of overly crude content. One Million Moms [not surprisingly] is boycotting the show.

So far, the reaction to the pilot on Facebook has been mixed. Leaving aside the homophobic posts, some viewers found it “witty” and “charming” while others expressed concerns about lack of racial diversity in the cast as well as cliché characters. Indeed, there is nothing particularly original or deviant about the storyline so far. Then again, this is not The New Deviant; it is The New Normal.

-Ben Safran, Haverford College ’13

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