The New Normal

 
(i)

 

Edgy, salty family comedy pushes boundaries, has heart.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The lead characters are in a loving relationship centered on respect. The importance of family bonds is given a lot of screen time. Parenthood and child rearing are given proper (if often mocking) respect, with characters considering the gravity of bringing new lives into the world and being responsible for those lives.

Positive role models

Most of the characters are caring and kind, if a bit obsessed with looks, money, and status symbols like expensive clothing. Ellen Barkin's character, Jane, spouts terribly racist/bigoted remarks but is made to look silly while doing so.

Violence

Some gun humor.

Sex

Expect kissing and cuddling in bed between couples both gay and straight, as well as sometimes more explicit content, as when a bra-clad woman is shown bouncing atop a man (apparently having sex) who appears nude, though viewers can't see his private parts. Some salty sex talk as well, as when Bryan remarks that the sight of vaginas make him want to faint, as they look like "tarantula faces."

Language

Some cursing, usually in the context of a mild insult: "What the hell are you talking about?" "Have you lost your damned mind?" Other, darker insults, too, as when Bryan and David discuss what kind of egg donor to use and summarily dismiss a "fatty." Ellen Barkin's Jane is a rich Archie Bunker-esque source of offensive comments, from calling a gay couple "ass-campers" to cooing to an Asian woman, "You people are so good with computers. And thanks for the help building the railroads."

Consumerism

Some mention of consumer brands, as when David mentions shopping at Barney's.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adult characters drink on screen, sometimes to tipsiness. At least one joke about a cigarette.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The New Normal is a sitcom in which all subjects -- race, sexuality, age, body size -- are fair game for skewering. The story centers on a committed gay couple that hires a surrogate to carry a baby for them, so there are plenty of jokes about sperm, eggs, and body parts (as when one character tells another that he faints at the sight of a vagina, as they look like "tarantula faces"). Another character is an unapologetic bigot who spews a rainbow of offensive comments, from calling gay men "salami smokers" to insulting a former Girl Scouts' colleague for trying to "Jew down" the price of cookies. There are some intimate and/or sexual scenes between both gay and straight couples, with at least one brief shot of a bra-clad woman grinding atop an apparently nude man. Expect cursing such as "Have you lost your damned mind?" as well as other rough language such as one character saying that she was "a whore for a long time. I slept with everybody!" There are some unkind comments about fat and/or ugly people, as well as moments that shine a positive light on all types of families.

What's the story?

In NBC's comedy The New Normal, Bryan (Andrew Rannells, best known for Broadway musical The Book of Mormon) and David (Justin Bartha) are a loving and committed gay couple with successful careers, a gorgeous house, and everything else a person could want, except one thing: a child. But with plenty of money, the lack of an in-home womb is no problem, and Bryan and David soon rent the services of Goldie (Georgia King), a Midwestern mama who's just left her cheating husband and wants David and Bryan's cash to attend law school and make a better life for her precocious young daughter. Crashing the party is Jane (Ellen Barkin), Goldie's concerned grandma, who doesn't like the idea of her granddaughter serving as a surrogate for anyone, much less a gay couple, since she's a loud-mouthed and unabashed bigot. But when sperm meets egg and a baby happens, all of these motley characters are stitched together into one big, mostly happy, decidedly non-traditional family.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Famed for his star-making turn on Broadway in The Book of Mormon, Rannells displays even more star-power on the small screen, moving smoothly from snappy put-downs to emotion so genuine that he tears up (and viewers might, too). He's the sweetest of sweet daddies, which brings heart to all the "oh, snap!" dialogue that peppers the scenes around him. It won't surprise viewers familiar with glossy shows like Glee and Nip/Tuck that Ryan Murphy is one of The New Normal's executive producers; the dialogue has that same snippy/quippy quality found on those shows, and there's a similar "is nothing sacred?" vibe to the jokes.

Which are mostly pretty funny, if too profane for young kids, as when Goldie hands her husband's paramour a bottle of bleach for his tighty-whities, declaring that he's "not real detail-oriented back there." Or when Jane tells Goldie's naked husband to "put his Gherkin away." Speaking of Jane, viewers should be prepared for a (mockingly) racist and/or homophobic rant every time she's on screen. It might be more offensive if The New Normal's characters and plot points weren't too outrageous to take seriously. Both the talk and the action are a little salty, but viewers with a sense of irony will find it satisfying, if fleeting, junk-food fun.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the meaning of the show's name, The New Normal. Who decides what "normal" is? What kinds of families do you know? Does what is "normal" change over time?

  • Bryan and David have a nice house and plenty of money. Do you think that the creators of The New Normal consider this important? Can you see any difference in the way the poorer characters dress, or what they say?

  • Do you think the audience is supposed to like Bryan and David? What about Jane? What gives you this impression? How are these characters shown to be different kinds of people?

TV details

Cast:Andrew Rannells, Ellen Barkin, Georgia King, Justin Bartha, NeNe Leakes
Network:NBC
Genre:Comedy
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:Streaming

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Quality

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 16 years old Written byxaltrockgirlx September 19, 2012
 

Definitely gets better

I'll admit, for the first episode, I agreed wholeheartedly with dHi. This seems to be a problem for Ryan Murphy's shows, they always have kind of a rocky start before they settle into things. But I had to give it another try, because I love the actor who plays Bryan (Andrew Rannells was amazing during his Tony Award performance last year for the Book of Mormon). So I watched the second episode, and I thought that they smoothed it out a bit, so I figured if it kept going at this pace, it'll be up to par in no time. I just finished the third episode on Hulu, and I honestly believe that it has improved substantially from the first episode. The overall tone is a lot smoother, and characters are more sympathetic aren't screaming as much, "if you don't love me, you're a bunch of bigots!" Granted, it still does this a little bit, but it is kind of the point, seeing as how it's trying to change our view of intolerance. I understand that not everyone's going to agree with me, because they'll point out the stereotypes and all. However, (again, please hear me out) stereotypes in themselves... are not all that bad. They have their place in media. It's when they're expected that "this is how [certain group] always acts," then it's a problem. Like the CSM review mentioned, there is hardly ever this many extremes put in the same room, so it would hardly be expected of a person with reasonable logic to think that people always act the way they do in this show. Sorry I've gone off on a couple tangents, but I had to get that out of the way. The characters displayed here are stereotypes, so they aren't necessarily the *best* of role models, but tolerance is a huge issue that is discuss, which I applaud them for. Sex is a lot more talk than action, and as for that one sort-of sex scene in the first episode, I have not seen any more of. But there is talk, kissing, etc., all very minor in my opinion. Language, so far, is suprisingly relatively clear of four-letter words (not completely clean, but cleaner than a lot of sitcoms on now) and the most of concern is some semi-raunchy jokes. One of the characters is a shopaholic, and some brands are mentioned, but it's not constant. Yes, there is drinking, but all by characters over 21 (and as far as I could see, the pregnant woman was not involved). I think this show deserves a shot beyond the first, or even second episode. I just hope eventually that I'll get to hear Rannells sing!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Educator and Parent of a 12 year old Written bysouzakh September 16, 2012
 

Great collection of characters that gives your family plenty to talk about.

What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much consumerism
Parent Written bydHi September 13, 2012
 

Disappointing start, but has potential.

Based entirely on the first 2 episodes, I was extremely disappointed in the laziness of the show's writers. A shocking beginning was cringe-worthy causing me to regret not dvr-ing the show to preview for my 14 year old. There was a lengthy and inappropriate sex scene where a woman was bouncing on top of a clearly naked man with her breasts nearly popping out of her skimpy lingerie. The writers could have very easily kept the sex off screen and still lead the viewers to know what was happening. It is done all the time. If it wasn't for this scene, I would have rated the show 3 stars. There are some positive elements. The young actress/character is wonderful. She is learning to just be herself and not change to make others like her. Her mother shows compassion and a non-judegemental acceptance of others. The grandmother is a bigot and is constantly being called out. So there are some pluses. Unfortunately, these first 2 episodes showed lack of understanding of their target audience. Normal, you missed the mark!
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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