It’s fair to say that E4 have had a good track record when it comes to buying in US sitcoms a trend that started with Friends and continued with The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother. More recently they have had more success with two of America’s most-watched comedies 2 Broke Girls and New Girl and tonight they’re trying to replicate that glory with their latest import The New Normal. The sitcom is the latest programme from Ryan Murphy who is most famous for creating Glee though The New Normal is a much more traditional show despite having two lead characters who are both gay.
The show starts with Andrew Rannells’ Bryan making a video diary for his unborn baby and narrating the events that led to his or her birth before we backtrack into the past. There we meet Brian who suddenly becomes incredibly broody and suggests to his partner David, played by The Hangover’s Justin Bartha, that they find a surrogate who is willing to carry their baby. Despite initial reservations about the idea Bryan is able to talk David round after a trip to the park reveals that these days any person should be able to have kids before shoehorning the title of the show into his dialogue by telling him that abnormal is the new normal. The couple quickly sign up to a surrogacy firm however the first potential surrogate they select ends up blackmailing them by threatening to smoke and drink if they don’t buy her whatever she wants. After this disaster the couple are hesitant to use the company once again but little do they know that there is a potential surrogate heading their way.
Obviously the audience know this already as we have been following the story of Goldie a waitress who was raised by her grandmother and had to give up on her dreams after becoming a mother herself. Goldie resolves to turn her life around after finding her other half cheating on her so she steals her grandma’s car and heads to the coast with her daughter Shania. After three days spent living her life again Goldie realises she has to return to her home in Ohio however following a phone call to her grandmother decides she needs to finally break the destructive pattern she’s been living in. Goldie then finds out about David and Bryan’s wish and offers to be their surrogate adding that she doesn’t care that they are a gay couple as she knows that they’ll love a baby just the same as a straight couple. Goldie’s other reason for wanting to be the couple’s surrogate is financial as, with the $35,000 dollars that is being offered, she’ll be able to set up a life for Shania and herself as well as being able to follow her dream of going to law school. Just before the procedure is about to take place Goldie’s grandmother turns up in California and implores her not to become the couple’s surrogate however she has her own reasons for being prejudice towards a gay couple. The episode ends with Goldie taking a pregnancy test however we have to tune in next week to discover if she is indeed carrying David and Bryan’s child.
I have to say there is a lot to like about The New Normal as I found it a charming little programme full of well-rounded characters who you want to succeed. For me the star of the show was Georgia King who is fantastic as Goldie a young woman who got pregnant way too young and followed a family tradition of babies giving birth to babies. King is able to portray someone who never lived up to their full potential and has to keep apologising for her lot in life before finally realising that things have to change. She also shares great chemistry with Bebe Wood, the young actress who plays Shania, who is a child actor that I didn’t find very annoying as she reminded me a lot of Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine. At the start of the episode I didn’t think I’d like Bryan as he appeared to be overly camp however through Andrew Rannells’ performance the character became a lot more three-dimensional and his relationship with Justin Bartha’s David was incredibly believable.
My main issue is that the dialogue was incredibly clunky throughout and even though the characters were believable I didn’t buy everything that they said. For example Goldie’s lines about ‘not giving up on her life’ and Shania telling her that ‘you never have to say sorry to me you should say it to yourself’ just didn’t ring true for me and spoilt the show to an extent. There was also an odd scene where less traditional family units discuss why they wanted a family and again I really didn’t think this worked in a scripted programme. Also for a comedy I really didn’t find it that funny and the fact that Murphy had to create supporting characters to essentially supply the laughs speaks volumes. For example Goldie’s conservative grandmother, played by the great Ellen Barkin, is essentially on the scene to spout homosexual and racist lines which are meant to be funny because she is so bigoted but instead come off as fairly insulting. Similarly Bryan’s secretary Rocky, who describes herself as half giraffe/half drag queen, is again presented as a one-dimensional comic character whose job it is to be incredibly loud and argue with Barkin’s character over her bigoted comments.
Despite not being overly impressed by this opening episode, I am willing to give The New Normal the benefit of the doubt here as it had to cram in a whole lot of plot in a very short time. The fact that the majority of the characters are likeable makes the show watchable and if there are a few more laughs in the upcoming weeks then The New Normal can only get better. We will have to see if this show will be another great import for E4, as in the US the ratings have progressively tumbled, however if their track record is anything to go by then it will being yet another hit.
What did you think to The New Normal? Do you reckon it will be a hit for E4? Leave Your Comments Below.