'The New Normal' review: Some potential
THE SHOW "The New Normal"
WHEN | WHERE Previews Monday night at 10, then moves into its regular Tuesday-at-9:30 p.m. slot Tuesday on NBC/4
WHAT IT'S ABOUT David (Justin Bartha, "The Hangover") and his partner, Bryan (Andrew Rannells, "The Book of Mormon"), decide to have a baby, but an online search for surrogates yields oddballs and homophobes. Enter Ohio transplant Goldie (Scottish actress Georgia King), who's on the run from her bigot of a grandma, Jane (Ellen Barkin). She and her daughter Shania (Bebe Wood) head to L.A., where Goldie figures surrogacy will get her cash fast. (The show already has attracted controversy -- NBC's Salt Lake City affiliate has declined to air it.)
MY SAY First things first -- "The New Normal" boasts a terrific cast. Bartha and Rannells have abundant charm and vitality, while relative newcomer King matches them step for step. All three pop off the screen, and if this show somehow ends up working, they'll be the reason. But move past them into the pilot and the problems begin. Loosely based on creator Ryan Murphy's ("Glee") own life, he said at the recent TV critics' press tour that "the show in many ways is about tolerance, and I think it's about a discussion of tolerance." Indeed, it is. Yet, to a certain extent, this discussion is one-sided. Murphy wants to punish the haters -- the bigots and homophobes of the world who are blinded to what real love is. That's his right, of course, but it does tend to make tonight's pilot less a comedy than a manifesto. Ellen Barkin's character is the object lesson here. Like Sue Sylvester (or Archie Bunker), she's full of gall and bile, and says hateful things about gays and even her own daughter. She tells Goldie, "I thought your mother was a fibroid tumor, and by the time I figured it out, she had a face, and I was screwed." At this point in the discussion, you're supposed to realize that those who think they're normal -- Jane -- are really the abnormal ones. Instead, you're likely to just recoil.
BOTTOM LINE "The New Normal" needs to take a deep breath, get off the soapbox and get funny fast. The right elements -- talented cast and showrunner -- are already in place.