THE New Normal

strummergirl
Broadway Legend
joined:12/8/09
THE New Normal
Posted: 9/26/12 at 04:05pm
That reminds me, Jason Katims- the show-runner of Parenthood- had a script and pilot for a new show nixed by NBC. So did Sarah Silverman (her Comedy Central show was great and it has to be better than whatever Dane Cook has on tap) and Michael Schur (of The Office and Parks & Rec).

I find myself rooting for NBC to get their act together but then you read what they have turned down (that includes one of their former own Mindy Kaling and her show) and what they green-lit (not even singling out The New Normal but surely a Jason Katims joint was a lot better than Chicago Fire).
Mister Matt
Broadway Legend
joined:5/17/03
THE New Normal
Posted: 9/26/12 at 04:19pm
I'm really struggling with this show. While I do think we're intentionally getting superficial characters in the beginning in order to create more dramatic arcs, it's the style that has me befuddled. The characters are on such different levels of realism, it's just not coming together cohesively for me in a way that I'm supposed to know how exaggerated the personalities are intended. You can get away with it much easier in a 3-camera studio show with a live audience providing the reactionary cues, but in a location series, the main characters, at the very least, need to seem as if they are sharing the same reality to ground the tone and style of the series.

Jack and Karen were absurd characters living in an alternate reality, but the exaggeration of Will and Grace as realistic characters living on the edge of absurdity complimented the supporting characters and defined the heightened level of reality in which the characters live. Live audiences were cued to inform the home audience and it worked.

In Modern Family, virtually all the characters are mild exaggerations, while something like Arrested Development, the characters were all great exaggerations, but they were almost entirely consistent within their respective shows. There was a defined base level of reality.

It's the mish-mash of styles in order to shoehorn jokes and personalities in The New Normal that doesn't work for me. It's why we don't understand how anyone allows Nana's presence. Or how someone with David's intelligence and interests had any attraction and zero influence on someone like Bryan, who is still superficial and clueless. Or why we can't reconcile the fact that Goldie is pathetic and weak, yet we're supposed to sympathize.

And then there's Nene, the obligatory sassy black lady. Oh, and did you get that she's a Real Housewife??? Real Housewife + Sassy Black Lady + Gays = BUILT-IN AUDIENCE!! Get it??? Now, they just need Margaret Cho as David's therapist and Kathy Griffin as Bryan's somethingorother! And Lady Gaga as Lady Gaga!!



"What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?" - Reginald Tresilian
Updated On: 9/26/12 at 04:19 PM
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
THE New Normal
Posted: 9/26/12 at 04:42pm
"While I do think we're intentionally getting superficial characters in the beginning in order to create more dramatic arcs, it's the style that has me befuddled. The characters are on such different levels of realism, it's just not coming together cohesively for me in a way that I'm supposed to know how exaggerated the personalities are intended."

Matt, is this your first time watching a Ryan Murphy show?

I would have been into a Jason Katims show, Strummer, his My So-Called Life episodes are some of my favorites, and I loved his kinda forgotten show for Herskovtiz/Zwick; relativity. (OK, I loved Rosswell, too).
Mister Matt
Broadway Legend
joined:5/17/03
THE New Normal
Posted: 9/26/12 at 04:58pm
Matt, is this your first time watching a Ryan Murphy show?

I saw some of Glee and a couple seasons of Nip/Tuck and the entire first season of American Horror Story. I only had a similar problem with Nip/Tuck whereas I felt American Horror Story and Glee were more consistent (I just don't like Glee). The campy characters in Glee balance with the "realistic" characters because of the musical element (which is also inconsistent, but it's easier to buy the variety of characters once you've given in to the concept). I did think Nip/Tuck was a mess. Intriguing, but a mess that just got messier with each season. Glee flatlined for me pretty early.

Regardless, Ryan Murphy or otherwise, I'd still feel the same way.
"What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?" - Reginald Tresilian
JohnyBroadway
Broadway Star
joined:4/10/12
THE New Normal
Posted: 9/26/12 at 11:45pm
Still not 100% sold on the show, I don't think the characters have found there story lines yet, especially Barkin and Rannells. What is exactly barkin's purpose? Is she just there to say every nasty comment in the book? I also don't like how she just randomly shows up. The character could have so much more potential and a stronger Story line. And Ryan Murphy is so cliche. The only actor on the show that slaps me with charm is Justin Bartha and in some moments Rannells. On a final note I was really impressed with Partners on CBS. I think it was better formatted.

Updated On: 9/26/12 at 11:45 PM
NYadgal
Broadway Legend
joined:5/18/04
THE New Normal
Posted: 9/28/12 at 12:41pm
Thought-provoking article from a TV-industry newsletter today regarding this show and ground-breaking TV history. I remember SO well those episodes in the '70s and the social dialogue that existed because of them.

Thought you all might find it interesting, as well:


Something unexpected happened this week while I was watching NBC's "The New Normal," which after four episodes has distinguished itself as the best new sitcom of the fall season. As the characters assembled around a table for dinner and began exchanging their sometimes combustible views on election-year issues, I suddenly started thinking about "The Draft Dodger," an episode of the comedy classic "All in the Family" way back in 1976 that also featured a politically super-charged dinner scene that reflected conflicting attitudes of its era.

In the "New Normal" episode, titled "Obama Mama," David (Justin Bartha) and Bryan (Andrew Rannells), the gay couple around whom the series revolves, invited Jane (Ellen Barkin), the very conservative grandmother of Goldie (Georgia King), the woman who is serving as their surrogate, to a dinner party. This happened after a testy exchange about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney prompted David to accuse Jane of being a racist and Jane to assert that for all their talk about diversity David and Bryan have no black friends.

"Just because I don't like a man who wants to take my hard-earned money and dump it into a broken system, I'm a racist?" Jane asked. "Don't you think it's a little more racist to vote for a black man simply because he's black? What about you two? I don't imagine you're lighting candles on Kwanzaa! Couple of hypocrites, like every other liberal. You walk the walk but you can't talk the talk."

There has been a lot of talk lately about how a show as frank and controversial as "All in the Family" could never get on the air today. With dialogue as unapologetically realistic as this, I think "New Normal" creators Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler are out to prove people wrong.

Later in the episode, at the big dinner party, it wasn't long before liberals Bryan and David and conservative Jane were once again at each other. When another guest suggested that Jane must not think all Americans are entitled to affordable health care because she supports Romney, she replied, "If you can find affordable health care, more power to you. I just don't want the federal government making decisions that are my choice to make."

"Obama's plan may not have been perfect but at least he tried coming up with a fix," David offered.

"Yeah, by making me pay every time some illegal sprains his ankle jumping the border," Jane growled. "Your whole system is broke, and your Obama just wants to keep dumping more money into it. It's like giving penicillin to a Kardashian! Too little, too late."

Jane went on to defend the importance of personal responsibility, revealing that 25 years earlier she stopped her own daughter from having an abortion when she was pregnant with Goldie by taking away her right to choose. It may have been the most impactful dialogue about abortion in a prime-time comedy since Maude Findlay agonized over terminating her middle-age pregnancy in a 1972 episode of "Maude," a spin-off from "All in the Family."

It has been entirely too long since I watched characters in a situation comedy get into a lively adult exchange about current issues or events that had any real merit -- that is, one that offered insight not only into both sides of the subject at hand but into the actual characters themselves. This episode of "New Normal" signaled that for the first time since the era of "All in the Family" we may have a sitcom that is going to explore hot-button topics through thoughtful story progression and balanced character exposition rather than largely one-sided preaching.

This brings me back to "The Draft Dodger," an episode of "All in the Family" that also built toward a very revealing dinner scene. I remember feeling increasingly uncomfortable as I watched tensions escalate between the temperamental Archie Bunker and a soft-spoken man named David, who had dodged the draft to avoid the Vietnam War. David was having Christmas Eve dinner with the Bunkers at the invitation of Archie's ditzy daughter Gloria and her liberal husband Mike. Also present at the table was Archie's pal Pinky Peterson, whose son had been killed in Vietnam. Archie came to a slow boil - and eventually boiled over - when he learned that David refused to serve his country, which went against everything Archie had ever been taught and had ever believed in. Ultimately, Pinky put everything in uneasy perspective, telling Archie that his late son would want them all to sit and have dinner with David.

"The Draft Dodger" had everyone talking back in 1976. In my opinion, it remains one of the most powerful half hours of television in the history of the medium.

Nobody is going to look back on "Obama Mama" with such reverence. But there is reason to believe that if Murphy and Adler remain fully dedicated to making "The New Normal" the best it can be and if NBC continues to stand by it, their show might at some future time enjoy similar hindsight status as a topical series of certain historic importance. It's off to a great start.
"Two drifters off to see the world... there's such a lot of world to see"
Mister Matt
Broadway Legend
joined:5/17/03
THE New Normal
Posted: 9/28/12 at 01:10pm
It has been entirely too long since I watched characters in a situation comedy get into a lively adult exchange about current issues or events that had any real merit -- that is, one that offered insight not only into both sides of the subject at hand but into the actual characters themselves.

I guess they never watched Roseanne if the last reference point they have is the 70s. I agree with the comments on the relevance of All in the Family and Maude, both landmark shows in television history, but so far, I think The New Normal has undermined itself in its sketchy plot and superficial characters by skimming the story in order to stuff the script with hot-button topical political issues. It just doesn't seem grounded.
"What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?" - Reginald Tresilian
artscallion
Broadway Legend
joined:5/15/07
THE New Normal
Posted: 9/28/12 at 01:30pm
I like this article. When I first watched the Obama episode, I left it thinking, "well that really was an anti-Obama episode." for the same reasons expressed earlier in this thread. Lot's of things Nana said are easily answerable and yet they weren't answered by any of the guests. I felt a little betrayed by the lack of pat liberal resolution I'd been trained to expect from television.

But real life is not like network TV. And this, as unsatisfying and uncomfortable as it is, reflects a truer reality when a hostile element is inserted into what would normally be a safe meeting of like minded people who surround themselves with each other.

It's easier to argue the good argument when you're arguing it with people who agree with you, than it is when the "enemy" is face to face at the dinner table..

I think the superficiality and simplicity of the characters is a truer reflection of how real people act with each other on a daily basis. People are only deep in a lifetime movie. But real people ARE superficial from day to day. I think that this simplicity, when contrasted against the power of unresolved conflict is what will end up being the impact that drives this show.

That said, I still hate the Nana character and wish she would go away. But maybe that's part of it. People have asked why any of the characters would put up with her. In TV Land that's a legitimate question. But in reality people put up with that kind of person all the time. Especially someone so in your face. People are often afraid to confront that in real life and wouldn't know how to make her go away. I see it every day.

Art has a double face, of expression and illusion.
Updated On: 9/28/12 at 01:30 PM
artscallion
Broadway Legend
joined:5/15/07
THE New Normal
Posted: 9/28/12 at 01:38pm
On reflection, I remember feeling the same gobsmacked impact from the episode where the guy in Target starts ranting at Rannels. That happy simple character, floating through life, shopping and joking then BOOM! Unexpected reality check when it hits you that in the background of your happy day-to-day, people hate you. It's like a smack in the face.
Art has a double face, of expression and illusion.
Phyllis Rogers Stone
Broadway Legend
joined:9/16/07
THE New Normal
Posted: 9/28/12 at 02:03pm
See, I thought that episode was ridiculous was no one ever corrected Ellen Barkin for her extrapolation that they were simply voting for Obama because he was black.

Jane says racist things. Virtually everything she says is something racist. To flip that around and try to make her point that they are hypocrites without any sort of blowblack just speaks to me about how shoddy the writing is. Just because they have no black friends doesn't make them racist necessarily; it does make them isolated and yes, it means their personal lives lack diversity. But that's not the Left Wing equivalent of Jane. And regardless, they still espouse the beliefs that everyone deserves equality and respect. Nana's beliefs are the opposite and she takes them into action with how she acts politically. But suggesting the guys are racist because they don't celebrate Kwanzaa is racist. I didn't think anything intelligent was said about anything in that episode. The "talk the talk but don't walk the walk" thing makes no sense.

And I disagree in real life they'd have to put up with Nana. I guess if that's the only way to keep the surrogate, but if this was the real word, there's no way Goldie would be their surrogate. She literally wandered in off the street just after they had the problem with the first, improperly vetted surrogate and boom, they were a match!

What's really interesting will be to see if after this episode the guys DO start spending time with a more diverse group of people, or if this was just a one episode contrivance to set up all the nonsense that plot dictated.




Updated On: 9/28/12 at 02:03 PM
FindingNamo
Broadway Legend
joined:7/22/03
THE New Normal
Posted: 9/28/12 at 02:09pm
I feel that the article suffers from premature conclusion-jumping the way the episode of the show did. The writer of the article seems to be praising the Barkin character's point about taking personal responsibility and then uses the example of Barkin forcing her pregnant daughter to have a child she did not want and now, apparently, being estranged from her. As if these two things would not be directly connected in the real world. And as if forcing the pregnancy of somebody else is some show of "personal responsiblity."

The thing about All in The Family was that it called out the knee-jerk reactions that both Archie and Meathead would have. But it didn't say, "Therefore Archie is correct."

The fact that the Barkin character is a clearly demonstrated racist is in no way mitigated by the fact that the boys didn't have black friends to invite to their party. This does not automatically make them hypocrites for calling her out on her racism. Both things are true. She is a racist. They don't have black friends to invite to a party. They are NOT equivalent.

I don't think it's "brave" of the show to do this. In fact, "South Park" has been doing these non-equivalent equivalancies since it's first season. And patting themselves on th back for it too.
yes, you
Mister Matt
Broadway Legend
joined:5/17/03
THE New Normal
Posted: 9/28/12 at 02:59pm
The problems with the episode are countless. They call her out on being a racist and her argument is that they are racist for voting for Obama because he's black (as Phyllis noted before me). Except they never said that. Nor did they refute it. Are these guys supposed to be that spineless and vapid? I guess so, but if we're supposed to be making All in the Family comparisons, at least Gloria and Meathead were able to carry an argument that backed up their convictions, even if it resulted in Gloria blowing a big old raspberry at her father. But in this show, Ellen Barking is the only characters the writers seem to actually know (which is why she's the only one with any good lines).

It's easier to argue the good argument when you're arguing it with people who agree with you, than it is when the "enemy" is face to face at the dinner table..

You should have dinner with my friends and family. That whole situation would have played out differently. That dinner table sequence was one of the most unrealistic scenes the show has presented thus far. The majority of the table were close friends, some gay, some of ethnic minorities, and assuming the majority are Liberal Democrats. This one woman who really only has ties to one other person at the table and a stranger to most of them goes off on these bigoted rants and nobody truly argues with her or tells her to get out? Not even the HOSTS?!?! I am so glad my reality is nowhere even close to that.

"What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?" - Reginald Tresilian
Updated On: 9/28/12 at 02:59 PM
FindingNamo
Broadway Legend
joined:7/22/03
THE New Normal
Posted: 9/28/12 at 03:23pm
Except, you see, GOLDIE WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN THERE if Ellen Barkin hadn't taken personal responsibility for the life choices of somebody who didn't want her to do that.
yes, you
SonofRobbieJ
Broadway Legend
joined:12/10/09
THE New Normal
Posted: 9/28/12 at 03:45pm
"In fact, "South Park" has been doing these non-equivalent equivalancies since it's first season. And patting themselves on th back for it too."

If this statement were a 25-year-old bear cub, I would f*ck it.
FindingNamo
Broadway Legend
joined:7/22/03
THE New Normal
Posted: 9/28/12 at 09:52pm
You're such a sweetheart, I want to pinch your cheek!
yes, you
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
THE New Normal
Posted: 9/28/12 at 11:03pm
I think the superficiality and simplicity of the characters is a truer reflection of how real people act with each other on a daily basis.

Not in my family and not in my household. I don't claim to be "deep", but there's no way the Barkin character's nonsense would have gone unanswered at our table.

I do know what you mean: there are households where avoidance of conflict is the highest ideal. But that isn't true of all of us.
KC91WFU
Swing
joined:9/29/12
THE New Normal
Posted: 9/29/12 at 10:48am
I just watched the show and laughed at the jokes. Then I tuned in the next week and did that again. Occasionally the day after I think about some of the scenes and laugh. Some of them make me think. Some of them horrify me. I do however think the majority of it is better than most of the other pilots I have seen this season. I hope it will stay on to see how they develop it. It actually has some of my straight conservative friends at work talking about some of these issues in a meaningful way. We actually had a discussion about marriage equality over the lunch hour that was brought up because of that show. People there learned some things, and we weren't all shouting at each other. Perhaps that is a good thing. I think a lot of straight conservative people were comfortable with Jack McFarland, and if they see some of him in Rannells character they feel comfortable with him too. But some of the messages sink in. I live in the rural South, and I frankly can't believe that a civil conversation about this happened but it did...and this show started it.
FindingNamo
Broadway Legend
joined:7/22/03
THE New Normal
Posted: 9/29/12 at 12:04pm
What a fascinatingly nuanced and interesting group of straight conservative people you supposedly work with. I had previously been unaware of what a Rosa Parks little Jack MacFarland had been for the movement.
yes, you
bwayphreak234
Broadway Legend
joined:7/4/10
THE New Normal
Posted: 9/29/12 at 12:57pm
I finally got caught up on all the episodes last night. I absolutely LOVE this show. It is funny, interesting, touching, and I LOVE the characters.
"There’s nothing quite like the power and the passion of Broadway music. "
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
THE New Normal
Posted: 9/29/12 at 02:49pm
Well said points. Wouldn't it make more sense for the characters to reply to Barkin that they are pro Obama because he represents equal gay rights better? Didn't Goldie just say last week about how she didn't want people with who say negative things about them (meaning all the characters) outof their lives? I admit, I did find it funny when the mixed race couple said after that they had been looking for more gay friends--it's just too bad that the rest of the show negated that. (And couldn't they have done more with Nana's realizing that the black guy was Republican? Why throw that moment away?)
canmark
Broadway Legend
joined:3/14/07
THE New Normal
Posted: 9/30/12 at 12:24pm
Coach Bob knew it all along: you've got to get obsessed and stay obsessed. You have to keep passing the open windows. (John Irving, The Hotel New Hampshire)
Bettyboy72
Broadway Legend
joined:3/31/06
THE New Normal
Posted: 10/2/12 at 12:32am
I've already stopped watching. Like Glee, it looked promising but it just wore me out quickly. All the characters give me a migraine.

If I hate a show, it is destined to be a huge hit. Just how things work.
"The sexual energy between the mother and son really concerns me!"-random woman behind me at Next to Normal "I want to meet him after and bang him!"-random woman who exposed her breasts at Rock of Ages, referring to James Carpinello
songanddanceman2
Broadway Legend
joined:8/31/06
THE New Normal
Posted: 10/2/12 at 08:11am
Some of the over reactions to this show on here are hysterical, some fascinating. I personally like the show and have to say I have found nothing offensive or shocking in it. Yes it's clearly designed to push buttons and provoke reaction and yes Nana is supposed to cause reaction, but the things she say at times made me think, especially in the Obama episode. The bottom line though is that this show is a comedy, designed to make people laugh first and foremost and for me it does, some of the issues are interesting and handled well, some are not, but I'm not tuning in for it's politics, I want to laugh. Also me and my partner have started adoption proceedings and I was shocked at the episode in the clothes shop when the gay couple were attacked by the homophobe as we recently had a similar incident that really upset me, luckily my partner knows the perfect thing to say. Watching that episode really made me think about things that I know we will come across.

Namo i love u but we get it already....you don't like Madonna
Updated On: 10/2/12 at 08:11 AM
Reginald Tresilian
Broadway Legend
joined:6/12/08
THE New Normal
Posted: 10/2/12 at 08:25am
I'd love to hear which reactions you deem "over-."
FindingNamo
Broadway Legend
joined:7/22/03
THE New Normal
Posted: 10/2/12 at 08:33am
Yeah, he doesn't tune in for the politics , but the politics on the show make him think. Not too deeply, apparently, because the show has terrible politics.
yes, you
Wynbish
Broadway Legend
joined:4/27/12
THE New Normal
Posted: 10/2/12 at 08:55am
And hey, it's a comedy! Having a bonding moment over a racist joke in the very episode where discrimination was shown to be wrong is super hilarious.

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