Page URL:

TV Review: The New Normal

25 February 2013
Appeared in BioNews 694

The New Normal

E4, Thursdays, 9pm

Created by Allison Adler and Ryan Murphy

'Win a Baby', Channel 4, Friday 12 October 2012

The New Normal is the latest American sitcom to come speeding across the Atlantic. Before you run for cover saying 'no more' and grasp tightly to your worn out box set of Friends, the New Normal (we are told) is different, fresh and let's be honest very camp.

This sitcom, brought to use by Ryan Murphy (co-creator of Glee) and Allison Alder, can be seen as a no holds barred comedy with a modern twist on the American dream. Set in Los Angles it follows the trials and tribulations of gay couple David (played by Justin Bartha) and Bryan (Andrew Rannells). The couple meet single mother Goldie (Georgia King) who is escaping Ohio and her cheating husband. She decides to become their surrogate to help her save for law school and to raise her daughter. Goldie's quirky daughter Shannon (Bebe Woods) and larger than life racist, homophobic, anti- Semitic, Republican grandmother Jane (played by Ellen Barkin) also feature.

Sure gay parenting has been in sitcom for decades; Carol and Susan in Friends and more recently Cameron and Mitchell in Modern Family but The New Normal goes further by making it the central storyline.

The show hit the headlines in America even before it aired with outspoken criticism from right wing organisations such as One Million Moms (OMM) asking Americans to boycott NBC. OMM's statement declared:

'NBC is using public airwaves to continue to subject families to the decay of morals and values, and the sanctity of marriage in attempting to redefine marriage. These things are harmful to our society, and this program is damaging to our culture... Millions of Americans strongly believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman. NBC's "The New Normal" is attempting to desensitize America and our children. It is the opposite of how families are designed and created. You cannot recreate the biological wheel'.

However it seems despite the hype such protest has had no effect on the show and it continues to have a loyal fan base in the US.

The show does an excellent job showing the process of surrogacy and the difficulty prospective parents go through in an after school special style. I particularly enjoyed David and Bryan choosing an egg donor because she looked like Gwyneth Paltrow, and who was actually played by Gwyneth Paltrow. Moreover the reactions of David's straight male buddies is pure comic gold and the line 'David, you're gay, you could have avoided this whole parenting mess,' honestly had me in stitches.

The real comedy value however comes from grandmother Jane. Her torrid rants of abuse are excellently delivered by Barkin, employing a 'you're either with us or against' mentality - you're either in favour of gay parenting or you're a right-wing homophobe. With such lines as 'don't worry we aren't staying long enough to catch anything' when entering David and Bryan's home, you will spend most of the early episodes in a state of open-mouthed shock. The plot development seems to be that Jane is slowly becoming less judgmental of alternative lifestyles but without these rants I fear the comedy which is left may not be enough to sustain audience figures.

The show does go on to make wider social comments on single parenting, race and age, all of which are well made and I support but it does feel like a Peter Tatchell campaign video for equality and not light entertainment. I do not see it changing attitudes or having any wider social implications, as it will simply be ignored by those on the right.

My problem with the New Normal, while easy viewing, is that it isn't the best comedy out there. Despite the quality acting and cast, once you've heard Barkin rant you can switch over to be brutally honest. Its apparently 'ground breaking' theme sadly will be the only thing it is remembered for and not much else.

8 April 2013 - by Daniel Malynn 
The Only Way is Essex, commonly known as TOWIE, has moved on from vajazzling (don't ask), love triangles, and weight loss to surrogacy. For those hoping that this subject is treated with respect and sensitivity, you'll be sorely disappointed....
29 October 2012 - by Dr Gillian Lockwood 
The recent case in which a woman called for legal changes to prevent men from donating sperm without their wife's consent has already drawn interesting responses. However, debates about whether gametes may be regarded as 'marital assets' fail to capture the essence of the woman's sense of injustice. The whole point is 'What do we tell the children?'...
18 June 2012 - by James Taylor 
As Britain's leading lesbian, gay and bisexual equality charity, Stonewall welcome the decision by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence to update its fertility guidance to recognise recent changes in the law that will affect lesbian and bisexual women. The guidance, out to consultation, explicitly includes same-sex couples as an eligible group for fertility treatment...
6 June 2012 - by Natalie Gamble 
Indian surrogacy is a hot media topic, with several stories over the past week about couples being stuck in India waiting for British passports for their biological children. As far as we are concerned, this isn't really news – it is the shared experience of every British parent who has had a child through surrogacy in India, and something we deal with on a daily basis....
19 March 2012 - by Daniel Malynn 
This episode of Waterloo Road tries to cover two areas of interest for BioNews; firstly known donation agreements, and secondly genetic testing. I must from the outset of this review highlight the word 'tries'; unfortunately no such warning was given to the viewers before the show....
28 November 2011 - by Rachel Lloyd 
'All I want is some bodily fluids, are you really going to begrudge me that?' - 'Donor', the third episode in BBC One's contemporary daytime drama series 'Moving On' tackled issues of infertility, sperm donation, parenthood and the societal expectation on women to become mothers...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.