Thursday, 4 April 2013

A Sitcom Breath of Fresh Air: “The New Normal”

Most sitcoms are more of the same. Everyone is copying everyone else and the entire industry is getting increasingly stupid. What passes for stereotypes these days should be offensive, but it's not. Your other choice? Reality T.V. - until now. The creator of Glee, Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler have managed to cook up something that doesn't rely on "tradition" or boring dialog to push you through to the credits. The show is called "The New Normal."

Breaking With Norms

While most sitcoms draw a line in the sand, and won't venture into truly controversial subject matter, this show doesn't seem to have any defined markers. The sitcom focuses on a male gay couple who want to have a child. That, right there, puts in into an entirely new category as far as modern sitcoms go. Contrast the show with something like Modern Family which focuses on a traditional family structure, has run-of-the-mill punchlines, and doesn't really venture too far off into controversy. It's safe. It wins awards. It's typical sitcom stuff.

The Premise

The premise behind "The New Normal" is that two gay guys want to have a child, but one thing is standing in their way: a surrogate mother. While the format of the show is pretty straightforward, the family-to-be is anything but traditional.

The show plays on the taboo of a gay couple raising a child, and manages to poke fun of the worst anti-gay stereotypes. The surrogate in the show, "Goldie," comes from Ohio and agrees to be the biological mother because she apparently needs the money.

 Photo credit: IMDb.com

If that were it, it'd be a pretty lame show. Thankfully, Goldie comes with some baggage to make things a bit more interesting. Her nine-year-old daughter and her grandmother add spice to the show. The grandmother, in particular, is a point of friction since she can't quite get used to the idea of two gay men raiding a child.

Edgy Humor

With a show oriented around a gay couple, expect edgy humor - edgy for mainstream America anyway. In fact, sometimes, it feels as though the show goes a bit overboard. Maybe it's a bit of payback and an odd sort of revenge for homosexuals for years of ridicule. Maybe it's just throwaway humor that'll get ironed out in future episodes as the show matures. For example, one scene involving David [one of the show's main characters), Bryan (the other main character], Goldie, and the doctor makes fun of "gingers":

"The results [of tests on the foetus] can detect 85% of defects," says David.

"Defects, what kind of defects?" asks Goldie.

"Anything from spina bifida to red hair," says the doc.

"Red hair? Can we do that test now?" says Bryan, horrified.

The Power of Good Screenwriting

One thing is for sure: Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler know how to create a show. The writing is tight, lines are snappy, and the humor doesn't feel forced. That's more than most shows can claim. Like any good sitcom, a good idea is not enough. The writing needs to make you care about the characters in a way that almost forces you to tune in week after week. The fact that Murphy's other shows have longevity speaks volumes. His secret sauce could make "The New Normal" the new normal for sitcoms.

Paul Hinshaw installs satellite TV systems by day and is an avid blogger by night. His articles mainly appear on entertainment blogs where he enjoys sharing his stories. Visit the satellite TV link for more ideas.



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