TV Rating: TV-14
Other Choices: Arrested Development, Modern Family, Up All Night
Available On: Online
Common Sense Says: Edgy, salty family comedy pushes boundaries, has heart.
Common Sense Rates It:
Parents need to know
Parents need to know that The New Normal is a sitcom in which all subjects -- race, sexuality, age, body size -- are fair game for skewering. The story centers on a committed gay couple that hires a surrogate to carry a baby for them, so there are plenty of jokes about sperm, eggs, and body parts (as when one character tells another that he faints at the sight of a vagina, as they look like "tarantula faces"). Another character is an unapologetic bigot who spews a rainbow of offensive comments, from calling gay men "salami smokers" to insulting a former Girl Scouts' colleague for trying to "Jew down" the price of cookies. There are some intimate and/or sexual scenes between both gay and straight couples, with at least one brief shot of a bra-clad woman grinding atop an apparently nude man. Expect cursing such as "Have you lost your damned mind?" as well as other rough language such as one character saying that she was "a whore for a long time. I slept with everybody!" There are some unkind comments about fat and/or ugly people, as well as moments that shine a positive light on all types of families.
- Families can talk about the meaning of the show's name, The New Normal. Who decides what "normal" is? What kinds of families do you know? Does what is "normal" change over time?
- Bryan and David have a nice house and plenty of money. Do you think that the creators of The New Normal consider this important? Can you see any difference in the way the poorer characters dress, or what they say?
- Do you think the audience is supposed to like Bryan and David? What about Jane? What gives you this impression? How are these characters shown to be different kinds of people?
What's the story?
In NBC's comedy The New Normal, Bryan (Andrew Rannells, best known for Broadway musical The Book of Mormon) and David (Justin Bartha) are a loving and committed gay couple with successful careers, a gorgeous house, and everything else a person could want, except one thing: a child. But with plenty of money, the lack of an in-home womb is no problem, and Bryan and David soon rent the services of Goldie (Georgia King), a Midwestern mama who's just left her cheating husband and wants David and Bryan's cash to attend law school and make a better life for her precocious young daughter. Crashing the party is Jane (Ellen Barkin), Goldie's concerned grandma, who doesn't like the idea of her granddaughter serving as a surrogate for anyone, much less a gay couple, since she's a loud-mouthed and unabashed bigot. But when sperm meets egg and a baby happens, all of these motley characters are stitched together into one big, mostly happy, decidedly non-traditional family.
Is it any good?
Famed for his star-making turn on Broadway in The Book of Mormon, Rannells displays even more star-power on the small screen, moving smoothly from snappy put-downs to emotion so genuine that he tears up (and viewers might, too). He's the sweetest of sweet daddies, which brings heart to all the "oh, snap!" dialogue that peppers the scenes around him. It won't surprise viewers familiar with glossy shows like Glee and Nip/Tuck that Ryan Murphy is one of The New Normal's executive producers; the dialogue has that same snippy/quippy quality found on those shows, and there's a similar "is nothing sacred?" vibe to the jokes.Which are mostly pretty funny, if too profane for young kids, as when Goldie hands her husband's paramour a bottle of bleach for his tighty-whities, declaring that he's "not real detail-oriented back there." Or when Jane tells Goldie's naked husband to "put his Gherkin away." Speaking of Jane, viewers should be prepared for a (mockingly) racist and/or homophobic rant every time she's on screen. It might be more offensive if The New Normal's characters and plot points weren't too outrageous to take seriously. Both the talk and the action are a little salty, but viewers with a sense of irony will find it satisfying, if fleeting, junk-food fun.
The Good Stuff
Messages: The lead characters are in a loving relationship centered on respect. The importance of family bonds is given a lot of screen time. Parenthood and child rearing are given proper (if often mocking) respect, with characters considering the gravity of bringing new lives into the world and being responsible for those lives.
Role Models: Most of the characters are caring and kind, if a bit obsessed with looks, money, and status symbols like expensive clothing. Ellen Barkin's character, Jane, spouts terribly racist/bigoted remarks but is made to look silly while doing so.
What to watch out for
Violence Some gun humor.
Sex: Expect kissing and cuddling in bed between couples both gay and straight, as well as sometimes more explicit content, as when a bra-clad woman is shown bouncing atop a man (apparently having sex) who appears nude, though viewers can't see his private parts. Some salty sex talk as well, as when Bryan remarks that the sight of vaginas make him want to faint, as they look like "tarantula faces."
Language: Some cursing, usually in the context of a mild insult: "What the hell are you talking about?" "Have you lost your damned mind?" Other, darker insults, too, as when Bryan and David discuss what kind of egg donor to use and summarily dismiss a "fatty." Ellen Barkin's Jane is a rich Archie Bunker-esque source of offensive comments, from calling a gay couple "ass-campers" to cooing to an Asian woman, "You people are so good with computers. And thanks for the help building the railroads."
Consumerism: Some mention of consumer brands, as when David mentions shopping at Barney's.
Drinking, drugs & smoking: Adult characters drink on screen, sometimes to tipsiness. At least one joke about a cigarette.