The New Normal is the brainchild of Ryan Murphy, creator of Glee, Nip/Tuck and American Horror Story, and many of Murphy's hallmarks—crisp dialogue and outlandish scenarios among them—are represented in force. While it doesn't appear to have a character to equal Jane Lynch's maniacal Sue Sylvester in Glee (though Ellen Barkin's Jane gives it a try), the show can be quite comical at times.
It's also quite problematic—particularly for families who embrace what we'll call for now the "old normal."
For starters, the show's awfully crass. References to sex and sexual organs are frequent. We sometimes see simulated sex onscreen as well. Language can be harsh. While it's not any more extreme than, say, Two and a Half Men, The New Normal easily earns its TV-14 rating on problematic content alone.
But we can't ignore, as Jane blurts out at one point in the premiere, the "giant homosexual elephant in the room."
The New Normal, you see, is pinned to the parental hopes of gay couple David and Bryan. Oh, and the outbursts of the racist great-grandmother of their child.
This is not new territory. ABC's Modern Family has gained quite a following by featuring gay parents Mitch and Cam and their (sometimes crazy) extended fam. So while on New Normal, Bryan's desire to be a father is fairly superficial in the early going ("I would like a skinny, blond child who doesn't cry," he says. "Is this extra?"), we can anticipate that he and David will ultimately be shown doing their level best—within a farcical context of course—to provide a good home and raise their child well.
There's a difference, though, in the ethos between Modern Family and The New Normal. While Modern Family introduces us to a gay couple and makes it hard for us not to like them, The New Normal introduces us to a gay couple and blatantly tells us that if we don't like David and Bryan's lifestyle, we must be bigots.
An example: When Great-Grandma Jane asks her granddaughter, Goldie, about what sort of example she's setting for Shania (Goldie's wise-beyond-her-years grade schooler) by carrying a baby for a pair of homosexuals, Goldie snaps back, "That you can be whatever you want to be no matter how many people tell you you're nothing."
The philosophical problems here just keep on coming, too. "A family is a family," Goldie tells us—in what might be The New Normal's mission statement—"And love is love." Thus, the show is filled with many encouraging platitudes designed to make most of us feel better about ourselves. When David worries that he might be a bad father, Goldie reassures him that he'll be great. When Goldie announces that she wants to be a lawyer, the guys support her by buying her a fancy new lawyer suit.
Love is love. A family is a family. We can be whomever and whatever we want to be.
Truth is, of course, Goldie barely knows David and has no idea as to whether he's going to be a great father (though for the new baby's sake, we all hope he will be). There's no guarantee that Goldie has the wherewithal to be a high-powered lawyer, or even make it through the 46 years of schooling required to become one. Love is love … but relationships aren't always healthy (as Goldie, victimized by a cheating boyfriend, could attest to herself). A family is a family … but not all families are equally ideal or nurturing. We can be whatever we want to be … as long as it's within the scope of our limitations, and we're willing to work hard and sacrifice much to get there. Like it or not, our world is full of limitations, physically, socially and spiritually.
Just because we want something doesn't mean we can have it. Just because we hope for something doesn't make it so. And just because it's The New Normal doesn't mean it's a good normal.
Goldie finds her boyfriend having sex with another woman, and the camera zooms in on the interloper's bra as she bounces up and down on top of the guy. Goldie's determined to make the most of it, though, and she sets out to find a new life, declaring, "If I don't change, nothing will." (It'd be a more inspiring statement had she not stolen her grandmother's car to make her getaway.)
Jane pulls a gun on Goldie's ex-boyfriend, hurls several racist and sexual epithets, and describes how she learned her own husband was gay. David and Bryan cuddle in bed and kiss. Crass slang evokes sex and masturbation. We hear about female body parts and homosexual acts. Shania says no one plans to have a baby at 15 (like her mother and grandmother did) "unless they're in an extremist Christian cult."
David and Bryan's search for a surrogate leads to them getting … blackmailed by a woman who insinuates that she's already had nine abortions. There's a dirty-underwear joke, and talk of drinking and defecation. Characters say "a‑‑," "p‑‑‑ed," "h‑‑‑" and "d‑‑n." God's name is misused a half-dozen times.