Saturday, 13 October 2012

The New Normal - Review

The New Normal, created by Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler, is a new sitcom about a gay couple using a surrogate to have a child. 

The couple, consisting of the stereotypically gay Bryan, played by Andrew Rannells and the less stereotypical David, Justin Bartha, are both young professionals with hedonistic lifestyles and lots of disposable income. As much fun as life is, they quickly come to feel something is missing from their family - a child.

They meet down on her luck Goldie, Georgia King, who has been mistreated, left with a young child to raise and running from her racist, sexist and just plain rude mother Jane, Ellen Barkin. Jane hunts her daughter down and discovers her plans to cash in by being the boys surrogate. Needless to say she's not on board with the rent-a-womb idea.

This is not Will and Grace. Mainstream has come a long way since then and are almost accepting of the idea that gay men and women have lives just like them. Not all, but enough to allow Bryan and Andrew to be understood as any family next door by the straight majority. 

That's not to say the gay card isn't played for laughs, but the boys and their chosen 'mum' are the ones portrayed sympathetically, with humour and heart. They're the ones we relate to as they negotiate the usual trials of being a family as well as their own unique hassles with the bigoted, conservative few who still believe their views and standards need to be pushed on others. 

The lead in this pack is Jane who steals the show with a trend in comedy that is becoming well known. Gervaise, Tosh and many others now cross the politically incorrect line often. They either use a character to deny responsibility for it or, in Tosh's case, point out the funny racial/sexist/other-ist comment would be totally unacceptable - but in doing so they still get to make it.

This is the case with Jane and it's no less funny than when we first cringed at this humour four decades ago with All In The Family and Archie Bunker.

This show has heart and very good intentions. They've tried very hard to justify and ease the moral niggle that many will feel about a surrogate being used to 'supply' a child. The question about whether it is fair or right to ask a woman to create a child and then hand it over is a difficult one, but the fact it is a donor egg and not Goldie's removes many legal and moral issues. This doesn't mean it won't be fascinating to see if the writers tackle this mine field when the time comes.

In my circle of gay friends I know of two families with kids now under 3 who have settled for the mother, one a biological mother, one a more complicated surrogate to her girlfriend's egg and one of the male couple's sperm, who have bought houses and created their own urban village within their four walls.

So the scope for this show is endless. If the humour, heart and gentle navigation of life that is painted in the first few episodes continues this could easily work itself into most people's favourites column. 

As a sitcom it may be more of a warm hot chocolate on a cold night than a big night out - but sometimes that's just what you feel like.

Out of five sequins - this gets a sparkly three and half.  

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