One of the most anticipated series' of the 2012/13 season was The New Normal, with the main driving force being that of Ryan Murphy, the creator of critically acclaimed and largely controversial shows such as Nip/Tuck, American Horror Story and Glee, comes yet another controversial series about a homosexual couple whom decide to have a child by hiring a surrogate. This 22 episode series has finally hit store shelves on DVD (exclusively.) Is it worth picking up?
Goldie Clemmons (played by Georgia King) is a young mother living in Ohio, married to a man named Clay (played by Jayson Blair) whom has no goals in life. Due to this her life is mainly made up of her taking care of him and their young daughter, Shania (played by Bebe Wood), while also letting her life be controlled by her loud mouthed, overly racist, conservative and bigoted grandmother, Jane (played by Ellen Barkin.) One random day after picking up her grandmother, Goldie needs to stop back at home before going to work, as she walks through the house, she finds more and more clothes scattered throughout, until finally ending up in the bedroom watching Clay with another woman. She exclaims "I've been gone for literally 6 minutes..." and promptly leaves. While her grandmother decides to go in and threaten Clay, Goldie decides to leave everything behind (literally everything) and along with Shania, embarks on a trip to California for a brand new chapter in their lives.
While Goldie's life is crumbling apart back in Ohio, In California, things couldn't be going any smoother for deeply in love couple, Bryan Collins (played by Andrew Rannells) and David Sawyer (played by Justin Bartha.) Bryan is a television producer who is the showrunner for the hit television series Sing! (an obvious spoof of Murphy's real life show, Glee.) He's more feminine of the two, his personality is that he's bossy, can be quite obnoxious, loud and brash, and can be quite emotional. David, a gynecologist, is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, he doesn't like people knowing he's gay, he's not outward with his feelings, his main hobbies are watching/playing sports. They both feel they live the perfect life together, and that nothing could make it better. However, one day when Bryan is out shopping, he sees a baby and imagines himself with one, bringing him to tears. He comes back home to David, claiming a baby would be the "perfect accessory" to their lives. Although at first hesitant, David eventually agrees and they begin looking for a surrogate.
After no women are up to par for the standards set by David and Bryan besides a Gwyneth Paltrow doppelganger (actually played by Gwyneth in a uncredited cameo) which fails miserably, the pair soon almost lose hope... until Goldie walks in offering herself. The trio instantly hit it off, and Goldie is soon pregnant with their child. David and Bryan both knowing the feeling of being estranged by their families, decide to take Goldie and Shania in, bonding with them and looking at each other as a new family. Although the happiness is a bit short lived as Jane soon shows up. Being "old-fashioned", Jane instantly hates the idea of Goldie bearing a child for a gay couple. In tow with Jane is Clay, who vows to get his family back at all costs.
Over the course of the show David and Bryan deal with all of the normal hardships of being a couple about to have a baby, while also dealing with the problems of society rejecting them for it at times. Goldie tries to settle down in California and find something she'll be truly happy with. Jane deals with being shunned by her granddaughter for her overbearing personality and bigoted nature, so she decides to stay in California to win her family back. Even Clay gets his own mini story of attempting to reconcile with Goldie, while also trying to become a better father to Shania.
Pretty much the only real problem I had with the show were the characters and the way they developed. For example, Jane, whom for the first 2/3's of the series is one of the most hardcore racists on TV, but then the next episode she's getting along great with David and Bryan, despite mocking them and their lifestyle every appearance beforehand. David and Bryan themselves are another example... At the beginning of the series the writers played a bit on the contrasting stereotypes with Bryan being a bit more of your typically stereotyped gay man. He's overly feminine (as pointed out in the show), and of course, David is made out to be more masculine to balance that out. Not to say that their character changes were bad, it was for the better, by the middle of the season they weren't written as stereotypes, they found that happy middle for both of them. Bryan, who in the early episodes was little more than a stereotype also showed a lot of different range as the series progressed. Likewise with David, they gave him emotions, something he was lacking a lot of. It may have left me a bit cold due to it being such a dynamic shift in the characters that have already been established, but it was for the better, they felt real after that and not just some caricatures.
For only one season, the show tackled a lot of different subjects, society's views on a gay couple raising a child or getting married, politics, religion. The jokes themselves were decent, but nothing overly laugh out loud hilarious. This was one of those shows where you just enjoyed the overall story itself, which continued to get better as it went along, not truly finding it's footing until the halfway point of the series. I was legitimately excited to see how The New Normal developed. It was a solid show that needed time to breath, and once it got to the point of being a quality show (again, around the halfway point), the ratings were too poor for the show to be salvaged, which is truly a shame. I personally would have had loved a second season.
1. Pilot - A couple named David and Bryan decide to have a child. Meanwhile, A young mother named Goldie decides to pack up and leave for California.
2. Sofa's Choice: David and Bryan fear they are getting too old and decide to have a night on the town to recapture their youth. Meanwhile, Jane arrives in California to bring Goldie home.
3. Baby Clothes - While clothes shopping for the baby, Bryan and David are humiliated by a couple that are against the same sex having a child; Shania tries to attract boys at school by wearing baby clothes.
4. Obama Mama - A mock election is held at Shania's school; David and Bryan hold a party to prove to Jane that they have a diverse group of friends.
5. Nanagasm - Clay arrives in California to take custody of Shania; Jane picks up a younger man at a hotel bar; Bryan and Goldie begin to bond over issues with their family.
6. Bryanzilla - Shania gets "Pretend engaged" to a boy at school, sending Bryan over the edge with marital bliss, prompting him to hold a mock wedding.
7. The Godparent Trap - When David and Bryan come to the conclusion that they can't offer their baby spiritual guidance, they begin looking for godparents.
8. Unplugged - Goldie decides the family is too immersed into technology and they decide to spend the day like "pilgrims." Meanwhile, Rocky sets Jane up with a Twitter account.
9. Pardon Me - Bryan and David want to start a new Thanksgiving tradition with Shania, Goldie and Rocky, but Shania convinces everyone to invite all of their family in spirit of the holiday.
10. The XY Factor - Bryan and David accidentally learn the baby's gender; Shania gets suspended.
11. Baby Proofing - Bryan and David hire a company to baby proof their home; Jane decides on a new career as a real estate agent.
12. The Goldie Rush - David and Bryan decide that they would like Goldie to be their surrogate once again after their child is born; Bryan's ex-boyfriend Monte (played by Matt Bomer) returns to town.
13. Stay at Home Dad - Bryan and David debate on who should be the stay at home dad for their child; Rocky fills in for Bryan on his TV show.
14. Gaydar - Jane finds herself attracted to her boss, Brice (played by John Stamos.) Rocky begins to suspect her boyfriend is gay. Together, the two enlist Bryan, David, and Shania to stage a "gay test" to determine their respective orientations.
15. Dairy Queen - David and Bryan asks Goldie if she's willing to breast feed their baby, which she accepts, infuriating Shania as she was not as a baby. Jane continues to woo Brice.
16. Dog Children - Something is wrong with David and Bryan's dog, Harvey MilkBone. Meanwhile, Goldie lusts after Shania's school principal.
17. Rocky Bye Bye - Rocky throws a baby shower for David and Bryan.
18. Para New Normal Activity - It's Halloween time, which always brings out the worst in Bryan's control issues; The group tries to figure out what to dress up as.
19. Blood, Sweat and Fears - David and Bryan consider alternative birthing options; Shania helps baby sit Rocky's new baby.
20. About a Boy Scout - David, a former Eagle Scout, jumps at the chance to chaperone a Cub Scout overnight. When they find out he's gay, his membership is revoked. Meanwhile, Goldie struggles over her feelings for Brice.
21. Finding Name-O - David and Bryan try to think of a name for their baby; Goldie reveals the origin of Shania's name; David suggests that Bryan invite his mother to their wedding; Clay struggles to be a good dad for Shania.
22. The Big Day - Series finale. David and Bryan's wedding day has arrived... but so has the baby.
+ The story feels mostly complete. While most shows that have been cancelled do not get a proper ending, The New Normal had a satisfying ending that truly felt like a series finale. Due to it being cancelled, this show had a beginning, a middle, and an end.
+ The central performances are outstanding. Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha have terrific chemistry together. Georgia King, whose work I had not seen before, was excellent, she worked very well with every other actor. Ellen Barkin steals the show every time she shows up on screen. Even Nene Leakes is surprisingly good as the loud mouthed, boisterous assistant to Bryan.
+ The guest stars. It was a pleasant surprise to see people like Matt Bomer, Nicole Richie, Shannen Doherty, George Takei, and even Gwyneth Paltrow in an uncredited cameo. John Stamos even has a recurring role toward the end of the series for a half dozen episodes.
+ Characters take a turn mid season. They're no longer stereotypes and there is some true development.
- Some of the episodes are actually really boring to get through.
- It's obvious that Bryan is written to be a mix of gay stereotypes.
- Characters take a turn mid season. Yes this is both a positive and a negative. The show had already established the characters and It's a radical change
Audio and Video:
The episodes have been framed in their widescreen television aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are enhanced for widescreen televisions. For DVDs, the quality is quite good with very pleasingly rich, gorgeous colors. Even with the anamorphic enhancement, there are occasional problems with aliasing as there is some noticeable fuzz.
The only audio format presented on this box is a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound mix, but it's sufficient enough. The show is definitely dialogue heavy so it's important for it to never be overtaken or be drowned out. There were no signs of audio dropouts or distortions. It's overall a very solid sound mix.
Completely barebones. No extras to speak of on this box set.
The New Normal is yet another show that has been cancelled before it truly had a chance. It pushed the boundaries of typical sitcom, not only breaking the mold with the series centering around a gay couple, but also featuring one of the most racist, homophobic, and all around foul mouthed characters I've seen on television. It did take me a few episodes to come around to it but the show eventually hooked me with the charming characters and the well told stories. The New Normal was a very solid show that could have been something special had it been given a second season. However with it's limited 22 episode run, the series felt like it had a beginning, a middle, and an end, something a lot of shows that have been cancelled show don't (Freaks and Geeks for example), so at least the story feels complete once you reach the end of the series. This show was a breath of fresh air and I give it a strong recommendation.