When it comes to television viewing, one of the only things harder than watching a beloved character cry is watching a bunch of characters you don’t know yet cry. It’s awkward. You don’t know how you’re supposed to feel, even as you’re being bonked over the head with the message to have a heart-warming moment.
Luckily, Ryan Murphy’s new sitcom, The New Normal, is apparently all about the awkward, or else being asked to watch three different characters cry at least once (there are a lot of misty eyes and bitten lips at various other moments as well) in our twenty-five minute first meeting would be even more uncomfortable than it already is.
Honestly, the pilot is charming, and far more cogent than I expected based on the early previews (hint: some of the weakest material is in those ads, so I strongly suggest giving the show a chance, where it shines is largely stuff you haven’t seen in the teasers). It’s also so sentimental, even in the face of Bryan’s hopefully soon-to-be-explained shallowness and our heroine’s grandmother’s epic bigotry, that it’s almost immediately a pleasure of an entirely guilty and preferably private sort.
Like most of Murphy’s work, The New Normal (a phrase I still associate the most strongly with bond firm PIMCO, so I certainly hope they’re amused), telegraphs almost immediately that it is a faerie tale when Goldie (yes, really) has a very bad no good day while dressed in a cap-sleeved and aproned work uniform that just screams a budget version of any number of storybook princesses.
She’s sleeping, of course, and not following her dreams until she gets a wake-up call in the form of her cheating partner, her vicious grandmother, and her cleverer-than-all-of-them-daughter. One stolen car and several thousand miles from Ohio later, Goldie meets her fairy god princes who are going to help her become a lawyer since she’s going to help them have a baby! Sure, it’s not a neat allegory, but the show is about how nothing’s neat when it comes to family; it’ll do for now.
Meanwhile, even in the first episode we can already start checking off items from The Tropes of Ryan Murphy and that’s before we even get to the Sudden-Onset Bisexuality episode that’s so clearly looming in the future I’m forced to confess that I like television because it’s predictable.
The New Normal isn’t a great show, yet, but it could be, especially once the people we’re forced to watch cry no longer feel like strangers to us. In the meantime, it’s weirdly sweet, gratifyingly mundane, has a really cute dog, and led to a hilarious round of “Wait, which one is Klaine and which one is Blair?” from Patty (who doesn’t watch Glee but is often forced to follow along vicariously with results like that, that, in their own way, speak to the degree to which the Bryan and David resemblance to Kurt and Blaine is almost entirely superficial, Ryan Murphy’s ever increasingly hilarious Twitter presence aside).
While the show itself premiers on September 11th, you can catch it early on the NBC website or Hulu or, as usual, just catch the .gif highlights via Tumblr.