The 2012/13 TV season is officially underway, and I have spent the last fortnight catching up on the new shows that the networks have to offer. Admittedly, I'm a little behind on the dramas, but I have tuned into all the freshman comedies. I have done so for the good of the community; I've watched them so you don't have to. Some of them are pretty good; while others are completely dire. One of them, however, has genuinely shocked me.
Ryan Murphy is everywhere these days; like shit in a field. His ubiquity is both a blessing and a curse. One one hand, he unleashed Glee onto the world and, just like Frankenstein, he probably had no idea of the horrible things his creation would do. However, American Horror Story - another of Murphy's brainchildren - is one of the most captivating shows on television. It doesn't contain any musical numbers; but you don't need distractions like that when you have stunning visuals and the incomparable Jessica Lange.
Murphy's hit-and-miss history made me wary of his next project, The New Normal. The show is based around a gay couple who hire a surrogate to carry their baby, and form a close bond with her. That immediately set off alarm bells in my head. I know from Glee that Murphy's shows can get a little too preachy on these kinds of issues. I'm all for equal rights' but when I'm watching a sitcom, I just want to be entertained. I want some escapism; and I don't want to think about how terribly the majority of gay people are treated in society. I just want to laugh.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I tuned into the pilot of The New Normal to find that it was hilarious, simplistic and wonderfully acted. The show's writers deftly walked the tightrope of delivering an important cultural message; while not losing the humour or becoming politicised. It really was a pleasure to watch, and made me want to tune in for more.
Part of the appeal of The New Normal comes from its core actors. Justin Bartha and Andrew Rannells, who portray the show's central couple, David and Bryan, have impeccable chemistry and charm by the bucketload. Rannells, in particular, does an amazing job of humanising several gay stereotypes, while not distancing himself from them. The show is stolen, however, by a certain Ms Ellen Barkin. Playing Jane Forrest; the judgmental, right-wing grandmother of Goldie (the surrogate); Barkin delivers earth-shatteringly insensitive remarks with a smirk that is full to the brim with irony. She is the show's crown jewel.
The actors may be brilliant, but so are the words coming out of their mouths. It has been a while since I've come across such edgy, pop culture-laden dialogue. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the only other show I can think of that has so many funny lines one after the other. Every Wednesday morning, my twitter feed *ahem* @rosssemple *ahem* is full of quotes from the previous night's episode. Who can resist when you've got gems like "It's like giving penicillin to a Kardashian - too little too late," & "Wow, a black Republican. You know, I've heard stories; I just didn't know they were real."
I hope The New Normal continues to be good. The show has already gained a substantial following, and has already been given a full season order. If you haven't watched it yet; give it a shot. It may not be your cup of tea, but it's not boring or inoffensive like some other comedies out there (on CBS). And Ryan, you'll be happy to know that you're 2-1 up. Get Glee back to its former glory and you might get my full support.
Follow Ross Semple on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rosssemple