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<I>The New Normal</I>: Maybe Not Normal, But Pretty Average

This new show from Ryan Murphy is... definitely a show from Ryan Murphy. It's got his signature stable of quirky characters (and even a few cameos from some of his alumni, like Gwyneth Paltrow and Leslie Grossman), some "edgy" (for network TV) dialogue and storylines involving some non-traditional family matters. Still, at its heart it's just a pretty typical sitcom, but of NBC's new comedies this fall, it's the one with the most potential. Though that's not saying much, given Guys With Kids, Go On and Animal Practice are the Peacock's other offerings.

Brian (Andrew Rannells of Book of Mormon fame) and David (Justin Bartha) are in a committed relationship and hitting the stage of their lives where they want to have a baby. So they are in desperate need of a surrogate to bring their dream to life. Good thing that Goldie (George King) is a willing candidate, having impulsively left her husband, stolen her grandma's car and taken her daughter Shania (Bebe Wood) to California. It all seems too easy, so naturally, "Nana" (Ellen Barkin) chases across the country after her to try and talk her out having a baby for a gay couple.

See, the "comedy" comes from the fact that Nana is completely homophobic. The first episode is peppered with gay slurs galore. Also, Nana doesn't just hate the fact that Goldie is carrying a child for two men, but we find out that she's totally racist, too, and flips out when she thinks that the egg is being supplied by Brian's African-American assistant Rocky (NeNe Leakes). To say that Nana and Rocky don't get along very well is probably an understatement.

In addition to having two really strong and vocally opinionated women, one gay man who is super into fashion, a really brilliant young kid who is wise beyond her years and another gay man who is a gynecologist and super into sports, the pilot episode also wove in an attractive, half-naked Asian woman, a little person, a deaf couple and a retired hooker (we think). Given Murphy's track record, we can only presume that people in wheelchairs will appear in subsequent episodes.

It often feels overstuffed and like it's trying too hard, but the pop culture references are great, the performances are well put together and the video diary is a cute (if overused) framing device (or maybe we just watch too much Good Luck Charlie). The biggest problem is that most of the characters are currently stereotypes, and that there's too much riding on Goldie, who is the least interesting character of all. Things happen to her, she'd like to wear nice suits and be like Julianna Margulies on The Good Wife (wouldn't we all), she's just really super sweet (even during her break-up, she gives the new girlfriend advice and a bottle of bleach) and a selfless person. She needs to be much more dimensional and flawed in order for us to really relate to her in any way. Here's hoping they rectify that soon, because this show could turn into something, but watching a cutesy Disney Princess in the middle of these one-note characters isn't going to keep our attention for very long.

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