Life As We Know It – A Review of The New Normal

Adam Wollerton

The New Normal

Has the recent gay marriage debate got you thinking about what you want in the future? Well, in this week’s episode of The New Normal that is exactly the hot topic!

During a confrontational debate between Jane (opinionated Grandmother living by the rule ‘Marriage is between Adam and Eve, NOT Adam and Steve…) and Bryan and David (the loved-up gay couple) about marriage in their house, David reveals he is unsure about marrying Bryan in the future… Uh-oh!

Although this is the sixth episode in the series, the comedy, wit, and story are as sharp as they were in episode one. Kudos to Ryan Murphy (creator of Glee) for keeping the pace up throughout the series. Typically the pilot episodes have us rolling around and then it dwindles like the gay marriage opposition votes… But I’m glad to say that with the combined straight-shooting sharp snipes from Grandmother Jane, the sassy sarcasm of Bryan, and the dim-witted delusions of Goldie and her daughter Shania, you will be kept giggling episode after episode.

So here’s the story… David and Bryan decide that they want to take their relationship to the next level and choose to have a child. In their disastrous search for a surrogate mother they meet Goldie – a ditsy, fatherless, waitress from Ohio who is excited by the prospect of being able to give a child to a gay couple. And so we get into the swing of the series and the comedy is finally set up when Goldie, and her nine year old daughter Shania (a bright, sparky, and inquisitive young girl), move into the home of Bryan and David.

However, amongst the humour, the series addresses the realities of life experienced by everyone in the ‘house of diversity’ that is thrust upon the viewers. Ryan Murphy brings to light the worries that a lot of gay (and Bi and Transgender) couples face that other programmes would not usually address. Typically, simply featuring a gay character is enough for the ‘talented’ writers of soaps to add diversity to their evening shows. However, in The New Normal the realities are smacked across the screen in a harsh ‘facing of reality’ moment. For me, this hasn’t really been done since Queer As Folk back in the 90s.

When Bryan and David are out shopping with Goldie, a heterosexual husband asks them not to kiss in public in front of his daughter and further goes to express his disgust and concerns for their apparently ‘unfortunate’ child growing up with two dads. Harsh. Let’s face it though, there are many people who feel exactly the same as that guy… and it is tragic!

Murphy really sees no boundaries. He is not afraid to cross the line. He doesn’t just address an issue, he presents The New Normal audience with a no-gloss view of the modern world and its bigoted opinions on gay couples. However, despite following the lives of Bryan and David, the series as a whole shows itself to challenge more issues than just that of our beloved couple. The New Normal is a show about diversity in all areas of life.

Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler present us with broken relationships between mother and daughter (over two generations), the struggles of growing up and bullying in school, the discovery of sexuality, and the topic of interracial relationships sparked by a brief chance encounter between Goldie and Bryan’s black friend’s brother at a family party.

The way that these issues are handled in the show is brilliant and it is done with the perfect balance of humour and seriousness. This talented cast is perfectly matched to their characters with some brilliant performances from all. The witty and sarcastic Bryan (Andrew Rannells) is harmoniously paired with level-headed David (Justin Bartha) to create this cherished and believable gay couple – a key feature that could have been a ‘make or break’ moment for the series. The mother-daughter relationships between Jane (Ellen Barkin), Goldie (Georgia King), and Shania (Bebe Wood) again ring with plausibility even though sometimes you can think ‘really?’ when Goldie acts a little dim or Shania makes a blatant ‘I’m-a-child-with-controversial-opinions’ moment!

The New Normal is definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it yet. It might not be as gritty-gay as Queer As Folk was back in the day, but it’ll definitely give you a giggle whilst looking at snapshots of life as we know it!


Follow Adam: @AdamWollerton

About Adam Wollerton

Adam is a Writer and Director of Off-West End and West End Theatre Productions. He is also the Co-Founder of Curious Tales Theatre Company and is the author of LoveStuck: A New Musical.