The pilot for NBC’s new Ryan Murphy comedy The New Normal had a preview back in August during the Olympics, and that half hour also re-aired Monday night. But Tuesday night, the second episode airs and will give viewers an idea of where the show — which follows gay couple Bryan (Andrew Rannells) and David (Justin Bartha) as they attempt to start a family via a down-on-her-luck surrogate Goldie (Georgia King) — is going to be headed this season. But besides that, what else should you know about The New Normal? Read on for six insights into the new comedy.
1. The New Normal is loosely based on creator Ryan Murphy’s real life quest to start a family with his husband, David Miller. Also there’s some Glee influence…sort of. “It’s like if Kurt and Blaine were grown-up and married and thinking about having a kid,” Murphy — who created Glee — told EW, referring to the Fox dramedy’s beloved gay teen couple. “I’ve never really done anything autobiographical, but I find it’s really interesting.” Adds Rannells, who plays Bryan, the character based on Murphy: “This is a pretty lazy actor role for me, in that the character is loosely based on Ryan Murphy. After the first time I met Ryan and we got to sit down and talk, we both realized that we have a very similar sense of humor. We have a lot of the same interests.”
2. The comedy is getting compared to seminal shows like All in the Family. There’s no Archie Bunker, exactly, but The New Normal does have stripes of the show that made the character famous. “A few comparisons have been draw, very flatteringly, to All in the Family, in the sense that that was a half-hour comedy that was not afraid to tackle political issues and things that you might find on a drama,” Rannells says. “It’s not just a left-sided view of this gay couple and how great it is to be a gay parent.” The comparisons are spot-on, too, as Murphy credits Family as one of his favorite shows. “Growing up the shows I loved most were All in the Family and the Mary Tyler Moore show,” Murphy says. “[The New Normal is] a pastiche of that tone.”
3. The show’s detractors are actually represented in…the show itself. One Million Moms came out against The New Normal, blasting it for exposing families “to the decay of morals and values, and the sanctity of marriage,” while an NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City announced on Aug. 24 that they won’t be airing the show because it’s “inappropriate.” “Ellen [Barkin]’s character, Jane, she represents where a lot of the country is in terms of having resistance to gay marriage and gay parenting,” explains Rannells, “and we get to show all of that.” King echoes Rannell’s sentiments. “Those people who are against it right now might actually be pleasantly surprised about how lots of different viewpoints and opinions are actually in the show. That’s what’s so great — it explores everybody’s ideas and thoughts.”
4. The New Normal is about more than just gay people and parenting — it’s about a new kind of family. “The New Normal does not refer to homosexuality,” Bartha explains. “It is just a mixed family. There’s a single mother on this show, there’s a single grandmother.” It’s about “everyone’s life,” says co-creator Ali Adler. “In my family, there’s two moms and two houses and two kids.” Adds Murphy: “At the end of the day it’s not about being gay or straight, it’s about how you navigate having children. And it has the world’s worst in-law played by Ellen Barkin.”
5. And speaking of Barkin, she will likely be the show’s scene stealer, alongside The Real Housewives of Atlanta‘s Nene Leakes. They — Barkin as Georgia’s homophobic, racist grandmother and Leakes as Bryan’s smart-mouthed assistant Rocky — certainly are behind the camera. “If NeNe wasn’t already on a reality show, we could make a reality show of the behind-the-scenes of The New Normal,” Bartha says. “Her and Ellen are hilarious! You have these two people coming from extremely different backgrounds — it’s kind of our show.”
6. Star Justin Bartha has a personal connection to the show’s premise: his gay brother. “My only brother is gay, and he didn’t come out until later in his life,” Bartha says. “I love him very much, so there’s that.” But Bartha accepted the role to take a stand a make a point, too. “There’s also the fact that it’s still a social issue in our country,” he says, as a way to explain his passion for the show. “I think it’s baffling. It’s something that is confusing to me.” Adds Bartha: “I’ve never gotten such a positive response to anything that I’ve done, and I’ve been lucky to be a part of things that are beloved.”
Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky