Normal Life

Existence as we know it has now been altered irrevocably: Dweezil and Moon Unit Zappa are starring in a sitcom, and it’s not bad. Really.

Normal Life is standard sitcom in structure: a mom and dad (Laverne & Shirley‘s Cindy Williams, Barney Miller‘s Max Gail) and their three children (Dweezil, Moon, and 13-year-old Josh Williams), living in Southern California suburbia. Mom and Dad grin and make silly mistakes, the kids taunt and tease, and there’s even a goofball next-door neighbor (dependable character actor Jim Staahl, who takes a great pratfall and looks like George Bush these days).

Sounds dumb, doesn’t it? But it’s not, because of the show’s various subtexts. For instance, the very title of the show suggests that you’ll find the words ”normal life” and ”Dweezil and Moon” mutually exclusive — that you’ll tune in just to see what kinds of freaky kids that freaky old rock star Frank Zappa brought into this world. But as he has spent the past decade striving to prove, old Frank isn’t a freak at all, and he has raised a pair of decidedly unfreaky (if a tad more reflexively ironic than normal) children.

In real life, Dweezil is a would-be rock star who plays Eddie Van Halen-ish guitar; in Normal Life, Dweezil is Jake, a would-be rock star who plays Eddie Van Halen-ish guitar.

In real life, Moon Unit was the voice of the Valley Girl in her daddy’s only top 10 hit, ”Valley Girl.” In Normal Life, her grating whine of a voice is certainly Valley-ish, but Moon’s also a better actor than her brother, and seems very clever. Her chief drawback: She wears at least four bad, loud hats per episode.

So far, Max Gail (portraying a playwright!) is just a big, genial cipher, but it is glowingly clear that Cindy Williams remains the skilled, loony, underrated comedian she has been since Laverne & Shirley.

This series is like a looser, goosier version of Family Ties. In fact, Gail, now bearded and extra burly, looks an awful lot like Family Ties creator Gary David Goldberg. Yet another example of the way Normal Life mixes up real life and sitcom life. B-

Normal Life
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