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Sitcom ‘The New Normal’ is an inconsistent mess

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Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha star as the California couple looking to start a family.

The Details

The New Normal
Two stars
Tuesdays, 9:30 p.m., NBC
Premieres September 10, 10 p.m.

Conservative groups have attacked new NBC comedy The New Normal, from Glee and American Horror Story co-creator Ryan Murphy, for its focus on a gay couple starting a family via a surrogate, but the show offers such a cartoonish portrayal of gay life that anti-gay groups might want to consider promoting it instead. Like Murphy’s other shows, Normal is a headache-inducing mess of conflicting tones, inconsistent characterization and uneven pacing, but it doesn’t have lavish musical numbers or lurid violence to distract from its numerous shortcomings.

Justin Bartha and Andrew Rannells play the California couple looking to start a family, with Rannells’ Bryan embodying a whole range of gay stereotypes, while Bartha’s David is the straightest-acting gay man around. They recruit wide-eyed Ohio transplant Goldie (Georgia King), who’s looking for a way to start a new life for herself and her daughter. King is the show’s MVP, bringing a level of genuine emotion to the campy writing from Murphy and co-creator Ali Adler, but even she can’t quite navigate the hairpin tonal shifts, which lurch from crude jokes to sappy speeches.

Bartha and Rannells also have some nice moments together, but Ellen Barkin is ridiculous as Goldie’s “hilariously” racist and homophobic grandmother, and Murphy’s penchant for stunt-casting has saddled the show with Real Housewives star NeNe Leakes (who is not even remotely a convincing actress) as Bryan’s assistant. Murphy has a talent for provocation, but The New Normal proves again that his storytelling skills lag behind his attention-grabbing tactics.

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