Saturday, September 15, 2012

Venetian Blinds and The New Normal

L-R: Andrew Rannells & Justin Bartha on "The New Normal"

On a saturday afternoon in mid September and sun shining through my Venetian blinds, I didn't feel like watching the second episode of the new tv show "The New Normal." I had DVR'd it, but I felt like edging closer to the end of the novel I was reading called Admission instead. I turned the tv off.

15 minutes later, lying on my side on the floor, legs outstretched I turned the tv back on and I started watching "The New Normal" and to my surprise for those 20 minutes I was enraptured. Mind you, I had seen the show's pilot, but the pilot was weak and had zero rhythm. The characters seemed more like flat images than real people, existing only to spout snarky one-liners. The second episode brought to mind something I had read about tv pilots (in a review of another NBC show "Smash"): they're meant to set up the characters and then focus on the nuances in the episodes that followed.

Nuanced is what the second episode of "The New Normal" was. It was full of surprises that triggered me to smile each time. Even though I had noticed this in the pilot, I was still surprised at how much Justin Bartha (stars as one half of the show's gay couple) looks like tennis champion Novak Djokovic. There's a Slavic, Baltic look to both men. So what is better than to imagine the always charismatic Djokovic as one-half of a gay couple?

The next surprise was the little girl Shania dressed as Little Edie from the Grey Gardens documentary replete with Little Edie's black head scarf. She even spoke like her. The fantastic thing that show-creator Ryan Murphy does is develop the effortless bond between Bryan (Andrew Rannells) and Shania (Bebe Wood). They relate to each other and they seem the most like Murphy. All the show gets to breath in its second episode and Bryan proves a more intricate character while being one-note in the pilot. When I look at Andrew Rannells as Bryan, I can't help but think of Ryan Reynolds, but Bryan is someone who I can relate to who's a brother and a friend. The best part is that Bryan treats Shania like the star that she is (with the name of a country music diva) and is excited about her impersonating Little Edie. Having a little girl dress and act like Little Edie as a coping device is not completely out of left field for Ryan Murphy, but yet I didn't expect it. I was surprised at how clever and perfect it was.

L-R: Bebe Wood & Georgia King on "The New Normal."

Ellen Barkin is the show's Cruella de Vil, but I have this feeling she's going to turn from the dark side, but of course that won't be easy. She's where most of the show's political commentary comes from, and is what Laura Ingraham will look and act like in 10 years. I've always found Ingraham hilarious, so that's a plus for me.

I clicked off from DVR and I felt like I had escaped into the warmest world. "The New Normal" is a family show and I think open-minded families will love this show. There are a lot of kids who are different, but not gay (Shania a case in point), and that's why a lot of people will share my reaction to the show. As the sun still shined through the Venetian blinds I felt even warmer than when I started the show.

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