Monday, September 10, 2012

NBC Fall Pilot Review: The New Normal - Sneak Peek Tonight, Premieres Sept. 11; TV and Sitcom Stars on GSN's The Pyramid


The New Normal

The New Normal - Tuesdays 9:30PM ET/PT on NBC
Sneak Peek Monday, September 10, 2012 at 10:00PM ET/PT and
Premieres Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 9:30PM ET/PT


These days, families come in all forms - single dads, double moms, sperm donors, egg donors, one-night-stand donors... It's 2012 and anything goes. Bryan (Andrew Rannells, Girls, The Book of Mormon) and David (Justin Bartha, The Hangover) are a Los Angeles couple, and they have it all. Well, almost. With successful careers and a committed, loving partnership, there is one thing that this couple is missing: a baby. And just when they think the stars will never align, enter Goldie (Georgia King, One Day), an extraordinary young woman with a checkered past. A Midwestern waitress and single mother looking to escape her dead-end life and small-minded grandmother (Emmy and Tony Award-winner Ellen Barkin), Goldie decides to change everything and move to L.A. with her precocious eight-year-old daughter. Desperate and broke - but also fertile - Goldie quickly becomes the guys' surrogate and quite possibly the girl of their dreams. Surrogate mother, surrogate family.

Ryan Murphy serves as creator/executive producer and director along with creator/executive producer Ali Adler (Glee, Chuck) and executive producer Dante Di Loreto (Glee, American Horror Story).

The New Normal is produced by 20th Century Fox Television and Ryan Murphy Productions.

Cast Details:

Justin Bartha as David Murray
Andrew Rannells as Bryan Collins
Georgia King as Goldie Clemmons
Bebe Wood as Shania Clemmons
Ellen Barkin as Jane Forrest
NeNe Leakes as Rocky
Jayson Blair as Clay Clemmons

Justin Bartha (David) was recently seen in The Hangover Part II, the sequel to the 2009 blockbuster that became the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time. He also starred in the Todd Solondz independent film Dark Horse with Selma Blair, Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken, which premiered in competition at Venice and Toronto. In the indie drama Holy Rollers, Bartha starred with Jesse Eisenberg. The film, loosely based on the true story of Hasidic Jewish drug dealers in the late '90s, premiered in competition at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and went on to garner its director the Breakthrough Award at the Gotham Film Festival and the Most Promising Newcomer Award at Deauville.

Bartha is also known for his portrayal of Riley Poole, partner to Nicolas Cage's character, Ben Gates, in the world-wide successes National Treasure and National Treasure: Book of Secrets. Beyond the groundbreaking comedy The Hangover, Bartha's credits include New York, I Love You, the American version of Paris, Je T'aime, and Failure to Launch with Matthew McConaughey.

Andrew Rannells (Bryan) is best known for his breakout role as Elder Price in Broadway's smash hit musical The Book of Mormon, which was created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame along with Robert Lopez of Avenue Q. The Book of Mormon received nine Tony Awards including Best Musical, and on the Tony Awards telecast, Rannells brought down the house with his performance of I Believe. For his work in The Book of Mormon, Rannells received nominations from Tony Awards, Drama Desk and the Drama League. He also won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album for the cast recording of The Book of Mormon. Variety called his performance in The Book of Mormon "the brightest of a uniformly fine cast," and Entertainment Weekly noted Rannells as "a breakout star." Currently, Rannells can be seen on HBO's new series Girls, from producers Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow, and he will make his big screen debut later this year in Leslye Headland's Bachelorette.

Named Screen International's "Star of Tomorrow," Georgia King (Goldie) has recently completed filming Austenland, a romantic drama based on the beloved novel by Shannon Hale. Directed by Jerusha Hess (co-writer of Napoleon Dynamite) and produced by Stephenie Meyer (The Twilight Saga), the film stars King as Lady Amelia Heartwright, alongside JJ Feild, Keri Russell and Jennifer Coolidge. King has also completed the role of Emma in Matthias Hoene's Cockneys vs Zombies, opposite Harry Treadaway. In 2011, King starred in One Day, as Suki, girlfriend to Jim Sturgess' Dexter. She was also featured in the hugely successful Chalet Girl alongside Ed Westwick and Felicity Jones. King was singled out for her performance in Tanner Hall, in which she starred with Rooney Mara. Her other film credits include The Duchess, Wild Child and Burke and Hare..

King's British television credits are also extensive. She has most recently completed filming Sky's new action adventure Sinbad and new multi-cam sitcom Felix and Murdo opposite Alexander Armstrong and Ben Miller. She was also featured in the BAFTA-winning Little Dorrit, Merlin, Off the Hook, Jane Eyre, Shadow in the North (all for BBC), Plus One and Free Agents (both for Channel 4), Poirot and The History of Mr. Polly (ITV).

Bebe Wood (Shania) guest starred as Catherine, the sarcastic carbon copy of Liz Lemon, on NBC's hit TV series 30 Rock, and later made an appearance on Veep. Born, raised and home-schooled in Kansas City, Wood became an avid theater enthusiast at a young age. Her acting career began onstage, kicking off with her Children's Chorus performance in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella at Kansas City's Starlight Theater. She has worked with Theatre for Young America, Music Theatre for Young People, and Heart of America Shakespeare Festival.

Ellen Barkin's (Jane) diverse body of work spans theater, film and television with roles ranging from abusive mothers to sultry femme fatales. Barkin has had an illustrious acting career comprised of over 50 films that include Sam Levinson's Sundance winner Another Happy Day, Cam Archer's Shit Year, Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's 13, Todd Solondz' Palindromes, Antoine Fuqua's Brooklyn's Finest, This Boy's Life opposite Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, Spike Lee's She Hate Me, Tony Scott's The Fan opposite Robert De Niro, Walter Hill's Johnny Handsome and Wild Bill opposite Jeff Bridges, Sea of Love opposite Al Pacino, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Mike Newell's Into the West, Bob Rafelson's Man Trouble opposite Jack Nicholson, John Turturro's Mac, Jim McBride's The Big Easy opposite Dennis Quaid, Blake Edwards' Switch, Jim Jarmusch's Down by Law, Bruce Beresford's Tender Mercies opposite Robert Duvall and Sydney Lumet's Daniel. Her first film and breakout performance was in Barry Levinson's iconic film Diner.

As a New York native, NeNe Leakes (Rocky) is known for her no-nonsense attitude, which quickly made her the breakout star of Bravo's The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Leakes faced Donald Trump in the Boardroom in March 2011 as a contestant on the fourth season of NBC's Celebrity Apprentice. Her charity of choice for the competition was the Atlanta Union Mission in Support of My Sister's House, a shelter for women and children who experience domestic abuse. The reality media star earned titles such as People Magazine's Diva of the Season and Bravo's A-list Award for Fan Favorite. Leakes then transitioned from her reality success to scripted television. She made her acting debut as Coach Roz Washington, a recurring role on Glee. Later she guest starred on BET's comedies The Game and Let's Stay Together.

Pilot Episode:

"Pilot" (September 10, 10:00PM - encore broadcast on September 12 at 10:30PM) - With successful careers and a committed, loving partnership, Bryan and David are missing only one thing: a baby. Could Goldie be just the surrogate mother they’re searching for?
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Written by Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler
Guest Stars: Michael Hitchcock as Gary, Leslie Grossman as Melissa, Jayson Blair as Clay, Jessica Lu as Tabitha, Antoinette Abbamonte as Deaf Mom, Debbie Lee Carringon as Little Person Mom, Andrea Helene as Lady Buyer, Marieve Herington as Heather,Sara Ann Lassner as Sheryl, Kelly Mantle as Aubrey, Julie Meyer as Michelle, Ellen Ratner as 50-Year-Old Woman, Yolanda Snowball as Nurse, Michael Anthony Spady as Deaf Dad, Haley Strode as Waitress, John Vance as Juror, Algerita Wynn as Judge

Analysis:

The pilot opens with a scene of Bryan making a video to show how desperately they wanted a baby. He says the fairytale began in Ohio where we meet Goldie, Jane (Nana) and Shania. They talk about a lesbian couple they see on the street who have a baby. Goldie later walks in on her husband, Clay, in bed with another woman. Shania tells Nana in the car that she is a bigot and is unfriending her. Jane confronts Clay with a gun about what is happening. Goldie decides to drive off with Shania. David watches sports while Bryan tells him about seeing a baby at the mall. He brings home some baby clothes and tells him that he wants to have a baby. David and Bryan watch kids at a playground and talk more about the possibilites of having a baby. Parents of various sizes and backgrounds talk to the camera about having kids. David and Bryan meet with Gary at their house to talk about surrogate mothers. He asks them who wants to be the bio dad. They view online videos of various potential surrogates, including a surprise celebrity cameo. Shania talks to Goldie on the beach and asks her what her dreams were before they had her. Jane calls Goldie on the phone to ask her why she stole her car and left. Goldie tells her that they aren't coming home. David and Bryan interview Melissa, a potential surrogate, at a restuarant who tries to blackmail them. David and Bryan walk in a park with a puppy and receive a call from Gary from Expanding Families. Gary introduces them to Goldie who tells them she needs the $35,000 to change her daughter's life. David and Bryan say they both like Goldie and her daughter. Goldie has the embryos inplanted at Expanding Families. David tears up and wonders if he is ready to be a dad. Nana arrives and confronts Goldie. Rocky brings eggs and argues with Nana, who says this is not normal. Nana tells a story about Goldie's grandfather. The episode concludes with a scene of Goldie taking a pregnancy test.

The New Normal is a single-camera comedy. The pilot is fast paced. There are over 20 different scenes, which seems typical for most comedy pilots these days. The cinematography is generally well done, but I think the handheld and shaky shots aren't really needed. A lot of backstory is given, but it seems like they just tried to cram too much information into a 21-22 minute episode. I think the whole introduction and getting to know Goldie and her family could have been done over 2-3 episodes. The casting choices all seem to fit, but they seem to lack chemistry early on. That's something they can improve over time. I'm really only familiar with Justin Bartha and Ellen Barkin from their movie work, but the other actors do a good job portraying their characters. Georgia King is a young, pretty Scottish actress. She has the potential to be a big breakout star from this series. Bebe Wood is a talented young actress who plays a girl who is wise beyond her years. Ellen Barkin's character is like a modern day Archie Bunker. She has some funny lines, but I think a few of them cross the line and are too crude. Nene Leakes has only a few lines, but she makes the most of her limited screen time. Her character is very sassy. Jayson Blair plays Goldie's husband. He's only in a few scenes in the pilot, but he'll be a series regular. I would expect that we'll see more extended family members in future episodes. I like the music score. It's a bit quirky and upbeat. There's really only one song (Baby Love) used in the episode. The show could benefit by using more songs to enhance scenes.

Conclusion:

The pilot is well produced and has some nice moments, but it's not a show that I would watch on a weekly basis. The whole premise of the show just doesn't appeal to me. It would probably work better as a television movie rather than a weekly series. There's a nice mix of comedy and touching drama, but I prefer the non-stop laughs of a traditional multi-camera sitcom. It has more of a dramedy feel than a pure comedy. The promos tended to focus on more of the one-liners and comedy, but there's a lot of family drama here. Many people have compared the show to Modern Family. I thought the same thing after watching the promos over the summer, but I've changed my mind after viewing the pilot. The only thing the shows really have in common is a gay couple. While Cam and Mitch are only part of Modern Family, David and Bryan are the main couple here. My main complaint is that David and Bryan are just not very funny characters. Bryan is also kind of annoying and not very likable. They don't seem to have the chemistry of Cam and Mitch in the pilot at least. The pilot is so fast paced that it's hard to tell how much they really care for each other. It will be interesting how long the pregnancy will play out and when they will bring in the baby.

NBC airs the pilot tonight after the premiere of The Voice. It should receive some nice sampling after the hit reality series. There's also been quite a bit of controversy over the show, which should lead to more viewers tuning in for the curiosity factor. The Salt Lake City, Utah NBC affiliate is refusing to air it. Some may agree with their decision, but I believe people should be allowed to make their own choice on what to watch. A new episode will follow tomorrow on its regular day and time of 9:30pm. If you miss the pilot tonight, it will be broadcast again on Wednesday at 10:30pm. While the show didn't receive a sneak peek during the Olympics, NBC is giving it a lot of air time this week over three consecutive nights. Although I think many critics will love the show, I don't think it will be a big ratings hit. There just won't be widespread appeal for it. The competiton isn't really fierce on Tuesdays at 9:30pm. Go On should provide a good lead-in, so I would expect NBC will be patient with it and give it a full season. They have several sitcoms leaving after this season, so there will be some holes to fill on their fall schedule.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 3.0/5
Funniness: 2.5/5
Overall: 3.0/5

-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 09/10/12

Discuss the show after you watch it on Monday, September 10 on our message board.

Related Links:

  • NBC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • The New Normal Photo Gallery

    Preview:





    GSN has announced that the weekly line-up of talented celebrities who will join host Mike Richards in The Pyramid, a new original, primetime daily strip game show for the network. The Pyramid airs Mondays through Fridays at 6 pm ET and premiered last Monday (Sept. 3). A contemporary take on one of television's most beloved game shows, The Pyramid brings back the classic game show format (from the '70s and '80s with host Dick Clark): the celebrities, the Pyramid game board, the Winner's Circle - everything viewers know and love about the iconic format is returning in GSN's lively new version. In keeping with the classic format, each celebrity pair will appear for a full week (5 days). The Pyramid is hosted by producer and TV personality Mike Richards. Community stars Yvette Nicole Brown and Danny Pudi kicked off premiere week.
    The excitement and fun continues in upcoming episodes with the following celebrities appearing: Chandra Wilson (Grey's Anatomy) and Jai Rodriguez (ABC's upcoming sitcom Malibu Country) this week; Megyn Price (Rules of Engagement) and Lamorne Morris (New Girl) appearing the week of Sept. 17; Kate Flannery (The Office) and Jim O'Heir (Parks and Recreation) appearing the week of Sept. 24; Joshua Malina (Scandal) and Wallace Langham (CSI) appearing week of Oct. 1; Melissa Peterman (Baby Daddy, Reba) and Samantha Harris (Stars Earn Stripes, Dancing with the Stars) appearing the week of Oct. 8; Oscar Nunez (The Office) and Dot Marie Jones (Glee) appearing week of Oct. 15; and Aida Turturro (The Sopranos) and Nick Turturro (Blue Bloods) appearing the week of Oct. 22.


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