Two boys, one surrogate and the prospect of a baby. OK, The New Normal is a sitcom, and it goes to great pains to keep gentle mirth front and centre, but it doesn’t shy away from the political touchstone at its heart.
Producer Dante DiLoreto says it is written with an absolute understanding that it’s stepping into the centre of a debate about the definition of marriage and what makes a so-called modern family.
”I think everything we do reflects some kind of social dialogue,” DiLoreto says. ”The interesting thing about The New Normal is that even though there is a gay couple at the centre of the show, other perspectives are sharp and well voiced.”
The series stars Justin Bartha and Andrew Rannells as David and Bryan, a gay couple who want to start a family. Georgia King plays Goldie, a woman who comes to Los Angeles with her daughter, Shania (Bebe Wood), to find herself and ends up becoming David and Bryan’s surrogate.
In one of the early episodes, DiLoreto says, Goldie’s grandmother Jane (played by Ellen Barkin) steps away from her standard one-liners and delivers a concise conservative point of view. ”And it’s a very elegant argument,” he says. ”While we have a point of view that reflects us, the show is very respectful of everyone’s points of view.”
The series was created by writer-producers Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler, both of whom started families using surrogates. Murphy is best known as the producer of Glee (on which Adler also worked) and American Horror Story. DiLoreto is an executive producer on all three shows.
DiLoreto describes Murphy as ”one of the true mavericks” in television. ”That’s one of the exciting things about coming to work around here. This journey mirrors Ryan’s personal journey.”
Glee and American Horror Story were both genre-busting shows to some extent. The New Normal, however, came with a well-established set of genre rules. ”A half-hour comedy is certainly a more recognisable format, but at the same time there is no studio audience, it’s single camera, and tonally it can go in a lot of different directions,” he says.
”Some shows become very broad and very farcical – this show manages to be both really witty but also emotional, and we’ve been allowed to go to some really touching moments. And I think that’s what sets it apart and makes it more iconically ours.”
DiLoreto agrees there is an audience expectation that you’ll deliver a comedy with a strong emotional truth. ”Today’s audience is smart, sophisticated and has a very broad world view, and I think all a writer can do is write to a truth, and in that truth you try to find great comedy, great pathos, great drama, but if they’re just striving for a result an audience can tell.”
Whether the series strikes a chord remains to be seen. It was launched in the US to 7 million viewers and has roughly held its audience. That makes it a modest hit. DiLoreto is confident The New Normal will blossom. ”When you see it come to life, of course, you’re never sure how the audience is going to respond or how it’s all going to fit together as a whole, but you get a sense something is working.” And that’s a little bit like a family, perhaps.
The New Normal
Sundays, Ten, 8pm
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