This fall season, broadcast and cable networks have begun to place emphasis on comedies, following the huge successes of shows like “Modern Family”, “New Girl” and other contemporary comedies. Unfortunately, none of these new comedies live up to the incredible hype that’s been made over them. In fact, these shows are not only unworthy of the advertising that’s been invested in them, but they’re also actually quite mediocre with only one exception.
The New Normal
“The New Normal”, created by Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler, explores the twenty-first century rendition of the “new” family, which is, apparently, two gay dads (Justin Bartha and Andrew Rannells) and a high school dropout surrogate (Georgia King)who team up to have a child together.
The premise is okay, but the execution isn’t. This show tries to make a bold statement: the word “family” has changed in definition over time. And, that’s about it. “The New Normal” excessively attempts to make comedy out of absurdly awkward and offensive situations that are more uncomfortable than entertaining.
Not only is the writing sloppy and offensive, it is also very dull; it’s fair to say that if you can sit through a half-hour comedy and not laugh once, it’s not living up to the category it’s placed itself in. Not to mention, this show consistently screams “Modern Family rip-off” in almost every scene, from the baby crazy dads, to the extensive soliloquies of tolerance aimed at those who aren’t.
Some may wonder when exactly it became okay to be so offensive so consistently. The grandmother figure of the show, Jane Forrest (played by Ellen Barkin), is meant to represent the ignorance of some Americans in terms of equality among race, religion and sexual orientation. While the opinions of these people may be crude at times, there is no excuse for the disrespectful things she says.
While “The New Normal” makes an effort to help its audience become comfortable with the concept of same-sex partners becoming parents, it falls miles short. The stereotypes are completely over-exaggerated, depicting a flamboyant couple that loves fine dining, flaunts their precious clothing and obsessively worries over their weight.
Another thing: why, when this show’s only goal is to promote diversity, does “The New Normal” cast two white males as the leading gay couple? Many other shows also used the “white gay couple” as the centerpiece. If “The New Normal” is trying to promote sexual diversity, it should stay away from the close-minded, popular conception of gay couples. Why can’t the show feature a biracial lesbian couple? In a sense, that would seem more practical and far less contrived, because what television producers and the viewers “The New Normal” are directed to tend not to recognize is that homosexuality extends far beyond only white males.
This show, if nothing else, proves that when you make a television show, you can either be bold or fail trying. This show shamelessly slumps into the latter category, depicting the gay lifestyle the exact same way its been characterized for the past thirty years, making no successful attempt to dissolve stereotypes at all in the process.
“Go On” is much less progressive than the title may suggest. Matthew Perry stars as Ryan King, a sports analyst with a broadcast show on the radio, who’s made a name for himself by exposing the scandalous, inner lives of many famous athletes. The major plot twist here is that Mr. King is uncomfortable with sharing his own personal life. Clever, isn’t it? No.
Once again, this comedy tries to make a point, and it fails miserably in the process. “Go On” takes a stab at talking about mental illness, depression specifically, by taking the traditional approach: even the best of us fall down sometimes.
In the show, Ryan King is dealing with the loss of his wife who died in a car accident, texting while driving. He is sent, by his superiors, to attend mandatory group therapy, which is for some inexplicable reason led by a Weight Watchers inspirational speaker, to deal with his issues.
Obviously, the writers couldn’t leave well enough alone, and as ifthe AT&T commercials of the victims of car crashes weren’t enough, this show depicts a man spiraling into aggression and pain because his wife died in a car accident while texting.
This show gets so lost in its main plot point, it staggers off course and becomes a drama, then a comedy again, and so it just spends its time straddling the line between both genres.
Suffice it to say: a combination of unconvincing performances, awkward comedic gestures and repetitive underlying messages come together to make the disappointing television show, “Go On.”
Since Matthew Perry is in it, I can see it struggling to stay on air for maybe one more season. Maybe some of his “Friends” magic will rub off on the writers and actually inspire them to write something funny.
The Mindy Project
This review is not simply a smear campaign of the new fall schedule. There is, in fact, one new show that is entertaining and funny, without sacrificing plot or message, and that is “The Mindy Project.”
The show stars Mindy Kaling, from “The Office.” Her charming wit and command of comedic situations carries from her role as Kelly Kapoor to “The Mindy Project.”
This show is a medical comedy, in which the main character, Mindy, is a relatively successful OB/GYN who works in a small office with the classical “frenemy,” the love/sex interest, and the friendly confidants. Unfortunately, there’s nothing incredibly original about this show. Somehow, though, that works for “The Mindy Project,” because while it may build off of a familiar foundation, what it constructs is incredibly unique and fun to watch. There are many obvious examples from each episode that exemplify this.
“‘Okay so just for the record, this responsibility [hiring a new nurse] has been given to someone that’s got a chocolate fountain in her office,’” Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) says, pointing to the mini chocolate fountain in Mindy’s office. “‘This is amazing. People love this.’” Mindy says (Season 1, Episode 2). Out of context, this may not seem too entertaining, but hearing Kailing and Messina argue is a great part of “The Mindy Project.”
The pacing of this show is good, the writing is clever, and above all, there are no moments in the show that leave you wondering how exactly it got produced. That said, this show will probably not be gaining too many accolades (if any) for comedy. It is simply not original enough to carve its own niche in the space of budding comedy shows. But, if you feel your television schedule is a bit lacking and you’re not sure what to fill it with, I would recommend starting with “The Mindy Project”.