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TV Show Review – The New Normal
Rating: 4 (out of 5). NBC’s “The New Normal,” is the Ryan Murphy/Ali Adler created comedy about a same-sex couple from Beverly Hills who hire a woman to be the surrogate mother to their child. Most critics are on board with this edgy and controversial topic.
Variety reserved it’s kudos for now, expressing there is “much to like in the pilot, along with warning flags as to where the series could easily slide into the Pacific Ocean.” This debut “exhibits some of the excesses audiences have come to expect from creator Ryan Murphy, but also contains heart and a message.” The show will also “seek a mix between screwball comedy and heart, which is considerably harder to master than ‘Modern Family’ has made it look.” Variety concluded it “won’t be for everybody, but there’s enough here to suggest it can connect with a loyal core, enticing some to stick around and see what develops.”
New York Times found it appealing, saying creator Ryan Murphy’s effort is a “funny, appealing show.” It is an “arch comedy with a soft heart behind its scrim of fast-paced patter.” The Times complimented the pilot as “a modern comedy with a twist of old-fashioned sentimentality.”
Los Angeles Times offered a mixed review, calling it “generally sweeter than co-creator Ryan Murphy’s other shows. but the result can be something of a freak show.” They said “Much about the pilot felt flat or programmatic, but much was likable as well.” The Times especially liked “the nonchalant tenderness between the male leads.”
Boston Globe recommended the debut, expressing “The pilot shows promise, particularly in the originality of the premise”. They found it to be “Modern Family”-esque, in that the show will explore the intersection of extended family and family of choice”. The Globe added “Abnormal is the new normal, and it’s fun to see a series embracing and finding humor in that reality.” Cautiously, they offered “ ‘The New Normal’ is sweet-natured, in the way the characters mingle their lives together; but the jokes, they are mighty spotty.
Seattle Post Intelligencer is also onboard, calling it “a biting yet sweet-at-heart sitcom that bucks current network comedy trends by actually being about something.” They added, “As you’d expect from co-creator Ryan Murphy (Glee), the tone can wobble from sappy to flamboyantly snarky, but there’s a real emotional undercurrent.”
USA Today found it “very funny, frequently messy and yet surprisingly touching comedy that would be a welcome addition in any year. For the most part, Normal plays like a lovely, small movie, mixing humorous moments with sweet, gentle grace notes.” They cautioned “As is not unusual with pilots, however, Normal is not always at its best. That’s a writing problem and should be easy to fix.”
Huffington Post was split. “On the positive side of the ledger, ‘The New Normal’ does have some witty lines and the cast is solid”. This sitcom “is a slickly made piece of entertainment”, adding that “the shamelessly sentimental moments aren’t too eyeroll-inducing.” On the less positive side, it “features a whole bunch of (co-creator Ryan) Murphy standbys . . . which are starting to seem pretty threadbare.” They summarized with a mixed message: “The New Normal really excels is in deploying questionable or flat-out objectionable attitudes and then taking them back (haha! It was just a joke!).”
Kansas City Star loved it, saying “‘The New Normal’ has so much heart, it feels almost old-fashioned.” They pronounced “Those who opt out of watching the show tonight will be missing a fairly promising pilot with a lot of humor, solid performances, a snappy script and, yes, a lot to say about the evolving nature of families.” The script for the pilot “crackles with sharp one-liners, but the big take-away here is that it’s sweet to the edge of sentimental.”
New York Daily News calls it a “bumpy ride”, voicing that it “doesn’t need to be a better vessel for some mythic traditional American morality. It needs to be a better sitcom.” They offered that among the “good things about “The New Normal,” the performances are strong.” Creator Ryan Murphy “tries to do here what he does in ‘Glee’, which is bounce between near-slapstick, sometimes silly humor and serious ruminations on life and love.” The Daily News concluded this “half-hour sitcom simply may not provide enough room for those parts to get comfortable together.”
Washington Post was similarly uncertain, noting Ryan Murphy’s “relentlessly strong (and even hyperactive) instinct for TV concepts and characters is always a pleasure to watch at the start… Then, soon enough, some viewers tend to peel off from his shows until only die-hard fans remain.” However, the reviewer felt the players “display yin/yang neuroses that keep their characters interesting.” In the end, The Post labeled the show as a “fresh twist without feeling too much like another item on the gay agenda.
Time found it disappointing, noting “God, is this pilot trying hard.” They found it had “a high miss-to-fail ratio in the jokes. So far, ‘The New Normal’ is the new ho-hum.” It has “too many shrill, irritating characters to appreciate it as anything other than a statement about ‘How Parenting Is Changing Now’. They felt the show’s premise “could make for a more interesting story going forward . . . but for now this show is much more normal—read: mediocre—than it seems to think it is.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer was not keen on the debut, saying “if you’re not watching to make a statement …then you’re going to want it to be funny. And funny is something I’m still looking to find a little more of.” They added “Pilots can be tricky and this one tries so hard to set up its premise that at times it ends up feeling more like a PSA than a comedy.”
The San Francisco Chronicle calls the show “a fairly promising new show with a lot of humor, solid performances, a snappily written script and, yes, a lot to say about the evolving nature of families. Most of all, you’ll be missing a show with so much heart, it feels almost old-fashioned.”
Cinemablend.com praised the pilot. “The New Normal offers a heaping helping of snarky humor, under which are actual heartfelt stories:. They portrayed the dialogue as “sharp and full of biting one-liners.” The reviewer cited the show “gets off to a decent start. The pilot isn’t perfect, but it’s funny and clever” adding “it gives us a fair introduction into a show that appears to embrace the idea that family is what you make of it.”
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Morris Levy is the producer of the HBO film, "Seduced and Abandoned" in which actor Alec Baldwin and director James Toback’s attempt to raise financing for a new film. When not busy producing movies, here's what Levy likes to watch:
Check out our interview with Levy for more insights.
Glenn Howerton plays Dennis Reynolds on FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (on which he is also a writer and executive producer). For a guy that funny, you might be surprised (or not) to learn that he's also a fan of dark dramas. Here's what he likes to watch:
More insights on the actor/writer and It's Always Sunny can be found in our interview with Glenn.
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New on VOD
Here are the new VOD films for the week of December 3, 2013. Click on a movie title for more information, trailers and reviews.
The Wolverine. Rating: 4 (out of 5). Hugh Jackman is back as Wolverine, in this tale that takes him back to Japan where he is forced to face his own demons. Watch for it on VOD starting Tuesday, December 3. The WashingtonPost calls it “A refreshing summer cocktail of action-movie staples.” Reviews, video and more.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Rating: 3 (out of 5). Clary Fray, a seemingly normal teenage girl, learns that she is no ordinary human being. Adapted from the book of the same title by Cassandra Clare, she discovers that she is a daughter of Shadowhunters, a race of half-angel beings tasked to protect our world from demons. This film’s VOD will be released starting Tuesday, December 3rd. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, “On the surface, Mortal Instruments is a slick teen thriller. Just overbaked and unoriginal.” Reviews, video and more.
Things Never Said. Rating: (3 out of 5). Kalindra Stepney, an aspiring poetess, is having some problems with her marriage and sparks a relationship with a new man, who inspires her to once again find her artistic voice. The film is available on VOD starting Tuesday, December 3rd. The Philadelphia Inquirer says, “The result may not be a big movie, but Things Never Said makes a big emotional impact.” On the other hand, Roger Ebert calls it a“soapy melodrama.” Reviews, video and more.
Crave. Rating: 3 (out of 5). Aiden (Josh Lawson), a crime scene photographer, haunted by the decay and violence around him, retreats into his inner dark world. When he meets Virginia, a younger woman with her own demons, Aiden becomes increasingly emboldened to live out his vigilante fantasies. Crave will be available on VOD starting Friday, December 6th. Reviews, video and more.
Smash & Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers. Rating: 3 (out of 5). A documentary about a gang of Balkan jewel thieves known as The Pink Panthers that have stolen nearly a billion dollars worth of jewels from boutiques in the world's most opulent cities, including Geneva, Paris, London, Geneva, Dubai and Tokyo. The film delves into the gang’s incredible history and introduces the viewer to the global police forces who work furiously to stop them. Beyond the glitz of the Panthers’ incredible heists, Smash & Grab exposes dark truths about the illicit diamond trade and the world’s most ruthless mafia networks. The film will be available on VOD starting Tuesday, December 3rd. According to The Washington Post, the director “knows how to get, and hold, a viewer’s attention.” Reviews, video and more.
Jobs. Rating: 2 (out of 5). Ashton Kutcher stars as Steve Jobs in this film that tells the story of Job’s ascension from college dropout to one of the leading technological leaders of our time. The film will be available on VOD starting Tuesday, December 3rd. The San Francisco Chronicle sums up most of the reviews when it writes, , “at its best, it's a good picture, and at its worst, it's almost good.” Reviews, video and more.
The Smurfs 2. Rating: 2 (out of 5). The Smurfs are back, and this time, they are out to rescue Smurfette, who is kidnapped by the evil Gargamel. It turns out she knows a secret spell that can turn the sorcerer’s latest creation, The Naughties, into real Smurfs. The film will be available on VOD starting Tuesday, December 3rd. The Los Angeles Times calls it “a passable mediocrity.” Reviews, video and more.
Live at the Foxes Den. Bobby Kelly has it all: money, women, good looks and a good career. One night, he sings in a local lounge called “The Foxes Den,” and the owner, impressed with his vocal talent, offers him a job as the lounge’s new singer. His life is then turned upside down as he is now forced to decide whether to chase after his lifelong dream of being a singer, or to stay and keep what he has now. The film will be available on VOD starting Friday, December 6. No reviews are available as of writing. Video and more.