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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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Our daily TV show pick for tonight, Monday, March 10, 2014 is "Muddy Waters and the Rolling Stones Live" on certain PBS stations at 12:30 am, check local listings.
- The Sopranos
- Breaking Bad
- Ray Donovan
- Sons of Anarchy
- Breaking Bad
- True Detective
- The Americans
- The Office (first five seasons only)
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When not busy performing stand-up or taping his new TV show, Saint George, here's what George Lopez like to watch on TV:
For more insights from the actor/writer/comedian, check-out our interview with George Lopez.
Jim Jefferies is the co-creator and star (and writer) of FX's Legit. When not busy working (which is rarely), here's what he's watching:
For more, check out our interview with Jim.
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New on VOD
Here are the new VOD films for the week of March 4, 2014. Click on a movie title for more information, trailers and reviews.
12 Years a Slave. Rating: 5 (out of 5). Solomon Northup, a free black man living in upstate New York, is abducted and sold to slavery in the 1800s. This year's Oscar Winner for Best Picture (amongst other awards) comes to VOD on March 4. Critics loved this movie, New York Post calls it “The "Schindler's List" of slavery films.” Reviews, video and more.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Rating: 4 (out of 5). Katniss Everdeen is back on the big screen in this second installment of the Hunger Games series. She returns home safe with fellow tribute, Peeta Mellark, but their reunion with their families and friends is cut short when they learn that they have to compete in the Hunger Games for the second time. The film premieres on VOD on Friday, March 7, and has been positively received by critics. The Boston Globe thinks, “Book’s good. Movie’s better.” Reviews, video and more.
After The Dark. Rating: 3 (out of 5). A philosophy teacher challenges his class of twenty students with a thought experiment: faced with a nuclear apocalypse, they must determine which ten of them would take shelter underground and reboot the human race. The experiment turns deadly as everyone in the group turns against each other in a fight for survival. The film comes to VOD on Tuesday, March 4. It has received mixed reviews from the critics, but Los Angeles Times thinks, “While the story's conceit brims with metaphor and symbolism, it rarely comes off as didactic or heavy-handed. Instead, it's smart and provocative. The movie's late-breaking twist also feels about right.” Reviews, video and more.
Oldboy. Rating: 3 (out of 5). Joe Doucette, an advertising executive, was kidnapped and held in solitary confinement for 20 years. When he is released without any explanation, he begins to search for answers as to who and why he captured, only to find out that the bigger question is to why he was released. The film will be available on VOD starting Tuesday, March 4. The critics gave Spike Lee’s remake of a South Korean film mixed reviews, with inevitable comparisons to the original Oldboy. But according to Chicago Sun-Times, “It’s generally a respectful homage that has every bit as much stylishness and visual flair.” Reviews, video and more.
The Bag Man. Rating: 1 (out of 5). Jack is hired by Dragna, a legendary crime boss, to complete a simple but unusual task, and is made to wait for the latter’s arrival in a remote location. While waiting for the crime boss, Jack meets Rivka, a stunningly beautiful woman who becomes emotionally and physically entangled with Jack. When Dragna finally makes it to the location, there are sudden and extreme consequences for all involved. The film will be premiering on VOD on Tuesday, March 4. Most critics were not pleased with the film, and Los Angeles Times thinks, “"The Bag Man," starring John Cusack, Robert De Niro and Rebecca Da Costa, is a brutally violent, misogynistic mind game gone wrong.” Reviews, video and more.
Perfect Sisters. No Rating. Tired of their mother’s dependence on alcohol and abusive boyfriends, two sisters devise a plot to kill her. The film premires on VOD on Monday, March 10. No critic reviews are available as of writing.
Missing William. No Rating. A 30-something artist based in Rhode Island, Abby, is caring for her husband, William, who got injured in a bar fight. While nursing her husband back to health, her childhood sweetheart, James, tries to show her that life can be enjoyable again. The movie will be available on VOD starting Friday, March 7. No critic reviews available as of writing. Video and more.