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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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New on VOD
Here are the new VOD films for the week of April 22, 2014. Click on a movie title for more information, trailers and reviews.
Bettie Page Reveals All. Rating: 4 (out of 5). The world’s greatest pinup model, Bettie Page, shares the true story of how free expression became the target of government witch-hunts and how she overcame them to help launch America’s sexual revolution. The film comes to VOD on Tuesday, April 22. While some of the reviews note that the film is lacking in production value, virtually all are impressed with the content of the film. As the Los Angeles Times notes, the film is a “highly watchable portrait.” Starring: Bettie Page, Dita Von Tease, Todd Oldham, Hugh Hefner. Director: Mark Mori. Rating: R. Genre: Documentary. Reviews, video and more.
Blue Ruin. Rating: 4 (out of 5). A beach bum finds his quiet life turned upside down by a very upsetting news, and travels back to his childhood home to seek revenge. Proving to be an ineffective assassin, he ends up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family. The film premieres on VOD on Friday, April 25. The critics are very impressed with the film, the majority citing Saulnier’s direction as promising. As ScreenDaily says, “Blue Ruin is distinguished by the way it allies solid storytelling to fine craftsmanship.” Starring: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves, Kevin Kolack, Eve Plumb, David W. Thompson, Brent Werzner, Stacy Rock, Sidne Anderson. Director: Jeremy Saulnier. Rating: Unrated. Genre: Thriller. Reviews, video and more.
Escape From Tomorrow comes to DVD and Blu-ray on April 29. The film tells the story of a middle-aged American husband and father of two who lost his job. To escape from reality and to keep the news from his family, he decides not to forgo their trip to the happiest place on Earth. But things turn bad when his sanity is challenged and their trip is turned into a nightmare. Interesting if, for no other reason, than to see what a film that was surreptitiously shot at Disney World looks like. Best Buy has the Blu-ray (and DVD) or, if you prefer Amazon for the DVD, click here.
Filth. Rating: 3 (out of 5). Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson is a corrupt cop who desperately wants a promotion. He will do absolutely anything to get that promotion, even stealing his colleagues’ wives and exposing their secrets. But when his past begins to catch up to him, he begins to lose control. Watch for Filth on VOD starting Thursday, April 24. The critics were mixed on the film but many were impressed with James McAvoy performance and, according to The Times, “James McAvoy gives his best performance to date as a morally and physically decaying detective in this hallucinogenic adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel.” Starring: James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Imogen Poots, Jim Broadbent, Joanne Froggatt, Shirley Henderson, Eddie Marsan, John Sessions. Director: Jon S. Baird. Rating: R Genre: Drama, Comedy, Crime. Reviews, video and more.
Gambit. Rating: 2 (out of 5). A remake of the 1966 action film, Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz stars in this film about a British thief who discovers that no plan is infallible after he recruits a beautiful woman to help him steal a statue from a wealthy widower. Although his accomplice resembles the target’s late wife, things start to go wrong once their plans begin. The film premieres on VOD on Friday, April 25, and has not won much (if any) praise from the critics. According to The Guardian, “An awful lot of talent has been put to waste here.” Starring: Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman, Tom Courtenay, Stanley Tucci. Director: Michael Hoffmann. Rating: PG-13. Genre: Drama. Reviews, video and more.