Thursday, August 30, 2012

The New Normal

Every fall, the TV networks announce their new fall 'season.'  TV's calendar has traditionally followed the school calendar--summer ends when school starts in the fall, at which point, presumably, folks have more time in the evenings to watch TV.  Plus, they're building audience for October sweeps (the Nielsen ratings in October that determine advertising rates).  So there are all these news shows in late September, and ads for those shows starting in August.

A few years ago, I taught a class on sit-coms, which meant watching every new sit-com one fall.  Since that time, I've gotten in the habit of trying to watch at least one episode of every new show (except for reality shows, 'cause life's too short).  My wife has put up with the fall new show blitz for years, and is tired of it, so we'll pull back this year, only watch some of them.  One we will not be watching is The New Normal, on NBC.  KSL, the NBC affiliate in Salt Lake owned by the Church (my church, Mormon), won't be showing it.

The premise of The New Normal is something like this: a gay couple in LA decides to adopt.  A single Mom from the midwest agrees to be their surrogate.  Her conservative grandmother rounds out the cast.

It's from the makers of Glee, I'm informed by the ads for the show.  Well, I like Glee a lot, because I like music a lot, and I like the idea of a musical TV show.  (Anyone else remember Cop Rock?  Check this out!)  And the singer/actors on Glee are all really good, and the musical sequences are often very clever and fun.  And the show's terrifically gay friendly, which I also like.  Kurt, a gay kid who's one of the show's central characters, is exceptionally well acted by a kid named Chris Colfer, who has the most beautiful singing voice.  And his father is a mechanic, and a very blue-collar guy, who nonetheless is completely supportive of his son, and their relationship is really lovely.  It's the best thing on the show, honestly.  The writing on the show is also massively preachy and irritating and cliched and bears the same resemblance to actual life in an actual high school as The Village People bear to actual construction workers, police officers and Indians.  So Glee's a mixed bag.  Boy, is it ever.  But it's worth watching, because of stuff like this.  And this.  And this

So The New Normal is going to be a gay-friendly TV show by some of the same people who write Glee.  Which might mean what's bad about Glee (the writing), and not what's great about Glee (the music.)  Which might mean kind of a bad show, honestly.  I love that Glee's gay-friendly.  I think that's awesome. It's also not all that ground-breaking. Uh,Will and Grace

Which is why, although this is the kind of thing about which I suppose I ought to have an opinion, either outraged or supportive, in fact, I don't.  KSL's statement defending their decision was pretty weasel-y: "dialogue might be excessively rude and crude. The scenes may be too explicit or the characterizations might seem offensive... For our brand, this program feels inappropriate on several dimensions, especially during family viewing time."  Might be?  Didn't they at least preview the pilot?

But rude and crude dialogue?  Uh, have you seen an episode of Whitney?  Also on NBC? Sexually explicit, and aggressively, unwatchably un-funny Whitney?  This fall, NBC's got a sitcom during family hour called Animal Practice, about the sexual hi-jinks of veterinarians; that's okay? And they're both on during 'family viewing time.'  

Ah, 'family viewing time,' that supposedly sacrosanct hour from 7-8 (first hour of prime time) when TV's supposed to show some discretion and at least marginally better taste; well, the New Normal's on after that.  When you think of the irredeemable rubbish available on TV, cable and networks, during that hour, it seems a little preposterous to insist that networks follow it.  And, of course, they don't.  Also, count how many police procedurals are on during 'family viewing time.'  Shows that basically live for rape and murder and serial killers.  Of course, on those shows rapists and murderers and serial killers all get caught and sent to jail, but with lots of graphic bad stuff shown along the way.  So how is that 'family viewing'? 

Look, to state what's obvious, KSL overreacted to a show that suggests that loving and committed gay couples represent some kind of 'new normal,' even though they actually obviously do. I think the show promotes gay marriage and I think the Church owns KSL.

I was talking to a friend the other day, a great guy, LDS like me.  And he said that he opposed gay marriage.  I know this friend's brother, who is gay, and I asked this: "if your brother were to come to you and say, 'I've met the man of my dreams, we're flying to New York and getting married,' what would you say?'"  And my friend said, "I'd be so happy for him.  That would be awesome."  And he would, and he'd come to the wedding, and he'd give the new couple a crock pot or a small appliance or something. It's possible to oppose gay marriage in the abstract, as a political issue, but also support your gay friends.  In fact, isn't that what most people, on either side of the political spectrum, do?

I'm on record as supporting gay marriage politically.  I'm also on record as opposing bad television shows.  I have no idea where that places me in regards to The New Normal.  Quite possibly, the show may be so dreadful that this entire kerfluffle will have been forgotten in six months.  If it turns out to be good, I'll catch it on Hulu.  Or maybe even  KSL's decision won't affect anyone who really wants to watch it.  Meanwhile, older viewers, who maybe don't know how to access Hulu, won't have to be troubled by it.  And that's all this is about.  


  1. Hi Eric,
    I enjoy your blog posts. Very level-headed and insightful, this one being no exception. I took your class at BYU and always enjoyed what you had to say.
    However, I do have to say that I find your statement "It's possible to oppose gay marriage in the abstract, as a political issue, but also support your gay friends" to be surprisingly, uncharacteristically naive.
    That statement is like a man in the 50s saying "My co-worker Susan is exceptionally talented at what she does. She's absolutely an inspiration and example to everyone in the workplace and has skyrocketed our company's sales exponentially. But there's no way that I'll vote for her to be compensated the same as me." Or a white person in the 50s saying, "I love my black friends. I party with them every weekend. But hell no, I don't want their black ass sharing the same toilet seat as mine."
    In the end, despite their verbal affirmations, there is no support and no respect from either of these examples.
    The same applies to the issue of same-sex marriage today. There is no way to love and accept a gay brother/sister/friend while voting in favor of denying them their right to enter into a loving martial commitment: including rights to share benefits, visit one another in the hospital, pay taxes together and many more. Anyone who doesn't understand the implications of these HUMAN rights is just turning a blind eye as they sit on a cushy pillow of their own spoon-fed rights.
    "Love is a human experience, not a political statement." -Anne Hathaway

    1. I do take your point. But I do think the personal matters. And I think there's a difference between saying to a pollster "I'm against this" and actively working against it politically.

  2. Nice post, Eric. I agree completely.

  3. That's why it took a face as near and dear to me as my little brother's to make this issue personal to me. I think that when anyone is placed in a similar situation, their eyes are opened to the fact that this is a matter of BASIC HUMAN rights. "Personal" and "religious" "right" can be different than "Political" and "Civil" "right". One's religious belief may be that God doesn't condone same-sex relationships, but gay American's should not be limited by other American's religious beliefs. It was the same with blacks and the Church. When will people stop understanding the Constitution through "Bible colored" glasses?