Archive for September, 2012

An open letter to Ryan Murphy, co-creator of NBC’s “The New Normal”

September 11, 2012


I’m eight minutes into the pilot episode of your new show, “The New Normal,” and I already hate it.

I get it: you want to make television that challenges the status-quo, that opens up conservative minds to new ideas, that provides positive role-models for people that society deems “different.” Mr. Murphy, your new show not only fails at these goals, but is doing more harm than good.

Mr. Murphy, congratulations on all your success. Some of it is well-deserved (Nip/Tuck, American Horror Story). Most of it, not so much (Glee). I know you and legion of fans try to praise the show’s diversity and how it handles tough issues, but all Glee is is a sterile world full of clichéd characters who are given just enough humanity for easily-entertained audiences to fall in love with them. Life-changing issues are brought before these characters and neatly wrapped up by each episode’s end. Don’t get me wrong—I see why it’s entertaining, it’s just not my thing. But can everyone just stop pretending that it’s anything more than a musical variety show with a positive, if incredibly preachy, social message?

So maybe it’s my own fault for expecting more out of “The New Normal,” but the pilot episode that you co-wrote and directed starts off with everything that’s wrong with Glee and only gets worse. Every bit of dialogue from the gay couple starts with reminding the audience just how gay they are, followed quickly with something endearing to make the audience love them. In fact, every character is written to constantly remind the audience exactly which archetype-turned-stereotype they’re supposed to be.

I’m not complaining that you, Mr. Murphy, are shoving some Hollywood, left-wing agenda down America’s throat. In fact, I’m usually totally fine with that. I just wish that you didn’t try so hard to make something look edgy and controversial, then go so far out of your way to water it down so it’s palatable for the widest range of network television viewers. Ambitious television and thought-provoking comedy needs to be offensive. Not offensive just for the sake of it, but for the sake of making the audience think about their own beliefs. “The Brady Bunch” and “All in the Family” were both great shows, but only one really confronted major issues in society. I just ask that you quit making the former and acting like it’s the latter.

The reason I want this show to be edgier is to live up to the controversy already behind it. An NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City is refusing to air the show, claiming that the “dialogue is excessively rude and crude; the scenes are too explicit and the stereotypes are offensive on all sides.” Okay, they may be right about that last point. And the station is owned by the Mormon Church, so this one affiliate’s decision shouldn’t be upsetting. But the fact that this story has made national headlines suggests that this show might actually try to break social norms. Instead it addresses important topics in only the most superficial way. American audiences have been fooled into watching yet another shitty, focus group tested half hour network sitcom, but get to smugly believe they’re participating in some groundbreaking television paradigm shift.

MV5BMTYwOTgwOTU2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDQ5NTU0OA@@._V1._SY317_CR1,0,214,317_Maybe my opinion was made worse by the fact that the show that came on right after yours was “Go On,” a surprisingly strong debut which perfectly balanced sharp comedy with genuine drama, much like “Scrubs” or “Community.” NBC really has had some of the greatest comedies ever, hasn’t it? I’m sorry “The New Normal” isn’t going to go down as one of them.

And it may be beside the point, but for the love of all that is holy, keep your cameraman’s finger off the goddamn zoom lever. I know the handheld, pseudo-documentary camera style is really popular, but unless Ellen Barkin is about to book punch someone, you’re overdoing it.

Having said that, nice job on (SPOILER ALERT) killing everyone off at the end of the first season of “American Horror Story.” Maybe I should hold out and see if that’s where you’re going with “The New Normal.” Or “Glee.”


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