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The New Normal and Gays on TV

May 14, 2013

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Sad news!  The New Normal has been canceled.  While it’s not entirely a surprise to me, I am really disappointed, because I thought the show had a lot of potential to grow in a second season.  

What was nice about the show, was that it was refreshing to see a gay couple portrayed on TV that challenged stereotypes.  While Andrew Rannells‘ character Bryan was certainly effeminate, vain and artistic, Justin Bartha‘s David was more masculine, loved sports and was the kind of gay guy that people are surprised is gay.  But they’re relationship was completely believable, and every week seemed to bring up an issue about gay life and stereotypes and talk about it without shame. The one I found particularly poignant was Episode 20: About a Boy Scout, which tackling the issues of gays in the Boy Scouts and included a heartbreaking scene where a dad told David that he didn’t want his son around David because he didn’t want his son to have a gay man as a role model.  I cried so hard at that one because it is amazing that prejudice like that still exists.

Additionally, Georgia King‘s Goldie was delightfully innocent and watching her find herself over the course of the season was so much fun.  But Bebe Wood was the real breakout star of the show.  As the precocious, inquisitive, and unique Shania, she stole every scene she was in.  I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Where the show missed the beat a little was with the other three characters.  Ellen Barkin‘s Jane was delightfully insensitive, managing to offend everyone without making herself hated by the audience.  Yet as the season progressed, she seemed to become tame without any real explanation, and her character changed radically in a way that made her seem inconsistent, and by the end of the season, she had almost no screen time at all.

On the flip side of that was NeNe Leakes as Rocky.  At the beginning of the season, she seemed to only really be there to be sassy and black, but as the season continued, her character really grew and deepened, although the decision for her to adopt a child mid-season really did come out of the blue.  As much as I loved this character, it seemed as though they needed to choose between Rocky and Jane.  While they’re characters sparked on screen together, there wasn’t enough time per episode to serve both of their journeys.

The character I couldn’t stand completely was Goldie’s ex-husband, Clay, played by Jayson Blair.  He served a purpose in the beginning of the season, to prompt Goldie to move to LA, but after that, he disappeared for a long time, and when he came back into the show, I didn’t really see the point.

But for it’s few faults, I thought the show was inspired.  It was so nice to see a believable gay couple on TV, as they are few and far between.  We need more gay roles like this on TV.  When I was growing up and coming out, the two shows that had gay characters were Will & Grace and Queer as Folk.  Neither were very representative.  Will & Grace neutered it’s gays.  Will was almost never shown with a boyfriend at all, while Grace had sex all the time and we often saw her in bed.  And with Queer as Folk, almost all we saw was the sex lives of gay men, and everything else was overshadowed.

For a long time, on TV, gays were one or the other of these two extremes: all sex, or no sex.  Over the last few years, this has started to change.  Shows like Modern Family, Brothers & Sisters, Desperate Housewives, Revenge, Grey’s Anatomy, and Glee have all had major characters that were openly gay and completely believable.  And this season of TV had an unprecedented number of shows that not only had gay characters on them, but featured gay characters prominently.  And pretty much all of them have been canceled.  You can read more about that here

I hope that there will be more shows like The New Normal.  For the sake of gay youth out there, they need to be able to see functional relationships on TV that are believable, loving, authentic and interesting.

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  1. Another Gay Show Bites the Dust | Actor's (b)Log

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