The New Normal Review: "Sofa's Choice" (Episode 1.02)
On the second night of NBC’s two-night premiere, The New Normal focuses more on the idea of the unconventional family and less on the hatred-filled quips than it did with the show’s pilot. But when the show takes away the constant gay-bashing of Nana Jane, it makes it all too obvious that this is NBC’s answer to Modern Family.
“Sofa’s Choice” jumps right into the creation of this new family, which is what The New Normal definitely needs to focus on. The pregnancy test that Goldie has taken is negative, but David and Bryan remain hopeful, but mostly Bryan is just distracted by a drawing he assumes Shania has drawn on his couch. However Shania is too busy pretending to be Little Edie from Grey Gardens to consider doing something like that. To even further distract Bryan and David, the two want to recapture the youthful beginnings of their relationship that they never had.
“Sofa’s Choice” shows us the beginning of Bryan and David’s relationship, which was David’s first experience at a gay club. It’s a sweet moment the show needs more of, and “Sofa’s Choice” tries to do just that. Bryan is thrown into the responsibilities of what being a parent would be like as he confronts Shania/Little Edie about his marked couch. What might end up being fascinating about Bryan’s character, especially in this moment, is that while in the pilot, it seemed like he just wanted a child to complete his ensemble, it looks like the show might gradually have him grow into someone who could be quite a great parent.
Bryan and David realize that they never were the clubbing kind of couple and return to their homebody lives, content with the realization. It also turns out that in an attempt to get this couple to turn on the idea of children, Jane was the culprit of the drawing incident. Bryan and David have suggested that Goldie move into their guest house. In a very sloppy scene, her husband Clay comes to L.A., pushed by Jane, to try and win Goldie back. He’s too stupid to pull it off, and Goldie states she wants a divorce and turns down Bryan and David’s offer so she can independently start a life of her own, one where she doesn’t get too comfortable. But before she goes to continue this new life, David receives a call and announces that Goldie is in fact pregnant with their child.
Probably the biggest problem with “Sofa’s Choice,” an episode that does improve upon what the pilot did, is that it feels like it too directly takes from shows like Modern Family (which also borrowed from shows like The Office), but handles it in a sloppy way. The handheld camera approach adds nothing, and it zooms and focuses in a way to just draw attention to the camera. While a show like Modern Family or Parks and Recreation will have talking head interview segments that give information or jokes that couldn’t be given normally, The New Normal only does this with minor characters and makes it feel unnecessary. It comes off feeling like just a way to either poke fun at different groups of people or as just a cheap way to give exposition.
But getting back to NBC’s answer to Modern Family, The New Normal feels like what it would be like if Modern Family tried to have a spin-off prequel centering around Mitchell and Cameron—not to mention that Shania is starting to have the quirkiness of a female Manny.
The most exciting thing to watch out for on The New Normal is how David, Bryan and Goldie will grow into the people they are trying to be. David and Bryan clearly aren’t ready to be parents yet, so their growth with Goldie and Shania will be the greatest positive to the show. As for Jane, the less of her, the better. It’s clear that the show is setting her up as the main antagonist against progress, but still, the horrible things she says are also meant to be some of the funniest moments. She’s like the personification of Family Guy’s discriminatory jokes that just feel sloppy and more disgraceful than amusing.
“Sofa’s Choice” is a vast improvement over the pilot, by choosing to focus on the new family dynamics, but the show still needs to find its own voice, stylistically and content-wise. As long as that voice isn’t Jane’s, the show can become much stronger.