Most episodes of The New Normal can be compared to how Nana describes feeling during Shania’s fake wedding: “Why am I even watching this? I feel like my eyes are bleeding” The New Normal is hardly a strong sitcom, but every once in a while becomes less muddled in its approach. “Bryanzilla” is probably the show’s most balanced attempt at what it wants to become, while having one of the weirdest plots of any episode so far and still having problems in its delivery of any form of message.
Remember that greasy-looking kid that Shania was caught kissing in school? Well, turns out he’s moving and wants to pretend-marry Shania before he leaves. It’s an idea that’s about as cute as it is creepy, but in the hands of Bryan, it becomes an even nicer than most real weddings. Shania gets a ceremony filled with friends—even though the show has mentioned that Shania doesn’t fit in and barely has any friends—a personally made dress and a sundae bar. Nana doesn’t like this mockery of a wedding and hires three of Shania’s Republican classmates to ruin the event.
One of the show’s strengths has been showing the earlier stories of these characters, and the greatest assets to “Bryanzilla” are these looks back. We see how David and Bryan discussed marriage on one of their first dates. David refuses to get married until everyone in the country can get married to whomever they want. We also see Goldie’s engagement at a bowling alley. It’s ridiculous, but still sweet, which also kind of defines Goldie.
The wedding is naturally a disaster. Rocky gets cold feet, and Bryan overhears David saying that weddings are always just pretend and don’t mean anything, which is kind of the wrong message for an anti-marriage-until-everyone-is-equal guy. Nana disrupts the wedding, even though it’s unnecessary. But the silver lining is that David sees how much marriage means to Bryan and proposes later at the gynecologist’s office, in front of their ultrasounded baby. Once again, it’s a moment that tries to be a twist on a common idea. It doesn’t entirely work, but it works enough to make it bearable. Also, Clint, Rocky’s black Republican friend, as he has been defined thus far, comes to the party to see Goldie, but once he arrives, we never hear from him again.
“Bryanzilla” gives us the required dosage of David and Bryan fighting with Nana over issues. This time, it’s marriage equality. It’s understandable that The New Normal wants to tackle issues that it feels some people aren’t fair with, but it always handles these issues so clumsily, spouting off responses that anyone who has been in those types of conversations has heard plenty of times. It’s not so much trying to convert ideals, but rather is just preaching to the choir.
“Bryanzilla” also has the moment where Goldie finally tells off her Nana, saying she should head back home to Ohio. It’s hard to imagine she’ll honor Goldie’s wishes, since the show is trying to make her more neutral. Most of the time she’s offensive and biased, but in recent episodes, she has occasionally had some good points. Also, if she did leave, who would be the show’s antagonist? It’s hard to imagine the show allowing a more natural enemy.
The New Normal’s balance in “Bryanzilla” isn’t perfect, but it feels more natural than past episodes, regardless of the awkward plot. It balances the sweet yet cheesy moments with, from what I can remember, some of the first laugh-out-loud moments I’ve had with the show, such as Bryan teaching Shania to eat her feelings in the episode’s finale. It’s not a complete turnaround, but it is one of the more focused episodes so far, even if that focus is still a bit blurry.