Ali Adler, co-creator (with Ryan Murphy) of The New Normal, says it’s “just a show about a family.” But when the expectant parents are two dads, and their surrogate mom brings her always amazing daughter and frequently appalling grandmother into the mix, things get complicated (and controversial).
The new NBC series stars Andrew Rannells (The Book of Mormon) and Justin Bartha (The Hangover) as the parents-to-be. Ellen Barkin plays the jaw-droppingly prejudiced Nana to Georgia King’s open-minded and fresh-start-seeking single mom — and her Archie Bunker-meets-Sue Sylvester-verbal onslaught isn’t going to end anytime soon. Tonight (the show airs at Tuesday nights at 9:30), for example, “you’ll see another side of Jane, but she’ll never become that cuddly Nana,” Adler said.
Adler recently spoke with reporters about the show. Here are some excerpts from the conversation:
Hollywonk: What do you do to avoid self-censorship? I’m sure there are others who are willing to tell you when they think you’ve gone too far, but how do you avoid doing that for yourself?
Ali Adler: Well, I think that’s the trick. This is a lofty analogy — but a chef has to taste his own food and enjoy it. And we hope that many other people enjoy it as well. But if we start second guessing ingredients then, you know, you have to please yourself first.
And I think we are across-the-board, equal-opportunity offenders and if we are overly sensitive to one group and not another, that to me is actually true racism, or homophobia, or gender blindness, or whatever. So like if we’re cutting across the board equally and we are representing, you know, Jane’s political beliefs, and we’re representing Bryan and David’s political beliefs, it’s just we’re trying to present all these without true bias.
Hollywonk: Characters in The New Normal talk to the camera sometimes, which seems more and more like an accepted shorthand in comedies. Do you feel like that needs to be “explained,” like with the actual documentary crew on The Office? Or do you feel like the TV audience just sort of accepts that this happens sometimes?
Adler: I just think we’re giving people, you know, comedic privilege into a voice that you wouldn’t normally notice or see. And you’ll see in upcoming episodes that it’s, you know, its strangers, its friends of our couple. And you’ll just get their internal point of view that you wouldn’t normally get to be privileged to hear. So it just provides a new way to explore comedy. …
I think we’re finding ways, with The New Normal, to express story quickly. You know, it’s 21 and a half minutes of fictional story to tell. So in ways, like in the pilot, we saw these two camera interviews. Or the voice over to the baby. Or flashbacks. We’re finding different little candies that we like to put into the show to show quickly, and with great emotion, emphasis to our point.
— Stephanie Reid-Simons