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    The New Normal: The Complete First Season DVD Review

    DVD Fox TV Reviews

    Jun 07 2014 12:01 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    One of the most anticipated comedy series for the 2012-2013 television season was NBC’s The New Normal. Created and produced by Ryan Murphy who had steered such oddball creations as Nip/Tuck and Glee to major television success, the show was always expected to be something apart from the regular situation comedy (it wasn’t called The New Normal for nothing). While the show did run the entire season, its ratings steadily declined (ironically the show began to find its comfort zone in the second half of its season when the ratings had bottomed out), and it was canceled by the network after one season. Now, more than a year after its last episode aired, we get the box set of its 22-episode first and only season on (regrettably only) DVD.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Fox
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 480P/MPEG-2
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
    • Audio: English 2.0 DD
    • Subtitles: None
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 8 Hr. 4 Min.
    • Package Includes: DVD
    • Case Type: Amray case with leaves
    • Disc Type: DVD-9 (dual layer)
    • Region: 1
    • Release Date: 05/13/2014
    • MSRP: $29.95

    The Production Rating: 4/5

    Hollywood power couple, television producer Bryan Collins (Andrew Rannells) and gynecologist David Sawyer (Justin Bartha), decide after many years together that they want to have a child, and luckily for them, newly-arrived-from Ohio, newly single mom Goldie (Georgia King) with precocious nine-year old daughter Shania (Bebe Wood) arrive in California looking for a fresh start. With the intent of earning enough money as their surrogate to go to law school, Goldie and Shania settle into the whirlwind world of David and Bryan’s friends and family. But their happiness is short lived when Goldie’s archly conservative grandmother (Ellen Barkin) learns of her daughter’s whereabouts and arrives to save her from the Sodom and Gomorrah that in her opinion is southern California.

    With its very own female version of Archie Bunker plopped down into 21th century Los Angeles, The New Normal’s first ten or eleven episodes regularly interrupted its genial, witty, and sometimes romantic situation comedy elements with long-winded, off-putting harangues about politics, religion, sexuality, race, and other explosive topics. With the same mean-girl tone and acidity that became such an anathema on Glee coming not only from ridiculously one-dimensional Nana (who never met a minority she felt was on equal footing with her) but also Bryan’s assistant Rocky (the amateurishly untalented NeNe Leakes), those diatribes quickly soured the viewing audience for the program. In the second half of the season, Nana was softened considerably due to a new love in her life (John Stamos; her first husband had turned out to be gay, one of the reasons for her mistrust and vituperation against David and especially Bryan) and Rocky was elevated to producer of Bryan’s television show Sing (making it obvious that the character of Bryan was loosely based on Glee and The New Normal’s creator and producer/director Ryan Murphy) and adopted a daughter. Thus, The New Normal had a very enjoyable if less riotously unbalanced series of episodes to close out its run making it clear that normal in today's world is anything that works for the individuals involved.

    Most of the episodes concentrated on two primary focuses: David and Bryan’s preparations both outwardly and inwardly for the upcoming addition to their family (including celebrations for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas) and Goldie’s adjustment to a new lifestyle and zeroing in on her own career path. These allowed for plenty of interaction between the program’s most ingratiating characters and performers. David and Bryan became, by far, the most natural and believable homosexual couple ever portrayed on a regular American television network. There was natural and believable affection displayed constantly and the two often snuggled in bed, something other network television sitcoms featuring principal gay characters had refrained from picturing. And Goldie’s transition from wide-eyed innocent with vague dreams of a legal career to the dedicated mother with her own clothing business became a journey worth following. And her individualistic daughter Shania’s adjustment to a new environment and sophisticated new friends allowed the talented young actress Bebe Wood to go through a gallery of entertaining impressions (Little Edie Beale, Maggie Smith, Cher) and maneuver her way through the treacherous waters of preadolescence.

    Justin Bartha and Andrew Rannells give wonderfully funny and very tender performances as David and Bryan, and they’re so believable as a couple that it was somewhat astonishing to learn that they weren’t actually a pair (Bartha, in fact, recently married in real life – a woman, making his very natural performance all the more amazing). Georgia King was a breath of fresh air as Goldie, and Bebe Woods stole many scenes as the bright-as-a-button Shania. Ellen Barkin’s blowhard Nana was tough to take in the early going (not helped by the actress’s overly botoxed face and hard-edged make-up and hairstyle) but she became slightly more appealing even with her occasional cutting edge later in the run.

    Here are the twenty-two episodes which constitute the entire run of the series and are contained on three DVDs:

    1 – Pilot
    2 – Sofa’s Choice
    3 – Baby Clothes
    4 – Obama Mama
    5 – Nanagasm
    6 – Bryanzilla
    7 – The Godparent Trap
    8 – Unplugged
    9 – Pardon Me
    10 – The XY Factor
    11 – Baby Proofing
    12 – The Goldie Rush
    13 – Say-at-Home Dad
    14 – Gaydar
    15 – Dairy Queen
    16 – Dog Children
    17 – Rocky Bye Baby
    18 – Para-New Normal Activity
    19 – Blood, Sweat, and Fears
    20 – About a Boy Scout
    21 – Finding Name-O
    22 – The Big Day

    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    The episodes have been framed in their widescreen television aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. For DVDs, the quality is mostly superb with very pleasing sharpness and rich, gorgeously saturated color with believable and appealing flesh tones. Even with the anamorphic enhancement, there are occasional problems with moiré and aliasing. Each episode has been divided into 4 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    The set only offers a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound mix, but it’s sufficient enough to do the trick. The dialogue-heavy show has been exceptionally well recorded with none of the (sometimes heavy-handed) speechifying lost in the encompassing music which sounds rich and full throughout.

    Special Features: 0/5

    The very definition of a barebones release, there are no bonus features of any kind on this three disc set.

    Overall Rating: 3.5/5

    The New Normal is a very enjoyable comedy-drama. It has its tender moments and its fall down funny ones, too: all worth the trouble of enduring particularly the early-season harangues from characters who are desperately trying to force feed their points on politics, religion, or societal norms on the viewing audience. It is a shame that the release of this quality show is so lacking in loving bonus material to show the care and commitment the cast and crew had for this endeavor. Still, for those who missed it or tuned out after the early, more confrontational episodes, it at least is now available in a reasonably priced set.

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
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    Looking at the discs more carefully, these are dual layer DVD-Rs for this show.