What Went Wrong With “The New Normal”

The New Normal canceled

The official word is in and it’s time to say goodbye. So let’s take a little time to talk over what went wrong.

The Cancellation Bear has devoured The New Normal along with David, Bryan, Goldie, Shania, Rocky, Clay, Jane and Bryce. It’s not really a surprise to any of us, because the ratings plummeted since January. But my heart hurts and I will miss this show so much.

Having lost Firefly and Veronica Mars, I have become sadly numb to the whole cancellation of shows that I love. So I am choosing to look on the bright side—we got one entire season with this wonderful cast.

Initially, TNN looked like a hit. It debuted to solid ratings. Even One Million Moms did their part by condemning it, thus guaranteeing a whole lot of interest in it. The show quickly picked up a full season order.

It looked like Bryan and David were here to stay. So what went wrong? Here are my thoughts.


The Nana Problem

One of the cornerstones of New Normal‘s humor was the idea of mocking stereotypes by showing them in exaggerated forms. This was most prominently featured in Ellen Barkin’s character of Jane Forrest. The idea, as I saw it, was to sort of mock these poor souls in our society who just refuse to get with the times. The joke, in my opinion, was to say, “look what these people think. Isn’t that funny?”

I thought it was hilarious. I was in the minority. To a lot of people, Nana was too offensive, too awful to be tolerated. The showrunners caught on to this, I think, and by Christmas had set out to soften the character up. By then, it was just too late.

And that really is a shame. Seeing Jane come to grips with her anger at her gay late husband was wonderful viewing. It was so poignant that she loved him so much and resented his gayness for keeping him from fully loving her.

There were other fantastic stories with Nana. The way she, as a mature woman, came to take command of her sexuality was brilliant. Her constant terror that Shania would wind up a pregnant teenager was so very real and it colored so many of her actions.

The way she behaved in the finale was a complete validation of the character, in my view, and a testament to Barkin’s amazing acting. She was able to take this character through all of her difficult and sometimes ugly learning arcs.

But, as I said, most people couldn’t see past her bigotry, her racism and her generally awful behavior of the early episodes. The character had been irretrievably marred by her first impressions.


Hurricane Sandy

The New Normal experienced a lot of bumps in October. The lamentable election episode took the show into a place it really should have avoided. A seasoned, veteran show can maybe get away with that, but not a show that is getting its footing. Obama Mama was a clumsily written episode that tried to examine racial, political and gay stereotypes and only basically managed to offend everyone.

The Godparent Trap was received better, though not by me. However, I still think it was a weak episode. It again showed that the writers were still trying to figure out what to do with their show and how to reach their audience.

What TNN needed desperately right then was a fantastic episode that cemented the characters, moved along their arcs and showed us again why we should love them. And it was ready to serve up that pitch. Para New Normal Activity was an excellent episode that would have really helped endear the show to its fledgling viewership.

Unfortunately, the gays and their sinful ways brought about Hurricane Sandy, which more or less wiped out the Eastern Seaboard. The New Normal got pre-empted. I don’t know if it was possible for it to be pushed to later in the week or something, but taking it off the roster seriously hurt the show.

Because the next week was the election. So now TNN was off the air for two weeks, which would hurt any show that was just seven episodes in. And it comes back with “Unplugged”, which had things we didn’t understand (like Nana and Rocky suddenly being friends) and things we didn’t like—like Shania being an insufferable brat.

So the absence of the Halloween episode damaged the entire tone of the show going forward, I think,

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