Michele Hewitson: Not sure if it's Arthur or Martha

1 comment
The cast of New Normal must cope with a script that leads from cute to crude. Photo / Supplied
The cast of New Normal must cope with a script that leads from cute to crude. Photo / Supplied

The New Normal (TV3, Fridays, 8pm) has its moments, but it's never sure which moments it wants to have. The tone lurches madly from cute as baby puke to what is presumably meant to be bigotry daringly dressed up as comedy and in high heels.

It is certainly rude - if not terribly inventive - about gay people while also being entirely pro-gay about gay people, especially when it comes to gay people having kids, which is the storyline.

The happy gay couple are happily coupled without any desire to have kids when one half of this couple (Bryan, the half who likes clothes and dieting and too much hair product and wants to look like Mary Tyler Moore: "Well, not the hair, obviously") sees a really cute baby in a pushchair while out clothes shopping.

Bryan goes home with a darling little coat, for a baby. He announces to his partner, David, who is watching football on the telly, that he wants to buy baby clothes and a baby to put in the clothes. David is not so sure; he's also not so sure that Bryan realises you can't return a baby to Barneys if it doesn't fit.

Anyway, they're getting a baby - because there would be no sitcom otherwise - and so end up at a surrogacy-finding agency where the surrogacy wrangler simplifies the situation by charmlessly informing the couple that a surrogate mother (or "gestational carrier" as Nicole Kidman even more charmlessly called her baby's surrogate mother) is "just like an Easy-Bake over with no rights to the cupcake".

Bryan would like a skinny, blond cupcake "who doesn't cry". He's an airhead; David is the rock.

Meanwhile, in Ohio, there is a pretty young mom called Goldie, who may be a bit of an airhead, whose daughter Shania is a not-quite-so-pretty kid with specs and brains, and is the rock. They live with an Evil Nana who took Goldie in when she was 10 and doesn't leave off telling her what a loser she is.

Goldie wanted to be a lawyer but she got up the duff to a loser instead. Nana is played with teetering bravado by Ellen Barkin. She is the bigot (her great-granddaughter "unfriends" her for one slur too far) who has an extensive array of offensive terms for gay people (none repeatable here).

She is supposed to be outrageously funny.

After Goldie and kid take off in Nana's car to LA she tracks Goldie down and complains that she had to go on the bus. This was not fun: She had to sit next to "a man with no arms. He was drinking a thermos of mushroom soup with these little stubblets coming out of his shoulders. It was like watching Flipper trying to drink a beer." I suppose that's outrageous; it might even have been funny but as a joke it shouted, "I'm outrageously funny" far too loudly for it to have really been either.

Nana is not going to let Goldie carry a baby for two gay guys without a fight.

"What are you doing helping these [very rude term for gay guys]?" Nana, it turns out, had a husband who, as it turned out, was having a secret gay fling at work. Good try. But are we supposed to feel sorry for her? Understand why she's so rude about gays? Or just decide that she's human after all? None of the above succeeded.

We got a sugar-laden little speech from Goldie about: "Being what you want to be," and how by helping others she was helping herself.

There are two different shows here; it's called having a bob each way. And neither of them are quite sparking yet.

There is nothing normal about the small town (in this case the town is Queenstown) of Jane Campion's brilliant, darkly beautiful and really frightening new telly series Top of the Lake (UKTV, Mondays, 8.30pm).

But there is humour that works. It takes some doing to make a weirdo camp for post-menopausal women who have suffered various "calamities" funny, but it is.

There wasn't a dud acting performance (or moment) in the first episode, and casting Robyn Malcolm as a ditzy, nerve-jangled American was one of many strokes of genius. Her calamity? "I had this chimpanzee called Brad. We were very close."

Brad used to sleep in her bed, then he started biting and had to be castrated, but too late - he attacked her best friend. Brad is no more.

Of course there really was a crazy American woman who had a chimp who attacked - really, horribly badly - the woman's best friend, and had to be killed. So that is outrageous - but that here it is funny is the really outrageous bit.

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 24 Jul 2014 18:25:23 Processing Time: 375ms