'The New Normal': 'Glee' Parallels, Real Families, Politics and 7 Things to Know
Andrew Rannells portrays a character loosely based on Ryan Murphy who works as a showrunner on a musical TV show called "Sing."
Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler are drawing from a subject close to their hearts in NBC's The New Normal: gay families.
The showrunners -- both openly gay -- put the spotlight on two aspiring dads in a quest to grow their family on the freshman NBC comedy, which officially premieres Monday following The Voice.
The series stars Book of Mormon's Andrew Rannells and The Hangover's Justin Bartha as Bryan and David, a couple who turn to Georgia King's Goldie for a major assist in adding a little one to their family in what Adler (Glee, Chuck, No Ordinary Family) says is really just a story about a loving family and how they come together to create "their own new, normal family."
"To me, it's important to just tell a family story," Adler told The Hollywood Reporter at the Paley Center's fall previews. "I don't think their gender really matters for the kind of stories we're telling. In some instances it does, but I hope that these stories are as relatable to heterosexual people as they are to homosexual people. In parenting, genitals are incidental."
"It's not meant to be political, it just inherently is," says Adler, who has two children with ex-girlfriend Sara Gilbert. "I have two kids and had my children with another mother. We relate it in that but I also think our writers' lives affect this as well. Hopefully when you're watching, you're going to see something about your own life reflected back to you."
Here are seven more things to know about The New Normal.
1. The series draws from both executive producers' lives -- with Rannells' character Bryan loosely based on Murphy. "Ryan let me know from the start that this was not an impersonation of him; this was a character that was not exactly him but we're pretty similar in a lot of ways," Rannells tells THR. "Our backgrounds are very similar: both from the Midwest, both raised Catholic, moved to big cities as soon as we could. We had a lot in common, so it made it easy."
2. Bryan's job mirrors Murphy in a major way: He's the showrunner on a successful TV show called Sing -- which like the Fox musical is fictionally set in Ohio. "We'll definitely explore that world," Adler says. As for if there are early plans to do a Glee crossover, Adler remains mum. "There's so many candies in Ryan Murphy's world that I'd love to pluck from. We'll do what we can," she says, noting the series, like Glee, champions the underdog. Rannells, meanwhile, is game for it. "I'd love it! We're all on the same lot at Paramount with Glee and American Horror Story." Note to producers: Glee's Mercedes (Amber Riley) just so happens to be in L.A.
3. The New Normal will be timely and reflect the current political landscape. This summer, after One Million Moms blasted the series for its "decay of morals and values, and the sanctity of marriage in attempting to redefine marriage," Murphy told reporters he'd already written the anti-gay group into the show. "We're in the real world in our show; we talk about Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and we're fed by the reality of this world in our words," Adler says. "I worked on many sitcoms that want to air in a certain timeless, frameless way so you could repeat at 11:30 any day of the week and this is specific and historical; we follow the real world."
4. The series will reflect views from both the left and right. Ellen Barkin's Nana (Goldie's grandmother) serves as a voice for the right and Nene Leakes' Rocky -- Bryan's outspoken assistant -- will act as a voice for the left. "Rocky and her are going to butt heads a lot," says Leakes, who notes that she's injecting her outspoken nature into her first scripted series regular role. "I'm outspoken and her character is a racist and she's not down with my gays and I'm definitely against her for that. We are the voices for both sides." Adds Bartha: "It's not only a gay and liberal show, we represent all sorts of people. We want to make sure it is about different types of characters having different points of views and everyone believes in their point of view; no one is necessarily right or wrong."
5. In addition to being timely, the series will feature a natural serialization of David, Bryan and Goldie's quest for baby. "The billboard does say, 'She's having their baby,'" Adler says with a laugh.
6. More romance? While Leakes will be busy doting after the often high-maintenance Bryan, she hopes there's romance in the air for Rocky. "I hope Rocky has a love interest and I hope it's Bradley Cooper!"
7. Adler and the cast wear the KSL's Salt Lake City boycott like a badge of honor. "We felt like we were in good company with amazing Emmy-winning shows like Picket Fences or groundbreaking comedy like Saturday Night Live that's also not aired on that station," she says. "We're honored to be a part of that same sentence." While the series has found a new Utah home, Bartha says he hopes the flap helps advance the conversation about gay rights. "It's probably a good thing -- I want to be a part of something that's part of the social conversation and hopefully what we're doing people will want to talk about the next day after the show airs; families can talk about it and spread the message of acceptance."
The New Normal premieres Monday at 10 p.m. on NBC, with its second episode airing in its regular Tuesday time slot at 9:30 p.m. Will you watch?