Does The New Normal need Nana? Nobody’s happier than me that she’s completely absent for our seventh episode drop-in. It’s so much easier to defend the show when it doesn’t feature lengthy parades of insults that don't even have the decency to be funny. But the sources of conflict in “The Godparent Trap” are more abstract. Gary plants the idea in Goldie’s head that she and Shania won’t have any relationship with Bryan and David once the baby’s born, and it’s just early enough in their friendship that it could be true. Meanwhile Bryan wants to find some spirituality for himself and his child. Also Shania's class guinea pig dies. This is The New Normal, after all. The point is, without that constant external force pushing in on the heroes, The New Normal goes a little soft.
Maybe that’s because religion is the issue of the week, both too big and too easy to provide compelling material. Instead of coming out, guns blazing, “The Godparent Trap” takes spirituality and religion seriously. As with the race episode and the marriage episode, it’s an opportunity to make fun of the little contradictions that make up the mindset of the self-proclaimed enlightened set while showing how an issue realistically fits into people’s lives. Nobody knows what godparents do, but they all know they need them, even though Bryan and David aren’t religious at all. But Bryan genuinely does yearn for spirituality. He likes the tradition and ritual of Catholicism. Rocky drops some Biblical wisdom on the guinea pig incident. There’s even an opinionated priest who dismisses the Pope and challenges Bryan to fight for gay acceptance in church as a stained glass window makes a blurry rainbow behind him. Christianity has been used to batter gay people since at least that kindergartener came up with the “Adam and Steve” line, but The New Normal barely takes a single potshot. This is the show that inspires such rage?
The catty edge is integral to The New Normal, but then I’m a fan of pissed-off television. I appreciate that there’s an obnoxious television show on a major network that snarks about gay discrimination every week. When Bryan tells David he went to church, David says, “That doesn’t sound like the man that I’m not allowed to marry.” They kiss so often it’s boring, and one of the most common locations is that gigantic bed strewn with fluffy pillows. Gay marriage isn’t just an issue for some people. It’s life.
But with so little conflict, “The Godparent Trap” passes through the system like bland corn. If you can believe it, everything works out in the end! There’s an unfunny guinea-pig CPR bit, some confessional banter, lingering shots of an emaciated Jesus because Bryan covets his six-pack. Rocky and Shania display wisdom and are thus the obvious candidates for the baby’s godparents. Goldie confesses her fears of abandonment, and David immediately reassures her. And Bryan starts going to mass every now and then. Everything is treated with sensitivity, but, all crammed together and underfed, none of it is very moving. And, again, Bryan and David re-embrace religion with such sincerity that there may as well be no conflict at all. It's so soft that the Pope is compared to a lovable uncle in the same episode that jokes about how hard it is to get fired from the Catholic church.
In other words, it’s another episode of The New Normal, good for a few laughs and some try-hard sentiment at the end that might work under the right circumstances. At least it has a voice. It’s almost like a comic strip with only so many panels to tell its stories, which is why they sometimes feel light. The cast even look hand-drawn, from Shania’s cartoon glasses to wide-eyed Goldie’s arched eyebrows. Bryan’s smooth rubber head is the show’s first image, and he’s become a figurehead for the show’s gentle, ingratiating personality. He’s always ready to purse or pout for the cheap seats, just so nobody misses a thought that goes through his head. Technicolor costumes, ping-pong banter, and a camera humming with energy complete the look, a stunning vision of a puppy that is trying its hardest to stay focused even though Nana isn’t there to bark at it anymore.
- The show as a whole right now is more in the B-range, but this one is just a tray of comfort food.
- Bryan says he’s always had a dream to tuck his baby in, which is someone’s way of walking back the scene where Bryan wants a baby for a fashion accessory.
- Bryan went to church “every Sunday, up until, like, 15 years ago.”
- After Tiffany flips out on Bryan and David for asking her to be a godparent, Victoria buttons, “But, you know, super touched that you guys thought of us.”
- Shania tells her mom about Gary: “When you left the room to pee, he asked me to call his ex-boyfriend to see if another man answered.”
- When Shania notices the guinea pig replacement is a different gender, Bryan jumps in: “I think I can explain. Shania, the transgender movement is a proud and strong…”