The pilot episode of NBC’s new fall offering The New Normal opens to Bryan (Andrew Rannells) sitting with his partner David (Justin Bartha), whom he has just told that he wants a child. Cut to a scene of the couple at the park, where David expresses his concerns over raising a child in a non-traditional setting. Bryan then points out three different families in the playground: an older single woman with three kids, a hearing impaired couple with able-hearing children and a little person with a regular-sized child. Bryan concludes that “abnormal is the new normal.”

When Modern Family premiered on ABC in 2009, it was groundbreaking because it celebrated families both traditional and non-traditional, such as a younger woman and her son from a previous marriage living functionally with an older man, and a gay couple with an adoptive daughter. Yet they all shared a common thread: love — and that hysterical effect that can only be mined from family dynamics. The New Normal builds on that premise, and the results look promising.

The story begins in Ohio. Goldie (Georgia King) is a 20-something with a sweet Little Miss Sunshine-esque daughter (Bebe Wood) and an ornery grandmother (the wickedly funny Ellen Barkin) who, after catching her husband with another woman, decides to move to California with her daughter. With no money at her disposal and wary of depending financially on her Nana, she decides to become a paid surrogate for Bryan and David, about whom she says: “A family is a family, and love is love."

While the show is indeed sunny and light-hearted, the funniest parts of the episode are when Barkin goes off on her racist and bigoted tirades. Rannells and Bartha demonstrate excellent chemistry and have no trouble convincing you that they are in love, while King appears warm and earnest on screen. Also in the cast is Nene Leakes from The Real Housewives of Atlanta, who — if you’ve ever watched the show, and regrettably I have — behaves much the same here, although fortunately her role is very limited in the pilot.

The show generated buzz even before it aired its first episode, particularly when an NBC affiliate in Utah announced they weren’t airing the show out of fear of explicit or crude content (read: two dudes in love), which is a shame, because at the heart of the show is nothing other than a positive, hopeful message about love and family. More importantly, it’s the beginnings of what could be a very funny, and successful, television staple.

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