Ever since it was announced as part of the fall television line-up, there’s been a lot of buzz and excitement about the new NBC television show “The New Normal.” Haven’t heard about it or don’t watch TV? Well, here is the recap: Brian, a television producer (aka the show’s actual producer Ryan Murphy of “Glee” fame), and David, an OB/GYN, are a gay couple in LA who decide to hire a surrogate to have their baby. Goldie, the surrogate has an adorable precocious daughter, Shania, and an ultra bigoted nana, Jane, who frequently verbally spars with the would-be dads and with Rocky, Brian’s African-American assistant. The show is being hailed as a game changer that hopefully will mold the public’s perception of surrogacy and gay parenting in a positive way.
Lots of folks, from peers in the surrogacy field to gay parents to television critics, have high hopes for the show and have weighed in on it, giving their unique spin on its groundbreaking nature while pointing out the mistakes, flaws, and exaggerations about surrogacy and gay parenting that the show’s creators seem to have overlooked.
As a surrogacy agency, the Center for Surrogate Parenting wants to make sure that surrogacy and gay parenting are portrayed accurately and in the best possible light. However, we’re not television producers or TV critics, so it’s hard to be objective when we’re so close to the subject matter. We’re not really qualified to say whether it is a good or bad comedy, whether it will live up to its expectations or if it can be compared to “Modern Family” in its portrayal of a gay family. We don’t know whether it will last long enough to see a full season, let alone a second one. But we hope it hits its stride in developing its characters and moving along the plot to depict the profound, life-changing nature of surrogacy and gay parenting.
Like many sitcoms, it is unrealistic and overly exaggerated, often portraying its characters as stereotypes. Unfortunately the first couple of shows are filled with a multitude of mistakes about the complexity of gay surrogacy. These errors range from David’s and Brian’s rapid-fire decision-making process about starting a family to Goldie’s motivations and qualifications for becoming a surrogate. Goldie would not have passed muster at CSP since her rationale for becoming a surrogate was focused primarily on changing her life, i.e., needing the money for law school, and she further would have been disqualified because she has no other income and arrived in LA without family support. She also is being paid much more than a typical first-time surrogate and she is living in David’s and Brian’s guesthouse, which is a definite no-no. The show portrays the agency head as a one-dimensional caricature and the embryo transfer is performed at the agency instead of the clinic! No lawyer is involved and the fertility doctor seems missing in action, e.g., David gives Goldie her pregnancy test. We could go on and on, but will anyone but those who work in the field or have experienced surrogacy recognize and remember these errors? Will the TV-viewing public care about these mistakes if they care about the characters or find them funny? Will these flaws change the audience’s perception of surrogacy and gay family building? They probably will not.
So isn’t it better to look at the big picture and focus on the show’s many good qualities and its trailblazing nature? When we became the first surrogacy agency in the world to help a gay couple have a baby, we never could have imagined the existence of The New Normal 25 years later. And though it may fail to show the many accurate details of the complex surrogacy experience, it still has managed to convey the love between the two prospective dads and the respect they are showing their surrogate, even if there is a lot of inappropriate boundary-crossing. We hope that subsequent episodes will depict the burgeoning relationship that Goldie, Shania, David and Brian are creating, as well as more correctly depict surrogacy. We also hope this show becomes part of many television watchers’ “normal” must-see TV routine.
Tell us what you think of The New Normal? Has it met your expectations? Do you think it will succeed?