TV's Fall Haul: The New Normal and Go On

For the next few weeks, we'll be evaluating many of the new fall shows as they air. And then many of them will go away, and we'll never think of them again. It sounds sad, but for reducing clutter in our lives, this counts as a happy ending. We should always be so lucky as to have fleeting things before us to consider briefly.

The New Normal, Tuesdays 9:30 p.m. ET, NBC
(The pilot has been available online for a few weeks and finally aired last night.)

One-sentence description: Affluent gay couple Bryan (Andrew Rannells) and David (Justin Bartha) decide they want a baby so they get some of Gwyneth Paltrow's eggs and lease a womb.

How good is it?: It's nice-dinner-out-with-occasionally-witty-sometimes-inappropriate-people good. It's Arrested Development-gets-drowsy-and-a-little-bit-lax enjoyable. Bryan, David and Goldie, the owner of the leased womb (played by Georgia King), are all sappy and would be intolerable were it not for Jane, Goldie's bigoted grandmother, played by Ellen Barkin. Jane says things like "ass campers" and "sausage smokers" (in reference to gays) and "Jew down" (in reference to Jews) and "Hello Kitty" (in reference to her granddaughter's ex's-Asian mistress). GQ calls this "gaycism," but without this bitchy and Botoxed iteration of Archie Bunker to challenge viewers (do you laugh at the bigot because she's so wrongheaded or because she's so funny?), The New Normal would be old boring.

Best joke: Jane: "I had to ride the bus. The bus. I was sitting next to a man with no arms. He was drinking a thermos full of mushroom soup with these little stublets coming out of his shoulder. It was like watching Flipper try to drink a beer. Why do I have to spend my entire life making up for everyone else's mistakes?" Also, while it didn't originate here, "sausage smokers" is a really clever double entendre, when you think about it.

What's annoying about it: "Face it, honey, abnormal is the new normal," says gay-gay Bryan to his beer-swilling, big-dog petting, medium-gay boyfriend David, as if he doesn't already know. The show is very direct in its de-queering: A well-intentioned ignorant fool wouldn't even have to ask, "Who's the woman?" because it is clear. (It would be radical if it turned out that David is the bottom or that they are at least both vers.) Also, David and Bryan are rich to the point of not blinking at the $35,000 cost of having Goldie carry their baby. So if they're going to be gross and gay, at least their financial situation is aspirational. David is a doctor and Bryan is... something that requires NeNe Leakes as his neck-rolling assistant. She doesn't play herself—except for the fact that she does, because she can't act.

Is it worth watching again?: Yes. I really want to know if David is the bottom.

Go On, Tuesdays 9 p.m. ET, NBC
(Again, NBC reaired the pilot last night.)

One-sentence description: Sports Night meets Dear John (haha, it wishes) when sportscaster Ryan King (Matthew Perry) is forced into a support group by his employer when he shows signs that he isn't dealing with his wife's death as well as he thought he was.

How good is it?: Ugh, it's awful. A grey-eyebrowed Matthew Perry constantly talks like he's suppressing a beer burp, his eyes regularly darting to the side as though the providing keg is just around the corner. Jokes about Ryan Gosling not being named People's Sexiest Man Alive and Megan Fox being hot were already outdated before this thing was shot. Sorry, TV, there's a new pop-culture commentator in town: the Internet. This show can't hang.

Best joke: Ryan mocks Terrell Owens' "indoor unemployment bunny rabbit league" to his face. (Terrell plays himself.) Another funny joke is the idea that Matthew Perry can carry a TV series.

What's annoying about it: I mean, do you want to attend a "life-change group" every week?

Is it worth watching again?: No, but it's a little bit fascinating that Ryan is on an obsessive mission against texting and driving (it's how his wife died and it's why he starts throwing things at T.O.'s car when he observes the sports star doing it). An ad for AT&T's No Text on Board campaign aired immediately after this show, smacking the whole thing with a sense of propaganda. That would explain why it's so shitty, actually.