Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
At today’s TCA panel on NBC’s new comedy The New Normal, executive producer Ryan Murphy was asked to address the fact that the series is already being boycotted by anti-gay activist group One Million Moms even though the show has not aired. The series revolves around a gay couple (portrayed by Broadway’s Book Of Mormon star Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha) who seek to conceive a child with a surrogate mother (Georgia King). Murphy is openly gay as is co-executive producer Allison “Ali” Adler, a Glee colleague (Murphy said Rannells’ character is loosely based on himself and that he has dreams of becoming a parent with his partner). “I have obviously been through this before, I wasn’t surprised when I read (about the boycott)”, said Murphy, who also has come under fire from conservative groups over gay characters in Glee. “I think every person and group has a right to protest something, (but) I always find it interesting for someone to take that option before they’ve seen it,” he said of the group, which also has attacked JC Penney for hiring Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson.
Murphy added that there is a character in New Normal that often voices the opinions of the Million Moms group: the conservative grandmother portrayed by Ellen Barkin. “Their points of view are delivered with sensitivity and a certain amount of veracity by Ms. Barkin,” Murphy said. “If they actually watched it, I think they would like it.” Murphy called the character “loveable; everybody has people like her in their family. In all of these characters, the most controversial will be Ellen — I remember Thanksgivings growing up when my grandmother would say these jaw-dropping things.”
Murphy said he hopes some of the grandmother’s statements will inspire family discussions the way All In The Family’s Archie Bunker inspired discussions in his family when he was growing up. “One of the most memorable [moments] of my childhood was when Edith almost gets raped,” he said. “I was really scared. I remember crying and talking to my mother about it.” Murphy said he has never met All In The Family creator Norman Lear but “he sent me a very sweet letter when Glee premiered; I guess he liked the progressiveness. I would like to meet him just to say thank you. He is a man of honor.”
Despite the controversy, a questioner reminded Murphy that a gay couple as a family comedy is hardly new, pointing to the Emmy-winning Modern Family and its popular gay characters Cam and Mitchell. Said Murphy: “I am so appreciative to Modern Family, and Will And Grace. Yeah, I think that they are wonderful programs and we stand on their shoulders in success, hopefully. I am full of deep admiration for those actors and those characters.”
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