Gaycoms in a Progressive Age?: Partners and The New Normal

Gaycoms in a Progressive Age?: Partners and The New Normal Stephen Tropiano / Ithaca College | Flow.

Hmmm… Not sure about this one. Let me back up and tell you my initial reactions to these shows before I had seen them:

1. I don’t think “Glee” is the end-all be-all of TV in the new millennium. I run hot and cold on it because it is, without a doubt, the most uneven series on television. I’ll love an episode, its crisp writing, elegant plotting and deft, nuanced musical numbers. Then I’ll tune in the next week and watch a train wreck, written by monkeys locked in a room full of typewriters trying to bang out Hamlet and a lot of ham-fisted jokes that don’t land and a whole lot of one-dimensional snark and I’ll swear I’ll never watch it again. I held out little hope for Ryan Murphy’s gaycom, “The New Normal.”

2. I loved “Will & Grace,” Max Mutchnick and David Kohan’s groundbreaking sitcom. Other than queening up Will about halfway through the run — which was unnecessary and a little bit dumb — I loved it all.

All that said, I have watched all three episodes that have aired (as of this writing) of “The New Normal” and I am head over heels in love with it. I have watched the pilot of “Partners” and yawned.

Here’s why: “The New Normal” feels fresh and modern. Yes, there are a few over-the-top elements that possibly should be toned down, but the writing, so far, has been eloquent without being preachy. It’s shot in a modern style, lit smartly and is shot on sets that look like a place where people would actually live.

“Partners” feels like “I Love Lucy.” It’s a dinosaur. It’s shot on heavily key-lit sets that look like sitcom sets and the sitcom they seem to be shooting is called “Jack & Will & Occasionally Grace & Some Other Guy.”

And it’s that “Some Other Guy” part that especially annoys me. Kohan and Mutchnick understand that they need to ground Michael Urie, so they have paired him with ex-Man of Steel Brandon Routh as his boyfriend. That makes sense. And Routh is a great actor — “Superman” aside (also good) but he was terrific on “Chuck” — but they have left him without a character. There is NOTHING in the text that suggests that he’s even supposed to be real. There’s a lot to be annoyed by here, but that and the infernal hand-clapping between scenes was enough for me to give it two thumbs way, way down.

In “Partners'” defense, pilots generally suck, so I’ll give it another whirl and we’ll see what happens. However, in spite of the media’s hype of the fabled Kohan-Mutchnick partnership, realize that the ONLY certifiable hit they’ve ever had is “Will & Grace.”

(Then again, that IS one more than me!)


Paul Westerberg’s video for “Dyslexic Heart,” from Cameron Crowe’s movie “Singles,” which was released 20 years ago this week. This is one of the seminal movies of my generation. I was 28 and living in a house in the city with four or five other people and we were idealistic and out to change the world. It was a marvelous time. Campbell Scott, Bridget Fonda, Kyra Sedgwick, Matt Dillon and Pearl Jam(!) are all in top form. Watching this movie is a real “auld lang syne” moment for me.

For the record — it holds up. I enjoy it just as much today as I did 20 years ago. (The only thing that’s changed is that Campbell Scott and I have more grey hair now!)