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'New Normal' abnormally unfunny

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I'm offended by "The New Normal," the new NBC sitcom from Ryan Murphy ("Glee," "American Horror Story").

I know, I know. I should get in line.

Except it has nothing to do with the plot about a gay couple (Justin Bartha and Andrew Rannells) and the single mom (Georgia King) who becomes their surrogate. Nor is it because of Ellen Barkin's over-the-top bigoted grandma.

No, I'm offended by what it apparently thinks of viewers' intelligence with its level of "comedy."

Although the show officially debuts at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, NBC released the pilot episode early online and On Demand. And it's not funny.

Thankfully, it doesn't have a laugh track, so there are no canned chuckles to underscore jokes like "I happen to love the gays; I could never get my hair to look this good without 'em," "He's a doctor. For lady bits. A gaynacologist" and "[The surrogate is] like an Easy Bake oven, except with no legal rights to the cupcake."

Who was the test audience for this? Hyenas? I can't imagine anyone else laughing over that stuff.

Despite its lack of humor, the pilot wasn't a complete bust. It had some moments of sweetness to it, like Goldie's speech about wanting to be a surrogate so she can use the money to provide a better life for her own daughter and not caring that it's for a gay couple because love is love. There's also a park scene with "nontraditional" parents, including a deaf couple with hearing children and a dwarf mom and her regular-sized daughter, talking about having children.

Plus, I have a soft spot for Justin Bartha after the "National Treasure" movies.

I'm not getting my hopes up for future episodes since Murphy's shows tend to fall apart as they progress anyway, but if "The New Normal" can manage at least a few laughs, it could be an acceptable pairing with its lead-in, Matthew Perry's (much funnier) "Go On," which also has poignancy amidst the humor.

•••

On Saturday, I came across this query in Reader's Voice: Is Oprah Winfrey's network offered locally by any of our cable service? Also, is the "Oprah" show itself shown or offered by any of our cable or TV channels?

The answer to the first question is yes. OWN is channel 312 on Suddenlink, 279 on DirecTV and 189 on Dish.

OWN is the answer to the second question. As far as I can tell, it's the only place that shows "Oprah" reruns, and they're on in a block from 1 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays.

Oprah's other shows on the network are the one-on-one interview program "Oprah's Next Chapter" at 9 p.m. Sundays (this week has Jennifer Hudson) and the self-help show, "Oprah's Lifeclass," returning Sept. 23.

•••

Series premieres: "Cheer," 11 p.m. Friday, CMT (competitive cheer squad); "Breaking Amish," 10 p.m. Sunday, TLC (five Amish move to NYC); "Criminal Defense," 10 p.m. Tuesday, National Geographic (Brooklyn legal aid lawyers); "Family Guns," 10 p.m. Wednesday, National Graphic (family-run military collectibles store).

Sneak peek: "Guys With Kids," 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, NBC (Jimmy Fallon-produced sitcom about three dads navigating new parenthood).

Season premieres: "Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team," 9 p.m. Friday, CMT; "My Fair Wedding with David Tutera," 9 p.m. Saturday, WE; "Long Island Medium," 9 p.m. Sunday, TLC; "Sons of Anarchy," 10 p.m. Tuesday, FX.

Timeslot premiere: "Go On," 9 p.m. Tuesday, NBC. (If you missed the pilot during the Olympics, catch it at 10:30 p.m. Sept. 13.)

Fall network premieres: "The Voice," 8 p.m. Monday and "Parenthood," 10 p.m. Tuesday, NBC; "The X Factor," 8 p.m. Wednesday. NBC's "Animal Practice" pilot (shown during the Olympics) repeats at 10 p.m. Wednesday.

Season finales: "Rookie Blue," 9 p.m. Thursday, ABC; "Great Lake Warriors," 11 p.m. Thursday, History; "Infinity Hall Live," 10 p.m. Friday, PBS; "My Big Redneck Vacation," 9 p.m. Saturday, CMT; "Drop Dead Diva," 9 p.m., and "Army Wives," 10 p.m. Sunday, Lifetime; "Bachelor Pad," 8 p.m. Monday, ABC; "Hell's Kitchen," 8 p.m., and "MasterChef," 9 p.m. Monday, Fox; "Perception," 10 p.m. Monday, TNT (part one of two); "Dance Moms," 9 p.m., and "The Week the Women Went," 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Lifetime; "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo Child," 10 p.m. Wednesday, TLC; "The Real World," 10 p.m. Wednesday, MTV.

Specials: "Video Music Awards," 8 p.m. Thursday, MTV; "Stand Up 2 Cancer," 8 p.m. Friday, NBC, ABC, Fox and CBS (star-studded cancer fundraiser); "Great Barrier Reef," 9 p.m. Sunday, Animal Planet (documentary); "Robot Chicken DC Comics Special," midnight Sunday, Cartoon Network; "CBS Fall Preview," 8:30 p.m. Monday, CBS.

9/11 programming: 2 to 11 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 11 p.m. Sunday, National Geographic; 7 p.m. to midnight Saturday and Monday, TLC; 4 p.m. to midnight Tuesday, History.

PBS music specials: "Celebrating the Music of Johnny Cash: We Walk the Line," 8 p.m., and "Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard & Ray Price: Last of the Breed," 9:30 p.m. Saturday; "Paul McCartney's Live Kisses," 8 p.m. Sunday (PBS2); "Ed Sullivan's Top Performers 1966-1969," 8 p.m. Sunday (performances from the show); "Great Performances at the Met: Wagner's Ring Cycle," 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sept. 14.

Of note: an entire day of shark-themed B-movies, 9 am. Saturday, Syfy (including 11 a.m. and "2-Headed Shark Attack" at 9 p.m.); "The Cosby Show" pilot, 8 p.m. Monday, TV Land; final "America's Got Talent" performance episode, 8 p.m. Wednesday, NBC.

W.Va. alert: "Steven Caras: See Them Dance," 8 p.m. Tuesday, PBS (documentary by Huntington native Deborah Novak).

Reach Amy Robinson at flipside@wvgazette.com.


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