'The New Normal': Another Chance for Censors to Pretend to Win TV
'The New Normal': Another Chance for Censors to Pretend to Win TV
Laurel Brown
Laurel Brown
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
It hasn't aired yet, but some people already want The New Normal gone. Unfortunately for the show, those people might get their wish. One Million Moms, the PTC and the rest might not have anything substantial to do with The New Normal's possible failure. But they will still claim it as a victory.

Censors are good at that.

Whenever an edgy new show comes on the air, someone is always ready to protest it. From the One Million Moms to the PTC (Parents Television Council) to random local stations with morality codes, attempts to stop television "filth" are all too common.

And, despite little things like freedom of speech and changing societal norms, the censors often seem to win. Why? It may be as simple as picking the right battles. If you rally only against bad, unknown or unlikable shows, it's amazing how often you can destroy them.

I need to stress here that I'm not a fan of censorship. I disagree with the PTC, One Million Moms and the rest on what counts as indecent and on the role of censorship in society. I am, in fact, extremely opposed to any censorship and tend to view these groups as a bunch of insane conservatives who want to believe that sex doesn't exist.

But I respect their intelligence when choosing targets. The censors put their efforts only into battles they can win and only rarely take on popular, established television in their major campaigns.

The most recent target, The New Normal, fits this perfectly. The official statement from One Million Moms on the show includes the following: "NBC is using public airwaves to continue to subject families to the decay of morals and values, and the sanctity of marriage in attempting to redefine marriage."

While fully rejecting everything the One Million Moms have to say on reality, I agree with them on one thing: This is a terrible program. Preachy, ridiculous and abrasive, The New Normal is a sad waste of its cast's considerable talent. Sure, it deals with important societal issues like gay rights and discrimination, but the show is still bad. Really bad.

The New Normal is so bad that I doubt many viewers will care enough to tune in repeatedly. Unless things improve drastically after the pilot, this is a show doomed to slide into cancellation.

If and when this happens, censorship groups will take credit.

The campaign against The New Normal isn't exactly novel. Recent, highly publicized campaigns against The Playboy Club on NBC and Skins on MTV were precursors to the current censorship attempts. Both shows had brief moments of success -- quite possibly thanks to the media attention brought by censorship -- before collapsing into failure. Only a handful of episodes aired. One Million Moms, the PTC and every other censor rejoiced at their successes in the battle for morality.

One might argue that I merely chose a couple of bad shows to make my point. But there's more to it than that. The censors do not typically make a fuss about successful and well-loved programming. Take the original, British version of Skins, for example. More morally questionable than its American counterpart, we heard not a murmur during the critically acclaimed Skins' run on BBC America.

Want more proof? Ever heard of a little show called Modern Family? One of television's biggest, the show features plots and characters that One Million Mom members might like. And yet...

Two of Modern Family's characters are gay men. Mitch and Cam live together in a committed relationship, totally accepted by their extended families. They have an adopted daughter. The two men tried to adopt a son last season, an effort foiled only by some random telenovela drama. Modern Family even devoted a major plotline to the possibility of surrogacy when the men wanted another child.

So why is Modern Family OK when The New Normal is not?

There may be many reasons for condemning one program over the other, but we can't neglect the quality factor. No one would take the One Million Moms seriously if they went nuts with anti-Modern Family publicity. No TV station would be foolish enough to disregard this cash cow of a show. No major segment of the public would stop watching.

(Note: Officially, One Million Moms is, in fact, opposed to 'Modern Family' (also Oreo cookies and Skittles). They just have the good sense to be relatively quiet about it.)

Popularity is the enemy of censorship.

The New Normal, however, doesn't have this popularity. For most TV audiences, this program is an unknown. If viewers have heard about the Ryan Murphy comedy, it would be from short promo ads and from mixed-to-negative reviews. Add in a loud and occasionally powerful group condemning the whole thing as anti-family filth, and lots of people have a reason to avoid The New Normal.

It's possible of course that, despite the protests and despite the show's lack of quality, The New Normal will catch on. It probably won't though. And when it fails, look for the censors to celebrate another victory.

They may not have earned that victory, but the censors know how to steal the win when it comes to television.

(Image courtesy of NBC)