None of the TV shows from the 2012-2013 freshman class have debuted yet, but NBC's new family comedy The New Normal already has an important distinction under its belt: It's the first new show to be boycotted.
"I was very excited than I was mentioned by first and last name in the boycott," star Andrew Rannells told reporters at NBC's Television Critics Association fall TV previews Tuesday. "It's my first boycott!"
This is not the first boycott, however, for co-creator and executive producer Ryan Murphy (Glee, Nip/Tuck, Popular), who acknowledged that he was not surprised to read about the protest. "I always think it's interesting when people do that before they've seen it," he said. "I actually think they would love it."
One Million Moms first asked sponsors to boycott the program on July 20. On its website, the organization accused NBC of "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. These things are harmful to our society, and this program is damaging to our culture." Premiering on Sept. 11 at 9:30/8:30c on NBC, The New Normal centers on a gay couple (Rannells and The Hangover's Justin Bartha) who hire a young single mother (Georgia King) to carry their baby just as she is trying to start a new life for her and her daughter (Bebe Wood).
Murphy said that the One Million Moms organization will actually be represented on the show by Ellen Barkin's character, grandma Jane, who is a member of One Million Moms. "She will talk about those issues that the Millions Moms talk about," he said. "I'm sure she will protest people and events and I think that's great fodder for the characters Bryan and David and Goldie to talk to her about."
Although the premise of the series is already courting controversy, Murphy said that the idea of featuring a gay couple was never emphasized greatly during the pitch process. "We definitely pitched the gay couple, but we also talked about how it was like to be a single mother with a young daughter," he said. "I don't think it ever came up whether people are ready for it or not."
Murphy also pointed to recent comedies that have featured lead gay characters and same-sex couples for paving the way. "I'm so appreciative to Modern Family and also to Will & Grace because those shows are huge successes and so many people watch those shows and are educated," Murphy said. "Those shows change views. ... We stand on their shoulders in success, hopefully."
Bartha said it was The New Normal's modern take on relationships and family dynamics that attracted him to the project, and particularly to Murphy. "He can be compared to a modern day Oscar Wilde," Bartha said. "[The show] talks about love and it talks about real issues in a non-trite way that is also entertaining so it's a show that I want to watch and also I want to be a part of."
If anything, Murphy expects the most controversial character to be Barkin's outspoken alter-ego. "I remember Thanksgivings when I was growing up when my grandmother would say these very jaw-dropping things," he said. "It felt very familiar to me and hopefully it will feel familiar to other people."
The New Normal premieres on Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 9:30/8:30c on NBC.