How Ryan Murphy Can Win Us Back With HBO's 'The Normal Heart'
Ryan Murphy is trying to make gay love normal again. After his comedy The New Normal was axed, he turned his attention to his HBO film The Normal Heart which will premiere May 25. Based on Larry Kramer’s Tony Award-winning play, The Normal Heart tackles the HIV/AIDS crises in New York City in the 1980s. It's a gritty and emotional film, and it's probably going to do so much more for the equality cause than The New Normal ever did.
As a comedy, The New Normal had one job: it had to make audiences laugh. That had to take precedence over any other mission of the show, which was unfortunate as the plot of this show was important. It was about two gay men searching for a surrogate to help them have a child. They find the surrogate but she comes pre-packaged with a right-wing mother. This is The New Normal's recipe for hilarity: have Nana say "funny" things about everyone from LGBT people to minority races, all in the name of comedy.
In practice, the humor of this show was less edgy than offensive. In the end the insensitive comments over shadowed the good the show could have done: normalizing gay men who love each other and want a baby. Sample dialogue included: "I feel like I just ate a black and gay stew right before I feel asleep; this is a nightmare" and "those are ugly men" when referring to a lesbian couple and many more terrible comments said throughout the one and only season.
But any harm that The New Normal did can be remedied with this new HBO film The Normal Heart. Ryan Murphy, from my experience, doesn't mesh well with comedy. In shows like Glee and The New Normal he struggles to create humor without falling back on stereotypes or offensiveness. But he has flourished in his dramatic work on shows like American Horror Story. It's because of this ability that I think he'll be able to tackle the intensity of a story like this one which seeks to take "an unflinching look at the nation’s sexual politics as gay activists and their allies in the medical community fight to expose the truth about the burgeoning epidemic to a city and nation in denial.” Murphy also won't have to sell the story on his own. The film boasts a star-studded cast with numerous talented actors from Mark Ruffalo to Julia Roberts. And instead of selling a comedy on a network station like NBC, Murphy's story will be highlighted by HBO who has taken chances on films like Behind the Candelabra which went on to win numerous awards.
The Normal Heart has an important and emotional story to tell, and I'm hopeful that this time Murphy will be able to get it right.