Lots of one-liners and snarky comments, quick dialogue – the sort of thing we expect from Ryan Murphy (The O.C., Glee) – and not that it isn’t entertaining – but Ryan Murphy could easily cut the first half of the pilot episode without losing necessary story points.
As it stood, it wasn’t until potential-surrogate-mom interviews with potential-gay-dads that the show starts to feel like it’s moving somewhere, and we could have picked that background up through the episode’s later actions.
That said, the first half of this pilot episode is where much of the critical, reflective meat of the episode resides, laying out Murphy’s thesis for the show: that “Abnormal is the new normal.” There are some terrific moments here.
Kicking off a joke that defends “non-traditional” families with examples including Barack Obama and Mariah Carey, a scene follows where different types of families (IVF/single mom, mixed-race couple with hearing impairments, and a woman with a genetic disorder) deliver their stories to the camera.
The diversity of the cast is not impressive (and if audiences and the media are going to call out GIRLS for that flaw, shouldn’t a show based on the idea that diversity is normal do a little better on this one?), but hopefully the characters will become a little more rounded as they have time to grow in the next few episodes. Example:
Early in the episode, when the Little-Miss-Sunshine type wise-beyond-her-years daughter of Potential Surrogate calls her great-grandmother out for bigotry. And then unfriends her.
The show also moves into some extremely uncomfortable ground regarding the commodification of women’s reproductive rights, and while Murphy’s heroes are motivated by their desire for a family, seeing multiple men sitting and discussing what makes a woman’s reproductive abilities “desirable” is slightly uncomfortable, given the current national “dialogue” on women’s agency and rights in reproductive matters. This kicks off around when the IVF (Salesman? Doctor?) compares potential surrogates to EZ Bake Ovens (with no legal rights to the cupcake).
If a combination of Raising Hope and Modern Family appeals, check out the pilot episode on Hulu and let me know what you think.