All season long, NBC's The New Normal has delicately tackled timely topics, both in and out of the gay sphere, without ever veering into cheese-tastic territory. A true accomplishment when you consider how many shows try, and fail, to produce a convincing "Very Special Episode."
Tonight, The New Normal addresses one of the most polarizing topics currently up for debate: The Boy Scouts banning of gay troop leaders. In the episode, titled About A Boy Scout, lifelong Scout supporter David has an unexpected experience upon re-entering the organization. To find out more, ETonline chatted with star Justin Bartha about his own Troop experience, the final New episodes of this season and what the future holds for The Sawyer-Collins family.
ETonline: First off, I have to commend you guys for always tacking timely issues without ever seeming preachy or getting cheesy.
Justin Bartha: That means a lot to me because we're trying really hard. This show is a passion project for so many people and, as you know, comedies on network television can have a hard time attraction attention. With a show like ours, when you have something that is seemingly attention grabbing, you don't want it to seem overbearing. We're just trying to do a quality show with relevant, non-trite storylines.
ETonline: What were your first thoughts after learning you'd be addressing The Boy Scouts issue?
Bartha: When I read the script, I immediately called our writer/creator Ali [Adler], who this is a very personal episode for because she's raising two young children and they're dealing with this issue right now. It's not the easiest task to bring humor to the forefront while talking about issues, and I loved that we aren't overly one-sided in tackling this episode. It very much treated the issue in a thoughtful way, so I called her and thanked her for writing it. I also have to say that this episode is very much in line with what we want the show to do; to take a current event and fold it into the storyline in a meaningful and seamless way. This kind of episode is why I signed on to do the show in the first place. It's what I always knew the show could be.
ETonline: Your character was a Boy Scout, were you?
Bartha: I was not, but my gay brother was a Boy Scout. I have a lot of respect and admiration for what The Boy Scouts do and teach. And not to get too preachy, but I think their base value system, in what they teach, would benefit every child. What's confusing is that their core teaching is to accept everyone's values and views, which is obviously coming into conflict with their attitude towards gays.
ETonline: Next week your final two episodes of the season air back-to-back. What can you say about them?
Bartha: The first episode is about Bryan and David picking the baby's name and then the finale is everything you could want from our show: a wedding and, also, possibly the birth.
ETonline: Did you feel emotional filming the finale, not knowing what the future holds for The New Normal?
Bartha: I felt emotional in hindsight because when we started the season, it didn't have your usual launch given the fabricated controversy some organizations brought out. It is very interesting that this show existed at a time when equality was at the forefront of people's minds. While we didn't think about it every day going to work -- we weren't carrying a rainbow flag and stomping our feet -- it was in the backs of our minds the entire time. But we just wanted to make a very fresh and irreverent smart TV show, and I think we did that. As first seasons of TV shows go, I am so proud. Especially of the last few episodes, I think they're some of the best television I've seen.
ETonline: If this ends of being the only season, will you be happy with where the finale leaves your characters?
Bartha: I will. I am totally at peace with that because the fact this show got on the air at all is a miracle. A lot of that credit goes to the executives at NBC. It was ballsy for them to put this show on the air, and support it. But do I think the show could go on and get better and better? Of course!
The New Normal airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. on NBC.