Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
At tonight’s PaleyFest panel featuring cast and producers of NBC’s freshman comedy The New Normal, it came as no surprise when show co-creator Ryan Murphy confirmed that recurring guest star John Stamos, who hosted the panel, would continue to recur as Brice the realtor (Stamos jokingly demanded to know). More surprising was when Murphy announced that one of the final season episodes will feature an entire act with no dialogue, only music. And not just any music: John Lennon’s song “Beautiful Boy.” Murphy said the song is one of his and show co-creator Ali Adler’s favorites so they asked for permission to use it. “We reached out to Yoko Ono, and she said yes,” Murphy said. “So we are thankful to Yoko Ono. I just wanted to do something different.”
“You’re giving away everything!” mock-protested Adler, who joined Murphy on the panel with executive producer Dante DiLoreto and cast members Andrew Rannells, Justin Bartha, Georgia King, Nene Leakes, Jayson Blair and Bebe Wood. Ryan said cast member Ellen Barkin could not attend. Murphy’s other reveals were about story, not music. “We’re building toward David and Bryan [Bartha and Rannells], getting married, building toward a baby being born, and we’re building towards Gloria’s character [Goldie, surrogate mother for David and Bryan’s child] really deciding if she is going to get back together with Clay [Blair] or continue on this independent path that she has created.” Adler confirmed the story developments, adding: “The marriage and the baby don’t happen the way you think they are going to.”
With Stamos at the helm, there was plenty of wisecracking. Eleven-year –old Wood did some of her signature impressions of gay icons (“I told her, don’t watch Cher, watch drag queens doing Cher,” Rannells said he advised the young performer). But Murphy, also co-creator of Glee and American Horror Story, waxed serious when he talked about a recent meeting at the home of Rob Reiner with two attorneys, one liberal and one conservative, who plan to fight California Proposition 8 outlawing gay marriage.
“It was a very dark day, very upsetting, and that was only four years ago,” Murphy said. The attorneys were asked why they felt so confident that they would see the proposition overturned. “What moved the bar in only 4 years? Without missing a beat, they both said: ‘Television’,” Murphy said. “With shows like The New Normal and Modern Family and Glee, people feel that they know gay couples, they know gay people now more than ever.”
“This is the biggest civil rights movement of our time”, Murphy opined. “We had our full table reading of the final season this week. We are shooting the finale. And I can say to all of these wonderful actors and Ali, we did a great thing. You not just entertained but helped change the world in a weird way. It’s wonderful. We are hopeful,” he added to wild applause.