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NBC Launches Comedy Offensive Tuesday Night

NBC's hoped-for comedy takeover - with 10 such shows packed into its new season prime-time schedule - invades our TV listings this week, beginning with a Tuesday night lineup that includes Glee creator Ryan Murphy's The New Normal. (The series gets a sneak preview Monday at 10 p.m. as well.)  This is the show, about a gay couple of wannabe baby daddies and their surrogate, that One Million Moms wants to squelch with a boycott, in case you hadn't heard. Of course, the controversy is helping assure event status for the sitcom instead. These groups never learn.

Murphy, meanwhile, had to have been either delusional or disingenuous a few weeks ago, when he told TV critics that he thought the Million Moms would like the show if they gave it a chance. With shots at religion, Republicans and Callista Gingrich's hair, he clearly knows who is audience is - and is not. Funny? Yes. Offensive? Without a doubt. Well-executed? Certainly. Responses will vary widely. While I was scribbling notes about its moments of preachy self-indulgence, a colleague watching with me was extolling its "heart."

Tuesday also includes the perennially-outstanding Parenthood with Ray Romano aboard for a multi-episode arc as a new friend (wink) of Lauren Graham's character. And the night has Matthew Perry's Go On, a show that drew encouraging numbers in its post-Olympics "sneak preview," as well as inspiring cautious optimism among critics.

Perry just might finally have the series success that's eluded him since Friends with this new offering, in which he plays a hotshot radio sports announcer being forced by his station manager to get counseling to come to terms with his grief over his wife's death. The serio-comedy is enhanced mightily by the assorted beleaguered personalities in his "life change" group, including the always-good Bill Cobbs in the recurring role of blind group member George. If you caught the advance episode, you'll recall that George came pretty darn close to winning Perry's character's impromptu contest to determine which of the group members' lives was the biggest bummer ("March sadness").  According to Cobbs, upcoming episodes measure up to the pilot, and more.

"I've seen instances where I thought, 'Oh, goodness. Is this going to make any sense at all?' " Cobbs admitted with a laugh, during a chat with "And then I've seen where we're going, and I really feel like we have a team of people who are creating the show who have a vision for it, an idea."

The 78-year-old veteran of stage, TV and films including Night at the Museum and The Muppets acknowledged that balancing the series' tricky blend of sorrow and silliness "can be hard. Sometimes the humor can be quite broad, but there's always a very serious undertone to our characters. I think about my cast mates, and they all have the ability to maintain the seriousness of what's happening and at the same time play the comedy." Coming from the theater, he added, "I really appreciate this great ensemble."

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