Rannells feels the premise echoes the real world.
“We are just showing what is already happening, what is out there in the world,” the actor says in a recent conference call with journalists. “This family we are creating could be yours, a group of unlikely folks who come together to create a family. It might seem specific but the storytelling is universal.”
He and the cast and crew were disappointed to learn that a Utah TV station, affiliated with the Mormon Church, would not air “The New Normal.”
“It’s a shame (that) came out prior to anyone seeing the show,” Rannell says. “I hope no one finds anything offensive about the show.”
Ultimately, he feels “Normal” is about love. And as a gay man himself, Rannell found no real challenges playing gay, even with a straight co-star.
“(Justin Bartha) and I had a natural chemistry when we started,” he admits.
NBC isn’t the only mainstream network with launching a sitcom with gay leads this season. “Partners” premieres on Monday, Sept. 24 at 8:30 p.m. on CBS.
“Partners” is the spawn of openly gay Max Mutchnick and childhood friend David Kohan, who brought “Will and Grace” to life and have known and worked with each other for years.
The new show stars Michael Urie of “Ugly Betty” fame, with Brandon Routh (“Superman Returns”) as his life partner, and centers on the friendship of a gay man and a straight man in their joint workplace. It echoes the story of Mutchnick and Kohan themselves.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation tracks LGBT characters on television. Matt Kane, GLAAD’s associate director of entertainment media, is pleased with the fall TV slate and what he sees on the horizon in the winter and spring.
He is particularly happy to see “Partners” on CBS, which has notoriously been behind the curve for LGBT inclusivity compared to other networks.
“It’s a great step in the right direction,” Kane says.
More TV highlights
• “Go On” (Already premiered; Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC) — This Matthew Perry comedy about a sportscaster who goes into therapy after his wife dies features Julie White as a lesbian lawyer dealing with rage after her partner passes away in a preventable death.
• “Glee” (Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Fox starting Sept. 13) — Now in its fourth season, the musical comedy has been moved to a new night. It will still focus on the high school shenanigans as well as New York, where its graduates – openly gay Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Rachel (Lea Michele) – have moved.
Celebrities visiting this season include Kate Hudson and Sarah Jessica Parker. GLAAD’s Kane is happy that the transgender character Unique, introduced in the spring, will be back.
• “Modern Family” (Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on ABC starting Sept. 26) — TV’s funniest and most-honored comedy returns for its fourth season with arguably the best comic ensemble cast around, including (openly gay) Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mitchell and Eric Stonestreet as his partner, Cameron Tucker. This season, as their tomboy daughter Lily tussles with a fellow classmate, the gay couple must contend with the student’s lesbian moms.
• “The Good Wife” (Sundays at 9 p.m. on CBS starting Sept. 30): Julianna Margulies’ drama returns for a fourth year, with one of TV’s most talked about characters, the bisexual Kalinda (Emmy winner Achie Panjabi).
• “Chicago Fire” (Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC starting Oct. 10) — This hour-long firefighter/paramedic drama features Laura German and Monica Raymund as lesbians who are out on the job and also romantic partners.
• “Emily Owens, M.D.” (Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on The CW starting Oct. 16) — An African-American lesbian character in a substantial role, Kelly McCreary’s Tyra, is one of the perks of this new medical drama, Kane says. The show stars Mamie Gummer, perhaps better known as Meryl Streep’s daughter.
• “American Horror Story: Asylum” (Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX starting Oct. 17) — Also from Ryan Murphy comes the second season of this scary series, set in an insane asylum this year. A lesbian couple will be in the mix. It’s rumored that openly gay Zachary Quinto will return as another character and that rocker Adam Levine will make an appearance, as will openly lesbian actress Sarah Paulson.
• “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” (Mondays at 9 p.m. on Logo starting Oct. 22) — RuPaul is back with a “best of” set of drag contestants. Atlanta audiences watch this addictive show more than any other city in the country.
• “Happy Endings” (Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on ABC starting Oct. 23) — This smart, engaging comedy series about a group of friends features openly gay Max (Adam Pally), who is one of TV’s most refreshingly non-generic characters.
• “Malibu Country” (Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on ABC starting Nov. 2) — Reba McEntire plays a Reba McEntire-like character who moves to California after she learns of her husband’s affair and tries to return as a country star. Out actress Lily Tomlin is her pot-smoking mother.
Top photo: Created by openly gay ‘Glee’ creator Ryan Murphy,‘New Normal’ is about a gay couple who hires a surrogate to have a baby. (by Timothy White/NBC)