By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Television writer and producer Ryan Murphy on Tuesday shrugged off calls for a boycott of his new TV show about gay adoption, saying members of the conservative group behind the protest would probably like the program if only they watched it.
Ryan also revealed that one of the characters in "The New Normal" was portrayed as a member of One Million Moms - the small but vocal group that last week claimed the TV comedy was harmful and damaging to U.S. culture.
"The New Normal", which does not make its debut until September, is a comedy about a gay couple involved in a surrogate adoption. It echoes themes seen in ABC's popular, Emmy-winning comedy "Modern Family," which also features a gay couple with an adopted daughter.
Murphy, whose musical comedy TV show "Glee" has made headlines for taking on topics such as teen pregnancy, disability and bullying, noted that "The New Normal" also deals with other types of relationships outside the bounds of the one gay couple, including single mothers and dating among older people.
"I have obviously been through this before. I wasn't surprised," Murphy told TV critics at a gathering in Beverly Hills about the comments by One Million Moms.
"I think everyone has a right to protest, but I am always surprised when people take a position before they have seen the show. I think they would love it because they (One Million Moms) are in it. I think the show is about tolerance and a discussion of tolerance...I think if they watched it, they would like it," he said.
One Million Moms on its website last week called for advertisers to boycott "The New Normal," accusing broadcaster NBC of "using public airwaves to continue to subject families to the decay of morals and values, and the sanctity of marriage in attempting to redefine marriage. These things are harmful to our society, and this program is damaging to our culture."
NBC on Tuesday threw its support behind the show. NBC entertainment president Jennifer Salke said the comedy was Murphy's "love letter to families."
Salke added that the title was not intended to portray gay adoption as "a more ‘normal' family than everybody else. It's just meant to...bring a family show to the public that captures the zeitgeist, and what's going on in the country right now and being more inclusive."
Murphy said the TV show was "loosely based" on his own life as a gay man investigating adoption with his partner. But he said he expected the most controversial character to be that of the caustic and small-minded Nana, played by Ellen Barkin. Nana is a member of One Million Moms, and her attitudes will be discussed in the show, he said.
Actor Justin Bartha, who plays one-half of the gay couple, said the show "talks about love and real issues in a non-trite way that is really entertaining."
Bartha compared Murphy to "a modern day Oscar Wilde" for his effect on U.S. pop culture through TV shows such as "Glee", "Nip/Tuck" and "Popular."
"The New Normal" will make its debut on NBC on September 11.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)