by Clio McConnell
Fox’s latest foray into comedy, “New Girl,” certainly lives up to its tag line. Advertised as “Simply Adorkable,” the show fulfills that promise with a heavy emphasis placed on its charming lead, Zooey Deschanel. Unfortunately, while the pilot shows promise, it does not showcase much more than Deschanel’s likability. How much viewers enjoy the show will depend on the amount of Deschanel they can handle.
Deschanel, of “(500) Days of Summer” and She & Him fame, stars as Jess Day, a nerdy yet uninhibited kindergarten teacher who hopes to turn her life around after a nasty breakup. Her search for a new home brings her to the apartment of three guys who aren’t sure what to make of her. They wonder whether having Jess’ model friends around is worth the countless hours their new roommate spends crying. Ultimately deciding to let her move in, the men find themselves reluctantly drawn in to Jess’ plight as they deal with their own problems.
Schmidt (Max Greenfield) considers himself a ladies’ man, ripping his shirt off whenever an attractive girl is in his vicinity. Coach (Damon Wayans, Jr.) is a personal trainer who is unable to talk to women. The last roommate, Nick (Jake Johnson), is a bartender recovering from a breakup six months prior, but he is not as hurt as Jess. Throughout the pilot, he acts as the voice of reason in the group’s attempts to find Jess a rebound.
These characters are somewhat familiar, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But the writers seem unsure of how to flesh them out beyond archetypes. Schmidt, the resident macho man, often comes off as effeminate. Nick is supposedly brokenhearted, but after a speedy chat with his ex, their issues seem to be cleared up. Even Jess’ personality is a little confusing — one minute she’s bawling on the couch watching “Dirty Dancing,” and the next she’s doling out lifestyle advice. While all of the actors are likable, they seem to embody different sets of personalities that are evoked to fit what the show needs them to be.
Fortunately, the sheer silliness of this first episode helped mask the disappointing character development. There is Schmidt’s “Douchebag Jar,” for example, into which Schmidt must put a dollar every time he does something wrong. Jess’ tendencies to dance randomly and sing are also quite amusing, especially when she belts out her self-written theme song. Deschanel is tailor-made for the role of Jess and carries most of the show on her shoulders. The three roommates, however, do work well together, and the dynamic among the four of them could be rife with comedic opportunity. Unfortunately, Coach is leaving in the second episode due to the actor’s prior commitments, so it is difficult to judge how well the show will fare in the future.
With attractive stars, nerdy “Lord of the Rings” jokes and entertaining plot lines, “New Girl” has the potential to become the season’s new carefree comedy — so long as the writers can pull the characters together.
Clio McConnell is a contributing writer. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Washington Square News will be covering New Girl’s inaugural first season as part of our new web TV Special Feature. Check back on the blog every Wednesday at noon for recaps, analysis, and critiques of this new show.