The television world has never been in such a precarious situation. At a time when pilots are picked up and jettisoned in a matter of seconds, it seems that if a new show hopes to survive, it had better be created by Chuck Lorre.
For the past few years, cable TV has trumped major network programming — sometimes in viewership, almost always in quality. This year, however, the “Big Five” (CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and the CW) seem to be striking back. Shows about Playboy clubs in Chicago, being a flight attendant in the ’60s, and copious others about werewolves/vampires/witches are looking to put the “major” back into major networks.
Among these shows, there is one that could go the distance. CBS’ New Girl stars perennial geek goddess Zooey Deschanel as recently dumped Jessica “Jess” Day. Broken-hearted and left without an apartment, she moves in with three guys: Nick (Jake M. Johnson), Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.).
What happens when a geeky girl who sings to herself hangs out with three good-looking, babe-obsessed dudes? This show should have “hackneyed” written all over it.
New Girl, however, is fresh, exciting, quite hilarious and pleasantly surprising. There are a few problems with structure, but that’s normal for a pilot still trying to find its niche. In terms of editing, some scenes are far too choppy, with transitions less than fluid. Nonetheless, such flaws are barely noticeable when placed beside the superior character development.
All of the characters initially seem cliché: the nerd (complete with large frame glasses), the lovesick bartender, the babe magnet and the body-obsessed athlete. The difference is these caricatures are grounded in a sort of heartbreaking humanity.
When Jess cries while watching Dirty Dancing, the audience doesn’t roll their eyes; instead we laugh and start to realize that we’ve all been there, trapped in the pits of complete despair.
Deschanel is clearly the heart of the series. She brings the iridescent charm that made her a star in (500) Days of Summer, embodying the personality of everyone’s best friend — and a drop dead gorgeous one at that.
Deschanel manages to personify the very essence of a metamorphosis, transforming Jess from a pitiable mess to a girl we all can root for.
New Girl has the ability to put a smile on even the most pessimistic person’s face. After all, hating someone as sweet and cute as Deschanel seems like a sin — almost like hating happiness altogether.
Though the other characters border on caricature, the chemistry between the actors keeps the show planted firmly on earth.
One-liners that might otherwise sound cliché get zing through the reactions they elicit from other characters, with dialogue easily flowing from one to another — courtesy of Elizabeth Meriwether, the writer of No Strings Attached (2011).
When Schmidt says something that might have come from the mouth of any frat guy at ‘SC, the boys make him put a dollar in the “Douchebag Jar.” There’s humor, heart and a touch of reality.
All of the actors are dedicated to the humanization of their roles. They attempt to inject depth into a single-cam sitcom. It’s unfortunate that Wayans Jr. will no longer be featured in the show because of prior commitments, but hopefully Lamorne Morris will be able to match his chemistry with the group.
Sometimes though, ace acting cannot help plot details. The characters are basically best friends by the conclusion of the pilot, complete with a sing-along in a nice restaurant, but such close relationships couldn’t possibly happen in the short timeline into which they have been placed. Also, conflict meets resolution too quickly — it leaves the audience wondering what more to look forward to.
New Girl is quite different from our own: a world where nerdy girls with supermodel best friends can be friends with hot boys. The best part is the show manages to convince us all that this world exists. If only life were this much fun.
New Girl premiered last night on Fox, and will air a new episode next Tuesday.