Final Thoughts: New Girl (Season 1)

Any network sitcom that focuses all of its promotional material on the single known entity always make me wary… too many shows rely on the appeal of mildly successful actor in their premieres, and for ensemble comedies, this can be dangerous. So needless to say, I was quite worried when the hype machine began for the Zooey Deschanel pilot New Girl that was drumming all sorts of buzz over at FOX. And initally, I wasn’t really that impressed with what I saw. But after stumbling through its infancy, the show’s writers and producers realized that they had a great comedic quartet on their hands, and there was a lot more fun to be had exploring their lives than watching Zooey sing dialogue awkwardly for 22 minutes.

Not every show can master the tone of their show in a pilot like Cheers or Seinfeld did (or even Friends, for that matter): most of the time, pilots have to try too hard to gain the attention of a broad audience to appeal to a network and the masses. It’s only when a series gets a full season pick-up that the writers are given the confidence to pursue the vision of the show they want to make. New Girl‘s first five or six episodes all suffer from this over-characterization: Jess is way too ‘adorkable’, Schmidt is overly douchey, and Nick is just a whining machine. There are still a few funny moments in those early episodes (like Winston’s talents with bells), but a bad guest starring role from Justin Long and uninteresting Nick/Jess will-they plot threatened to unhinge some of the funnier aspects of the show.

But once the show got past the Christmas episode (‘The 23rd’), it began to find its personality, to the benefit of both the characters and their story arcs. Part of this is the show being less concerned with a Nick/Jess pairing (which is still bound to happen), and more about being a comedy about four goofy roommates who are helping each other navigate the world of relationships and the transitional period between the partying of young 20s, and the the serious adult life that awaits everyone by the time we hit 35.

It’s certainly not a revolutionary concept, but there aren’t a lot of characters on TV like Schmidt, easily the most quotable character on TV since Kenny Powers first graced our screens. They’ve managed to find the balance between him being a hipster and a goofball, and his budding relationship with CeCe humanized him – a necessary move, because one of New Girl‘s biggest faults early on was the cartoonish hues Schmidt was being colored in with. CeCe is a smaller example of this herself, becoming less of a dumb model who gets walked all over by guys, and a funny, streetwise woman with some emotional vulnerabilities. The combination of their characters made for the best dynamic of the show, the television equivalent of hitting four birds with a single stone.

I haven’t talked much about Winston, the most problematic part of New Girl, even after the show had tweaked its formula. They never really figured out what to do with his character throughout the season: for the first half dozen episodes, he was utterly indistinguishable from Coach, the roommate who leaves after the pilot, and there wasn’t much for him to do except make jokes about being a former all-star athlete with no job or training to be successful. His character is much better as the voice of reason within the group, exponentially funnier when he’s smacking sense into everyone else in the house, rather than floundering his way through a number of wacky employment experiences.

Overall, New Girl‘s first season is a great case study of a new show adjusting its tone and personality on the fly over the course of a freshman season. If the last three or four episodes (save for the bumpy finale) are any sign of what’s to come, New Girl is going to truly break out in its second season. Just give us more True American and chutney, and we’ll all be happy.

Overall: B

Other thoughts/observations:

– If I were to split my season grades into two half, I’d give the first half a C and the second a B+.

– This might be the easiest MVP award I give out all season: Schmidt dominates season 1, with dozen of hilarious dialogue, though nothing will ever top his pronunciation of ‘chutney’. Nothing.

– I think Nick had about six or seven different haircuts throughout the season.

– One thing New Girl moved away from in early episodes, only to sadly bring back later on, were the mediocre childhood flashbacks, which never really worked – though dorky young Jess is a lot more amusing than Fat Schmidt, who felt more like a male Fat Monica than anything else.

Best Episode: ‘Normal’

Worst Episode: ‘Bad in Bed’

What did you think of New Girl‘s first season? Feel free to leave your thoughts/comments below!

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