Pilot Watch: “New Girl”

Listen, I’m as quirky as the next hipster twenty-something. I wear double-tongued Converse shoes and buy things like fabric printed with owls even though I DON’T EVEN SEW. I live in Austin, TX only because I can’t afford Williamsburg and Portland gets too much rain. The “You wear knit hats because of Coldplay” joke from the 2 Broke Girls pilot bothered me–not because I don’t like Coldplay, but because it wasn’t a very good “hipster” reference. (The Arcade Fire joke from the end of that episode was only marginally better.) So as a charming, eccentric female, I’m practically duty-bound to like Zooey Deschanel. And I do–based not on the expectation that I’m supposed to like her, but because I think she’s a lovely person. I’ve genuinely liked her ever since I saw her alongside Will Ferrell in Elf. I love She & Him, I love (500) Days of Summer, and I even loved her in Failure To Launch. (The rest of that movie? Not so much.) A few years ago I rocked the heck out of the dark hair and bangs look, in part due to our dear Zooey.

Liking Zooey Deschanel is a good standard to gauge if you’re going to like New Girl. But it’s important to remember that Zooey is not Jess. Obviously, I like Zooey. I’m not so sure about Jess. Are we all familiar with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl concept? If not, go read the wiki primer and then come back and finish reading my review. (I’d also like to take this opportunity to remind you all that Nathan Rabin once starred one of my tweets and it made my year.) By trying to make Jess the opposite of a MPDG, she’s turning into her own specific breed of MPDG. It’s like, the creature that you create to destroy the monster ends up becoming the greater threat. I don’t know, it made sense in my head. Because do women really aspire to be Summer or Jess? I don’t. I’d be friends with either of them, but I wouldn’t want to be them. Summer is too world-weary and Jess is too naive.

The premise is simple–girl dumps her cheating scum of a boyfriend and needs a place to live. Through craigslist, the most trusted of websites, she finds three guys that need a roommate? Whatever, just go with it. They’re hesitant to take her in until they find out that her best friend is a model. CeCe (because she has a name, guys) is played with beauty and grace by Hannah Simone. She’s compassionate, impervious to the advances of the boys, and also the most realistic character of the bunch. I hope we see more of her. And I mean that in a not-gross way. If your mind went there, go put a dollar in the douchebag jar.

Speaking of the douchebag jar (that’s a delightful segue which I hope to use more often), the boys are your standard sitcom fare. There’s Schmidt, the douche in question, played by Max Greenfield who once played–all together now–Deputy Leo! Pilot-Schmidt is a lot like Pilot-Barney Stinson. Barney has grown into a semi-respectable human being, so I can only hope the same for Schmidt. Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.) is only around for this episode, as Damon is committed to ABC’s Happy Endings. (Hooray! I love Brad!) Coach can’t communicate with women and I hope the new guy is a little bit more interesting. (Although it was sorta funny to watch Coach flip out at Jess’ jeggings monologue.) The last guy is Nick (Jake M. Johnson). He’s cute, still not over his ex, and at some point will probably fall for Jess. I hope they take their sweet time in getting to that point. He gets a passing grade from me because it’s clear he actually has a conscience. By the end of the episode, they band together in what is sure to be the first of many rescue attempts. Because…Jess needs saving, I guess? Ugh.

I think my main issue with the show is that Jess is being put in the same kind of Liz Lemon conundrum that we face on 30 Rock. The Liz Lemon Conundrum is that the show presents you with a smart, witty, and undeniably beautiful woman who can’t seem to get a man. That should NOT be the only focus of these women, but the 30 Rock often presents it as such. And we’re expected to go along with it? That’s bull! Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation is all of those things and she freaking knows it! And she dates handsome and intelligent men and she’s the one dumping these guys because she knows they aren’t right for her. We need more of that confidence in our television women. So when Jess wants to make a Lord of the Rings reference, let her make a Lord of the Rings reference without being told to bury it in a cave! (That’s where Smeagol lives. I’ll be honest–I did laugh pretty hard at that line.)

If we’re going to have “adorkable” as the new catch-phrase of us quirky twenty-somethings, let’s make adorkable be acceptable.

Let’s say New Girl handed me a note in class that said, “Do you like me? Check yes or no.” I would make a box for “maybe?” and then give it a few weeks to see how things develop.

Random Asides:

– I liked that’s Jess’ dirty alter-ego not only had a heart of gold, but was working her way through college.

– Who votes for a Bones/New Girl crossover with Jess and Brennan (played by Zooey’s real-life big sis Emily) as actual sisters? They can solve a murder in the guys’ apartment building! Bones can tell Jess how to be her own person and Jess can teach Bones how make popsicle stick crafts for her one-on-the-way.

– “Hey, sailor!”

– Pretty much everything you need to know about the show is expressed in the full-length, Zooey-written theme song. Listen here.

– Have you guys seen The Zooey Deschanel Show? It’s incredible if you like or dislike Zooey D.

12 Responses to “Pilot Watch: “New Girl””
  1. Dan says:

    Wait… Coach is leaving? No!

    I won’t lie: a lot of the reasons I liked the pilot was because I think Zooey is just too adorable for words. I’d watch her read the phone book. But I’m coming back (for now) because of the roomies. I mean, the scene in the restaurant? THAT is what friends do. Period. End of story.

  2. kat says:

    I had a really hard time figuring out how the guys went from “she’s erratic and annoying” to “she’s our BFF” so quickly, and without Jess being anything other than erratic and annoying. Between this and 2 Broke Girls, I have to give 2BG the slight edge, but right now they’re both in my Maybe? pile.

    • Gretchen Alice says:

      If the rest of 2BG plays out like the latter half of that pilot, I’m so on board. My hope is that Jess gets better when she’s not post-breakup. (Oh, gosh, what if she’s even MORE erratic and annoying when she’s in love with a guy? Yikes.)

  3. Jen says:

    Deputy Leo!

    I have mixed thoughts about this show. I am a quirky 20-something who has never really liked Zooey Deschanel. I should probably be booted out of the club for that, but the first thing I saw her in was Hitchhiker’s Guide and I did not enjoy her portrayal of Trillian. I do like the thought of her playing a character like Jess, because I feel like her characters are always kind of wooden and cute, but not that interesting, relying on big-eyed blank stares for her comedic effect. I don’t hate her, but I’ll never be a devotee.

    I thought this show was funny, and had a fun concept, but I feel like the characters are all just a little too zany. They seem more like caricatures of people than actual people (though, they are characters on a comedy, so I can give them a little leeway). I was ok until the end scene with the singing. It seemed very over-the-top. It also seemed like the guys completely changed their attitudes from the beginning of the episode. Instantaneous character development! I’ll wait for the second episode, though, I’m not one to judge a show by its pilot.

    My least favorite thing was when they tried to suppress her nerdiness (lotr reference). My favorite thing was the douchebag jar.

    • Gretchen Alice says:

      Well, we’ll keep you in the club for now…
      I agree with you about Trillian. Trillian was WAY too cool for Zooey D.
      Like you said, I think the important part is to not judge a show by its pilot. One of the reviewers (Todd VanDerWerff, I think) mentioned recently that we should let comedy pilots have a Broadway-style review period where they figure out characters and work out the weak spots. I really wish that were possible.

      • Jen says:

        I might be on probation.

        The whole Broadway review period would be great. It takes more than one episode to really figure things out, you know?

  4. Craig says:

    I kept this unread in my greader for a long time, so that I would remember to go back and comment once I had a more concrete idea how I felt. I’m commenting now, despite still not being sure where I stand on it. Some of the stuff was fun, it made me laugh which is really the most important thing for a comedy, but I just can’t get past the overly quirky way she is presented which really feels more like a desperate plea for viewers’ attention than an actual personality.
    It probably doesn’t help that I am what often feels like the only person on the internet who doesn’t have an absolute obsession with Deschanel. I’ve liked her in some things (Elf), thought she was ok in others (Hitchhiker’s Guide) and found her awful in others (The Happening, where with all of the issues there were with the movie–and there were a whole lot–I left complaining about her and that the only emotion she had was doe-eyed.) This means that I went in not caring about ZD being in the show, but already finding the commercials irritating. That said, it still passed the laugh test, so I’ll keep it around for now.

    • Gretchen Alice says:

      I haven’t watched tonight’s episode yet, but I’m very interested to see where they take the show over the course of one season, let alone five or six.

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