New Girl: TV Review
Sept. 20, 9 p.m. (Fox)
Zooey Deschanel, Max Greenfield
The actress stars on Fox’s new sitcom about an "adorkable" gal who learns life lessons from her three male roommates after a bad break-up.
Fox and everybody else is overusing the term "adorable" to describe Zooey Deschanel in New Girl, but then again, she's pretty damn adorable. And that might be the ticket (and the magic) for this mostly romantic comedy. Fox has taken to calling Deschanel "adorkable" -- and that works, too, because she plays a dorky but lovable optimist whose cad of a boyfriend cheats on her and sends her reeling out into the world, needing a new apartment and a lot of coddling/coaching.
Deschanel's Jess is possibly the sweetest and most naive person you'll meet, who loves to sing and see the good in the world. After the split, she moves in with three guys -- two of whom believe it's a terrible idea, but one, Schmidt (Max Greenfield), overrides everyone because Jess' friends are models. Once in the apartment, mopey post-breakup Jess is tutored not only by Schmidt but also by Nick (Jake M. Johnson), who had his own horrible breakup six months ago and is not over it, and Coach (Damon Wayans Jr., who will be replaced in the second episode). Also helping Jess is Cece (Hannah Simone), one of her model friends.
Viewers will want Jess to make it in life because, well, you'd have to be pretty jaded not to. This might seem like a thin premise, but creator Elizabeth Meriwether manages to make the situations funny and lets Deschanel channel her charm -- a winning combination. Although the pilot is centered on Jess watching Dirty Dancing multiple times to get over her split and the guys suffering her existence, there are more than enough laughs and enough potential to wager that future episodes will build on this little world.
Meriwether has a knack for shaking up the phrasing of jokes so they don't feel rote. And she mixes the easier jokes (the guys call Schmidt a "douche" and make him put a dollar in a jar whenever he does anything to confirm this) with more subtle elements. For example, Jess' social awkwardness is endearing when she gets a compliment like, "I like your glasses," and her reply is, "They help me see" -- without dropping an anvil on the line. You really do believe that Jess doesn't understand come-ons or the sordid ideas of men, which is why her new roomies need to help her out.
Like most shows this fall, it's difficult to judge where it is going based on the pilot, so every positive must be accorded an asterisk denoting that the whole thing could go sideways in the next few episodes. But a series like New Girl has that It factor -- Deschanel -- which makes it something to let grow.