Indie darling Zooey Deschanel is branching out to TV with FOX’s new comedy series “New Girl.” Deschanel plays the “adorkable” Jess, who has just awkwardly discovered her boyfriend is cheating. Despairing, she responds to a Craigslist ad, lets slip that she’s friends with models (really?) and snap, she’s moved in with three guys. So, three guys who know nothing about women have just landed a heartbroken roommate who spends all her time crying in front of “Dirty Dancing.” While there are some obvious glitches, the premise is workable and there’s real potential. This could be great.
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But as the pilot progresses, we see that Jess is that quirky, loveable, slightly annoying, I-don’t-know-how-gorgeous-I-am girl. Sound familiar? Deschanel is practically playing herself. And while she at least knows how to pull it off by now, the series feels way too focused on her. Sure, she is a huge part of the show, but is she “quirky” because she’s Jess or because that’s what Deschanel is famous for?
Putting the “adorkabilty” factor aside, the roommates really pull the pilot together. There’s Nick (Jake M. Johnson, “No Strings Attached”) the affable bartender who just got dumped, Coach (Damon Wayans Jr., “Happy Endings”), the trainer who doesn’t understand women and Schmidt (Max Greenfield, “Ugly Betty”) the requisite douchebag. Schmidt is a definite favorite — his over-the-top idiocy just might be endearing. Coach isn’t inspiring, but all is forgiven as Coach will be replaced by newcomer Lamorne Morris in future episodes.
The three guys show a surprising amount of chemistry together, so it’s easy to believe that they’re to be roommates. Even Deschanel’s quirkiness goes well with the whole setup. It works better when there are three guys to balance her out. And there are some genuinely funny moments, especially the scene in which the guys take Jess to the bar for a rebound. Deschanel pull off the humor adequately. It’s a new aspect for her, as her previous roles haven’t really called for her to play the comedienne. At least here, we see her stretching her boundaries a little. And her trying to use, “Hey, sailor” as a pick-up line is great.
Suffice it to say “New Girl” has good bones. It’s got all the makings of a decently funny half-hour comedy — it’s just not there quite yet. There are some failings: not enough really funny moments, the prominent cheese factor (at one point there is actually a serenade) and it can easily get too wrapped up in all things “quirky.” And yes, it’s way too fixated on Deschanel. But it’s easy to forgive her. Admit it — she really is charming.
No, “New Girl” won’t be hailed as innovative or leave a lasting impression, but it’s fun. For a pilot episode, the show sets up a lot of potential. Now it’s just a matter of waiting to see if the series can follow through. With a built-in audience of Deschanel fans, it’s safe to say “New Girl” will last a decent amount of episodes, at least.
If the series can keep its pep intact without overdosing, it could turn out to be a real bright spot in the new fall lineup. All that perkiness is sure to leave you smiling.