New Girl – Season 1//
A girl comes back home, undresses to have sex with her boyfriend… only to find out that he’s cheating on her. What does she do next? As you would expect, she dumps him and later moves into an apartment with three other guys thanks to a Craigslist ad.
Hold it right there! If you’re thinking that this is going to end up in group sex because the above kind of resembles a setup for a porn flick, it doesn’t. Because who’s that girl? It’s (Zooey Deschanel as) Jess!
And that’s how New Girl begins — when elementary school teacher Jess ends up moving into an apartment with three single dudes: Nick (Jake Johnson), Schmidt (Max Greenfield), and Coach (Damon Wayans Jr., who is replaced in the second episode by Lamorne Morris, who plays Winston). At first, the guys have to adapt themselves living with the “adorkable” [see: quirky and bubbly] Jess, whose social awkwardness irritates them to no end in everything they do, and puts them — including her best friend CeCe (Hannah Simone) – through many awkward life situations. Eventually, they all get along, but they still poke fun at each other every day when it comes to life situations and relationships.
New Girl had a pretty rough start in its earlier episodes because the show was all over the place and had glaring problems. Jokes were hit and miss, the show felt juvenile to watch, and the uneven characterization — Jess’s adorkability gets overexposed heavily above everyone else — made the show grating to watch. The supporting characters weren’t much better: Schmidt was too much of a douche, CeCe was a “dumb hot girl” stereotype, and Winston wasn’t explored that much after his return to the USA following his time as a basketball player in Lativa. On the other hand, Nick was the show’s most developed character earlier on because he was trying to recover from a breakup — which went on and off — and the show teased a Nick/Jess pairing, but Nick came across most of the time as a whiney character at the beginning.
While the above doesn’t sound good for New Girl, and I wished the show kept Wayans Jr. because Coach was funny in the pilot (he left when ABC renewed Happy Endings), Season 1 manages to improve strongly in its second half when the writing gains momentum and all the characters are fleshed out better, leading the show to flow their story arcs smoothly. Jess’s adorkability gets dialed down enough to make New Girl watchable, CeCe becomes funny, Nick becomes a self-loathing yet realistic character in contrast to Jess, and Winston serves as the voice of reason among the group.
The best part of watching New Girl is (now Emmy nominee) Max Greenfield’s excellent performance as Schmidt. As Season 1 progressed, the writers succeeded in balancing Schmidt’s douchiness and goofball moments, but retaining his earlier characteristics and upgrading his comedy side. However, the best thing that happened to Schmidt was pairing him with CeCe. What started out as a “fuck buddies” thing escalated into a relationship and ended up being a huge hit for New Girl – Greenfield and Simone have great dynamic and chemistry with each other — as CeCe humanized Schmidt, while he ends up allowing us to view a more entertaining and vulnerable side of CeCe, who wants to triumph as a model.
Despite enjoying the second half of New Girl, I still have some reservations with Jess (Deschanel’s performance is okay). The writing team might have turned the show into an ensemble piece and dialed down Jess’s quirks compared to the earlier episodes, but she’s still a time-bomb waiting to explode. At any rate, let’s hope for Season 2 to continue with the ensemble cast formula because that’s how the show works at its best.