We have high hopes for Ringer, Pan Am, and Person of Interest. We’ve pretty much decided against watching The Playboy Club. But, as of this morning, we were still on the fence about investing any time in New Girl, the Fox sitcom that stars Zooey Deschanel as a woman who moves into an apartment full of guys after breaking up with her cheating boyfriend. So we’re thankful that iTunes has given us the opportunity to download the pilot at no charge. Check it out yourself here, then follow along with our first impressions after the jump and add your own in the comments.
New Girl asks a lot of its audience: Not only do we have to suspend our disbelief and try to imagine the gorgeous Zooey Deschanel as a quirky nerd with no game, but we’re also supposed to buy that such a character would have a slew of model friends. And yet, we’d easily shrug off the implausible premise if the show actually made us laugh.
The first episode of New Girl opens with Jess (Deschanel), coached by her model best friend Cece (Hannah Simone), dancing naked with a sofa cushion, in an awkward attempt to fulfill her boyfriend’s stripper fantasy. She doesn’t realize until it’s too late that he’s just been in bed with another girl, who’s still there to witness her humiliating routine.
Thankfully, the show spares us the boring details of the break-up and fast forwards to Jess’s search for a new apartment. In an interview to share a beautiful space with three guys, she confesses that she’s a teacher who often brings work home, will be watching Dirty Dancing constantly, and likes to sing to herself. Their decision to reject her seems easy — until she brings up that tiny detail of her model friends. That isn’t enough to sway the cast’s designated alpha athlete, Coach (Damon Wayans, Jr.), or nice-guy-who-can’t-get-over-his-ex, Nick (Jake M. Johnson), but it sure works on their douche bag roommate, Schmidt (Max Greenfield), who convinces the other two to let Jess move in.
From there, the episode is mostly “Men are like this, women are like that” jokes (here’s Jess sobbing in front of the TV screen; there’s Schmidt babbling nonsensically about “teabagging” when faced with Cece), as the guys endure Jess’s kookiness and coach her in searching for a rebound hookup. Then, with no warning and for barely any reason, it wraps up with the new roommates coming together to support Jess when a date stands her up — they even overcome their inhibitions to sing “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” to her! It’s all so adorable you could almost throw up.
If all of this sounds like it happens a bit too quickly, well, it certainly feels that way. We assumed that a big part of this show would entail Jess and the guys learning to like each other, but the writers seem to be selling them as a tight-knit group from the get-go. So, what happens next?
Meanwhile, the contradictions in Jess’s character become even more difficult to swallow as the episode progresses. This is a woman who spouts Lord of the Rings references, tucks her skirt into her underpants, can’t manage an alluring smile… and hangs out solely with models? Really? We’re sure that Deschanel’s schtick is supposed to read as cute — as is the show’s tongue-in-cheek intro — but it’s so over-the-top that it comes across as twee rather than charming. The guys are a bit more believable as characters, but they also seem totally one-dimensional, and as a group the roommates are nothing more compelling than a generic group of young, straight men. Put it all together and you’ve got a cast that ranges from irritating to boring.
New Girl doesn’t seem beyond help — many of the problems we’ve mentioned are common in pilots and can be solved with character development and strong story lines as the show progresses. Then again, things could also devolve even further from here. So, one episode in, we’re back where we started: We want to like New Girl but we just don’t know yet whether it’s going to prove worth our while. What do you think, readers? Has it captured your attention, or will you be spending your TV time elsewhere?