Has Zooey Deschanel Jumped the Adorable Plush Shark?


The reviews are in on Fox’s New Girl, which premiered last night after Glee (to even better ratings) and which we found disappointing after watching an online sneak preview of the show earlier this month. While critics are split on the show — some find it charming and funny, while others call it irritating and trite — what’s most intriguing about their reviews is that most serve as a referendum on its lead, Zooey Deschanel. Famous for her hipster style and quirky, girlie personality, Deschanel is the kind of actress who some adore and others despise. As New Girl‘s Jess, she is everything her fans love and her detractors hate, turned up to 11. This distillation of Zooey-ness to its rawest and most potent essence has many critics wondering whether she’s jumped the shark, and if she’s liable to turn off even those who like her with a character who’s so unbelievably — as the show’s marketing campaign puts it “adorkable.” We’ve rounded up a few of the most interesting critiques after the jump.

After reminding us that Zooey Deschanel is the living embodiment of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and suggesting that it’s time to retire the archetype (hear, hear!), Salon’s Matt Zoller Seitz observes:

[T]here are times in tonight’s pilot where Deschanel’s character, Jessica Day — a goofy, highly emotional quasi-basket case recovering from a busted relationship with a cheater named Spencer — seems as though what she needs isn’t True Love, but tough love, or very strong medication.

David Wiegland of the San Francisco Chronicle agrees that, due to Deschanel’s annoying affectations, Jess reads as more mentally ill than cute:

At the center of this testosterone whirlwind is goofy, lovable, please-make-her-shut-up Jess. Awkward is one thing, but Deschanel ramps up the weird habits (making up bits of songs about herself at any given moment), squawking animalistic vocal interjections, spastic dance moves and rubbery facial expressions to the point of overkill within the first 10 minutes of the show.

Meanwhile, at AOL TV, Maureen Ryan touches on Deschanel’s love-her-or-hate-her quirkiness, noting that she’s a small-doses actress even for those who, like the writer, enjoy her:

The rather sunny ending of New Girl doesn’t feel earned, and your enjoyment level may depend on how much you can tolerate Zooey Deschanel’s doofy charisma. Personally, I think Deschanel has undeniable appeal as an actress, but the writers have to quickly make Jess a more real, three-dimensional person or she could become intolerable. Deschanel is the cilantro of actresses — just the right amount is tasty, but too much is a disaster.

Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe picks up on this theme, assigning New Girl two grades: an A- for those who, like the author, enjoy Deschanel, and a “D” for “Zooey haters” who “dislike her hipster adorability.” Newday‘s Verne Gay agrees: “If you love Zooey Deschanel, this one’s for you. If not, a pass,” he writes, pointing out that the character comes on too strong and weird and yet also toothless to be tolerable for long.