TV Reviews

When TV Shows Can Do No Wrong – New Girl’s Current Hot Streak

Hey, did you hear?  New Girl is apparently the best sitcom on American television right now?  Who’s that girl?  Who’s that girl?  It’s Jess.

New Girl Opening Moment

Yes, we’re talking about the show with Zooey Deschanel being all adorkable.  Zooey is named after a J.D. Salinger character meaning quirkiness is baked into her name.  She loves strumming the ukulele, plays in an adorably named retro-pop band (She & Him), and runs a website called Hello Giggles.  Plus, she’s always wearing geek chic glasses when it’s not entirely apparent she needs them to actually correct her vision.  Heck, Ruby Sparks, a film about a literal manic pixie dream girl, might in fact be the true story of how Deschanel was created (brought to life from the imagination of a lonely 20-something dude).   Plus, most importantly, can she truly not tell if it is raining outside without consulting her iPhone and whimsically asking Siri, “Is that rain?”

There is a lot there for people not to like.  However, I am actually a fan, although that might have something to do with having spent over two years working in a cubicle with a (500) Days of Summer poster on the wall and thus emerging conditioned to either hate or like her.  In the right role, she can be incredibly charming, and the role of Jess on New Girl is the most perfect role for her she may ever get in her entire career.

Which brings us back on topic.  New Girl?  It has legitimately turned into one of the best sitcoms going right now. They have entered that amazing period when just about every episode is kind of perfect, ala the second season of Community.

If you bailed on the New Girl early in the first season I can see why.  To this day Fox’s advertising does the show an incredible disservice as I’ll admit the commercials make some episodes look horrible.  The show’s shtick was initially Jess doing quirky things and the guys rolling their eyes in response, and it played like Dharma & Greg if Dharma was slightly less self-assured and into a foursomes.  However, what started as a show about a quirky girl and her roommates became a show simply about four roommates, each of whom are still struggling to figure out what to do with their lives. It also became a show which realized just what it had in Max Greenfield’s Schmidt  and Jake Johnson‘s Nick Miller, the breakout stars of the first and current season respectively.

Here are some of Max Greenfield’s best moments from the first season of the show:

Here are some of Jake Johnson’s best moments from the show so far:

As with most new shows, the first season was inconsistent but flashed encouraging signs of growth.  A multi-episode secret romance story line deepened and humanized Schmidt at a time when his eccentricities were bordering on making him unrelatable.  The show’s writers used a guest starring Lizzy Caplan to offer a meta-commentary on the debate surrounding the show at the time, specifically whether or not Zooey Deschanel is bad for feminism.  They ignored Deschanel and Johnson’s obvious chemistry and took their time building Jess and Nick up as bickering friends on a slow burn to the bone zone.  Jess dated an older man played by Dermot Mulroney, whose wizened maturity served to shine a light on just how far Jess and her roommates have to go before they’re proper adults.

New Girl Dermot-Mulroney-Zooey-Deschanel-and-Max-Greenfield-in-NEW-GIRL-Episode-1.10-Normal
To be fair, for all his maturity Dermot Mulroney’s character was not above a good old drinking game the roommates made up, called “True American”

However, the show struggled with over-exposing the character of Schmidt and sometimes forgot about poor old Winston, despite Lamorne Morris’ always game performance.  The less said about Hannah Simone’s Cece the better, not due to performance but instead that she had so little to do there very truly is little to say.  It became a good show, but there was still room for improvement.

And then…SPOILER ALERT…Nick and Jess kissed in one of the most electrifying scenes from any television sitcom this season.  The day after people were comparing it to first big kisses from television couple legends like Jim & Pam (The Office), Ross & Rachel (Friends), and Sam & Diane (Cheers).  But that happened at the end of “The Cooler,” which was the 15th episode of the current season.  Is that when the show’s hot streak started?  No, that’s when the show really grabbed everyone’s attention.  However, that show had been on fire well before that.

For me, the hot streak might have started the moment Nick struggled to explain the gift of a cookie.   In the fifth episode of the season, “Models”, Schmidt buys Nick a cookie just because he was thinking of him.  Take it from personal experience: the worst way to accept a gift is to ask the giver why on Earth they got something for you.  That’s exactly what Nick does which sets off an entire debate as to whether or not Nick is a good friend considering his history of taking Schmidt’s friendship for granted.  In the end, Nick purchases a replacement cookie for an unimpressed Schmidt.   Nick really thought the fued would be settled with this new cookie, and cannot compute that Schmidt is still angry:

That is such a silly scene – it is the near-climax of that particular storyline and features a frustrated, 30-something dude telling another dude, “Gave me cookie, got you cookie.”  It is such a perfect comedic embodiment of the odd inability of men to express their emotions to one another, as Nick thought buying his friend a cookie as an apology would get the job done even though it was something he felt silly doing.   It’s not something I could imagine any other show pulling off right now.

The show’s writers have simply been making a lot of good decisions.  They cut their losses with Jess as a grade school teacher, which was never as funny as it should have been, and put her through a bout of unemployment.  They also set her up in a character-broadening sex-only relationship with a handsome doctor.  Nick has evolved from an aimless cheapskate to a manically sad person who would practically live like a hobo without Schmidt looking out for him.  Winston’s gained a new job, girlfriend, and hilarious new characteristic: he simply cannot pick up women.  Schmidt & CeCe have become the show’s secondary will they/won’t they pairing, with Schmidt’s frenemy relationship with CeCe’s boyfriend Robbie being my favorite storyline of the season so far:

They’ve also infused the show with quite a bit more drama.  Nick and Jess had several surprisingly poignant conversations during her unemployment period, and Cece has had her timetable on when to settle down and have a family moved up in response to some surprising medical news.  The question of why these people are even friends has been addressed repeatedly, most specifically in “Models.”

Granted, not every episode has been amazing (“The Bathtub” and “Pepperwood” are pretty average), and they still don’t know how best to integrate Winston and CeCe into storylines.  However, the show has become so consistently funny and surprising that I love being a fan of it right now.  This could be the beginning of a solid couple of years of inspired comedy, or it could simply be a solid run of episodes before a lackluster race to the finish.  Well, right now my glass is half full.

If you want to give the show a chance the entire second season is available to stream on Hulu Plus and the first season is available on DVD.

Was there a particular era of a show where you were overjoyed every week to see a new episode?  Let us know in the comments.

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