First Impressions: New Girl

“New Girl” is one of the few premiering fall television shows that I have committed myself to watching each week. This detail, however, has more to do with a convenient airtime and a likable cast than it does with the actual product. It airs Tuesday at 9, a time when I could use a half hour break, and it stars the adorable Zooey Deschanel (whom you may know as the reason some brunette in your life has bangs), which makes it just compelling enough for me to keep watching. So far, I’ve found the show to be charming, but slight.

To begin, Zooey Deschanel—whom, I’ve found, you either love or cannot stand—is great, and reason enough to tune in. Her performance ensures that her character Jess, who might otherwise be too cute to function, is engaging and even somewhat relatable. In fact, I’m fairly certain that if this character were played by anyone else, the whole show would just come off as insincere and desperately quirky. With Zooey, though, the improbable seems normal, so that Jess can even break into a made-up song during a tense moment and I won’t roll my eyes.

The plot itself is rather silly: After experiencing an absurdly awkward breakup with her longtime boyfriend, Jess must move out of the home they shared together and find somewhere new to live. Rather than stay with any of her actual friends, who are all models, though, Jess wants to find a place where she can live with a bunch of strangers. She decides to move in with a group of three guys because everything in her life is so unlikely anyway. They decide to accept her because, well, all of her friends are models.

Jess and the guys develop an immediate rapport, which in two episodes has already resulted in their coming to her defense—and in the process sacrificing their own dignity—twice. Although Jess can hold her own to a degree, she is, or at least appears to be, something of a damsel-in-distress. I am hoping that, in the future, not every episode will end with her in need of their support, but for now I can still get a chuckle out of the public singing and funny hats that define their attempts at “rescue.”

Still, the show has a lot of growing to do. I can’t wait for it to move past its contrived premise and to allow Jess and the guys to develop a more profound bond. I also think it needs to get over the initial, but inevitable, rockiness with casting changes: the necessary replacement of Damon Wayans, Jr.’s character in the second episode was jarring, and it upset the dynamic that was beginning to be established in the first episode. The future of the show looks promising, but I am not sure if it will ever be anything more than cute. I have no doubt that the episodes will deliver on the charm, but I worry that “New Girl” doesn’t quite have the courage to compete with the shows taking real comedic risks. In spite of the silly hats, clever dialogue, and quirky-cute protagonist, I can’t help but feel that I’ve seen it all before.

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