TV Review: Impressive ‘New Girl’ Perfect For Zooey Deschanel

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CHICAGO – Is there anybody in show business that knows their character and personality profile better than Zooey Deschanel? Her accessible, quirky persona – evident in “(500) Days of Summer” – scores big time again with the new sitcom “New Girl,” premiering September 20th on FOX. Television Rating: 4.5/5.0
Television Rating: 4.5/5.0

Nicely straddling the fence between slyness and heart, “New Girl” creates a post-modern and breezy twist on “Three’s Company,” except Deschanel’s character moves in with three guys, less innuendo and no nosy neighbors. It establishes right away the relationships – with room to evolve them – and makes the guys much more neurotic than the new roommate. The script, sex appeal and production values are top notch, and its funny without relying on a laugh track.

In the pilot, Jess (Deschanel) is a teacher trying to make things work with her live-in boyfriend. When first introduced, she is on her way to a surprise rendezvous with him, wearing nothing but a raincoat and a smile. When she reveals this, it unfortunately occurs when said boyfriend is making time with another woman. Forced out of her domesticity, she applies for and becomes the fourth roommate of three contrasting dudes, Schmitt (Max Greenfield), Nick (Jake M. Johnson) and Coach (Damon Wayans, Jr.).

New Life: Zooey Deschanel Unpacks Her Baggage in ‘New Girl’
New Life: Zooey Deschanel Unpacks Her Baggage in ‘New Girl’
Photo credit: Fox Network

The transition isn’t all that smooth, and the new mates living together has to deal with post break-up Jess, who has a predilection towards multiple viewings of “Dirty Dancing.” At the same time, Nick is also getting over a broken heart himself, Schmidt is taking his “metrosexual” bearing a little too seriously and Coach has some major communication issues. Will they all just get along?

The strongest element of the pilot is how quickly they establish the characters and how easily the actors slip into their roles. Deschanel shows off more comic chops than her movie appearances, and admirably shoulders the responsibility of being the title girl, even writing the show’s theme song. Her entrance, with the raincoat bit, is unabashedly cheeky. One of her quirks is that she bursts into song, playing her own Greek chorus. This sounds annoying, but Deschanel is so witty and charming, it captivatingly works.

The roommates construct their own naturalistic comic tone. Max Greenfield produces some hilarious gay overtones as the overbearing Schmidt, constantly adding money to a “D-bag” penalty jar. Jake M. Johnson’s Nick might become the will-he-or-won’t-he best friend with benefits to Jess, but hopefully the show won’t play that card too early. Interestingly enough, Damon Wayans Jr. plays the Coach character for only the pilot episode, because he has a commitment to the ABC show “Happy Endings.” He will be replaced in the next episode by Winston (Lamorne Morris).

’New Girl’ Cast, L-R: Hannah Simone, Lamorne Morris, Jake Johnson, Zooey Deschanel and Max Greenfield
’New Girl’ Cast, L-R: Hannah Simone, Lamorne Morris, Jake Johnson, Zooey Deschanel and Max Greenfield
Photo credit: Fox Network

The whole production has a crisp and funny tone, as rendered by series creator Elizabeth Meriwether. She is more relaxed in the sitcom format than her screenplay for this year’s film “No Strings Attached,” and the best aspects of that film are evident in “New Girl.” The pilot is directed by veteran Jake Kasdan (”Freaks and Geeks”), and feels loosely cinematic despite having to pack in all the introductions necessary in a premiere episode.

This could be the first break-out hit of the new TV season, with all the right ingredients in place to let it fly. There is little fault to a situation comedy that explains three guys and one girl as a “reverse Mormon.” Come on, knock on this door.

”New Girl” premieres Tuesday, September 20th at 9pm EST/8pm CST on Fox. Check local listings for channel location. Featuring Zooey Deschanel, Damon Wayans Jr., Lamorne Morris, Jake M. Johnson, Max Greenfield and Hannah Simone. Created by Elizabeth Meriwhether. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2011 Patrick McDonald,

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