The Bottom Line
- Stars Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield, Lamorne Morris, Hannah Simone
- Created by Liz Meriwether
- Premiere airs Tuesday, September 20, 2011, at 9 p.m. EST
Jess dresses badly and likes to sing to herself at random times and makes inappropriate jokes and has a tendency to watch Dirty Dancing over and over again when she’s depressed, all of which are things that might make most people kind of unappealing, but it’s not hard to see why Jess, as portrayed by Deschanel, immediately ingratiates herself to her three new male roommates. They take her in after she discovers her live-in boyfriend in bed with another woman, and they do their best to help her get over the heartbreak. Jess’ broken heart is a key plot point of the show’s first episode and provides for some humorous moments, but it could become kind of a weight that drags things down in the long run. The same goes for the broken heart nursed by Jess’ roommate Nick (Jake Johnson), a sensitive guy who’s still pining away for his own ex (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Mary Elizabeth Ellis).
There’s also potential danger in the Jess/Nick pairing, which seems like it’s being set up for future romantic tension. Obviously a show in which a woman rooms with three men is ripe for that sort of thing, but New Girl is best when it portrays Jess and her roommates as just friends. Bro-tastic roommate Schmidt (Max Greenfield) is a little overly aggressive (a running gag has him putting money in a “douchebag jar” whenever he acts like, well, a douchebag), and third roommate Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.) is set to be written out after the first episode, since Wayans is a little busy starring in Happy Endings on ABC. It’s not clear how the new third roommate (played by Lamorne Morris and set to show up in the second episode) may change the dynamic.
For now that dynamic is pretty good, although it could easily go in the wrong direction over time. Jess’ cutesiness, too, could get mighty irritating, no matter how adorable Deschanel can be. It’s a good sign that creator Liz Meriwether (screenwriter of No Strings Attached) spends time in the pilot developing the other characters, so that even though the title refers to Jess, the roommates all have their own storylines and distinctive personalities. Jess’ best female friend Cece (Hannah Simone) gets minimal screen time in this episode, but she too seems like she has potential. That’s where New Girl is after one episode: Full of potential for entertaining developments, but also carrying significant potential for a descent into annoying quirkiness. Meriwether, Deschanel and the rest of the cast will have to stay vigilant to make sure the show doesn’t head off in the wrong direction.