This is not the first time I’ve watched the first season of New Girl. In fact, I know I’ve watched at least two seasons, possibly three, years ago.
Then, I stopped.
I’m not certain why, because I remember liking the series. More than likely, life intervened or I got sidetracked by something new and shiny and never made my way back to the show. Since the series is now complete, I’ve decided to watch the entire thing from beginning to end. I just finished watching the first season. Again.
This is a half-hour sitcom that revolves around “new girl” Jess Day (Zooey Deschanel), a quirky young teacher who moves into a loft in Los Angeles with three single guys. The three guys are Nick Miller (Jake Johnson), a law-school dropout who now works as a bartender; GQ-wannabe Schmidt (Max Greenfield); and, in the pilot, Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.). When the series was picked up, Coach was replaced by Nick’s childhood friend Winston Bishop (Lamorne Morris), who had been playing professional basketball in Latvia. I understand that Coach came back to the series later, but I never watched that far. Jess’ best friend Cece (Hannah Simone) completes the central cast. She and Jess have known each other since childhood, and Cece is now a fashion model.
If you’re unfamiliar with the series and are just now reading the premise, you would be forgiven for thinking this is just another Friends or Seinfeld clone, like many other shows you could name. You wouldn’t be entirely wrong, either. It has those Sein-Friends traits about it. But, it has its own unique charms as well.
Most of this uniqueness is due to Zooey Deschanel, whose Jess Day is always the central character in the show. I have been aware of Deschanel for many years, from Mumford and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to (500) Days of Summer, and she’s always had that quirky, indie vibe about her, which was perfect for her role as Jess. It would be cliché to say that the character Jess marches to the beat of a different drummer. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say she dances rather than marches, and the drum may actually be a tuba. The actress is genuinely likeable, in spite of her quirkiness, not merely because of it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the character came close to Deschanel’s actual personality.
I don’t believe I’d like this series as much if it was only about Zooey Deschanel’s character, however. The cast seems to have genuine chemistry, and each actor is doing their dead-level best to bring their character to life. Jake Johnson’s Nick is a true standout character, as the obvious foil and potential love interest for Jess. Nick is a young man with a cantankerous old-man’s personality, quick to lose his temper and overall the negative to Jess’s positive. Max Greenfield’s Schmidt manages to become a likeable character even though there are few things likeable about him and he has to frequently put dollar bills in a “douchebag jar.” Lamorne Morris’s Winston, as a last-minute sub for Coach, has his own set of oddball traits, and quickly establishes himself as a valuable member of the loft-dwelling quartet. By the time Winston was ringing those Christmas bells, I was a fan.
The storylines are typical sitcom fare. Relationships begun and ended, jobs won and lost. Misunderstandings, miscommunications. You know the drill. I will add that some of things that happen in the show are a bit more on the risqué side than in its spiritual forebears, but that’s just a sign of changing times and social mores. The writing is always sharp, the dialogue witty, and the story resolutions usually satisfying. As a sitcom, it is, of course, episodic television and the characters at the end of Season One aren’t appreciably different than when the season began, but there are definite story arcs.
Without spoiling any plot points, I will add that the season finale, “See Ya,” ended on a double high note for me. First, in how the storyline of the episode, and thus the season, ended, which I’m not telling, and for the soundtrack: AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.” Made me wanna dance the Snoopy dance, too.
This is good television. I’m looking forward to watching more.
Season 1 Report Card: A