The New Girl tells the story of Jess who is a lovably aloof, socially awkward, and incredibly naïve. After a messy breakup, she moves into a new apartment with three jockish males. Naturally, the men are trying to balance their own lives and relationships while trying to help Jess re-enter the dating scene… mostly because her model friend has threatened them if the highly emotional Jess’s feelings are hurt.
Jess is played by the lovely and talented Zooey Deschanel. As mentioned before, the character is socially awkward and naïve to the point of behaving childishly. While a character like this could easily be portrayed as being very annoying, Deschanel’s delightful personality and quirky manner actually succeed in making her likable. She’s clearly having fun with this character and it shows.
There is one problem with this character though – it’s tough to tell whether the writers want viewers to sympathize with Jess or laugh at her. The show is all about her problems and how she’s making her way through life, but she’s constantly ridiculed by her contemporaries. For example, in the pilot, she gets made of for quirks like randomly breaking out into song. Jess has a friend who’s a model that sort of anchors her behavior. The model kind of a bland character (and even though she’s supposed to be a model, next to Zooey, she looks very plain). But as a foil for the hyper Jess, she does work.
The jokes on the show are rather hit and miss. There were some good, laugh-worthy jokes, but there were also cringe worthy jokes. One of the biggest annoyances is the use of cutaways. Aside from being a cliché, the cutaway jokes on this show are incredibly mechanical as if the writers were thinking: “Cutaways are popular – especially on Fox. We better have some cutaways!”
The fatal flaw of this show is its male leads. These characters are so bland, forgettable and unlikable that their names will not be mentioned. They leave such little impression that only the most ardent of viewers will ever learn their names. Male # 1 is the sensitive male that we’re supposed to identify with. One can tell that we’re supposed to identify with this character because he has facial stubble – letting us know that he’s not just sensitive, but he’s also a rebel! He’s the one character – other than her best friend – who’s supportive of Jess, but the problem is he’s too transparent! This character couldn’t be more transparent if were played by Claude Rains. No doubt, even Ray Charles can see the forced romance brewing between him and Jess – and he’s blind… and dead.
Male # 2 is a gym instructor who has problems talking to people because he’s used to yelling at them. That’s about it. The absolute worst is Male # 3 who is such an obnoxious frat boy stereotype that he has a “d-bag” jar where he has to put a dollar in every time he does or says anything obnoxious. To add insult to injury, he brings more obnoxious frat boy stereotypes along for the ride! The problem with characters like these is that if the other characters on the show find these people annoying, the audience finds them annoying! It’s as if the writers thought that instead of making the other characters endearing, they would throw in a gaggle of aggravating stereotypes so the other characters would seem likable by comparison. While Zooey does a lot to make her character work, the only way the actors playing these characters could make their characters work is to rewrite them.
Is the New Girl a complete loss? Certainly not, Zooey Deschael is genuinely likable as the lead and there are some jokes that work. However, the show is bogged down by too many predictable jokes, too many clichés, and obnoxious supporting characters.