New Girl

Girl moves out of her ex-boyfriend’s apartment and New Girl moves in with three boys she met on Craig’s List. Such is the delightful primer for the pilot of “New Girl”, a zesty sitcom, starring Zooey Deschanel and created by Elizabeth Meriwether, that aired last night on Channel 4.

On paper, “New Girl” comes off all too “Two Guys and a Girl”, with an additional guy in lieu of the former’s former pizza place. “New Girl” reverses that formula, though; it’s less Three Guys and a Girl, more a Girl and Three Guys. This time, the onus is all on her. Zooey Deschanel, like her character in (500) Days of Summer, Summer Finn, is magnetic; she sports an effortless quality best articulated by the signature chat-up line of Crazy Stupid Love: ‘the perfect combination of sexy and cute.’ It might have been the poster of a sexy and cute lingerie-clad Zooey Deschanel on the side of a bus that attracted you to last night’s pilot, maybe you’re a sucker for (500) Days and thought it might be a bit like that – it’s not, really – or you just really liked She & Him’s (released not so long ago) Christmas album. Either way, there’s something about Zooey.

Unlike Summer Finn, Jess, Deschanel’s character in “New Girl”, is no smooth talker (more rambling and bad singing), nor does she have quite the same sexual pull. She’s not the cool new girl at the office, listening to The Smiths in the elevator and making out with a colleague in the Xerox room. In “New Girl”, Jess’s model friend, Cece (Hannah Simone), is hotter than she is. As Jess, Deschanel invites opportunities to take the piss out of herself, playing her as a bespectacled, happy-go-lucky klutz; doing sexy things with pillows and plants, burning her hair in a curling tong and blubbering at Dirty Dancing, which she watches six, maybe seven, times a day. Though she couldn’t be further from the voice coyly singing Christmas songs in the shower in Elf, Jess sings to herself a lot (she even sings the word a lot) and made up her own theme song, a slicker version of which makes up the show’s own zippy jingle: ‘Who’s that girl? It’s Jess!’ And who is Jess? Jess is the girl in the pretty LBD throwing the bad dance moves. Jess just sent seven inordinately long texts to her rebound date. Jess unashamedly admits to purchasing – brace yourselves – jeggings which, she says, ‘look like jeans but they’re really leggings.’ Jess is seriously funny and funny in all seriousness, while Deschanel does a great job of making Jess’s uncool cool.

While “New Girl”, like other sitcoms with singular titles – “Everybody Loves Raymond”, “The King of Queens”, “Frasier” – is centred around the main character, there is no “New Girl” without the supporting trio of boy flatmates who, whilst serving together as a tonic to Jess’s character, throw their own respective quirks into the mix. There’s Schmidt (Max Greenfield), the goon of the group, who stuffs a dollar in the Douchebag Jar all too regularly to compensate for his verbal transgressions. Coach (Lamorne Morris) is a personal trainer with, quite suitably, anger issues and, he admits, he doesn’t know how to talk to women. And then there’s Nick (Jake M. Johnson), the sexy and cute bartender guy in plaid and American Apparel whose girlfriend broke up with him six months ago and who Jess will probably end up with, her own unlikely Patrick Swayze.

Future plot predictions aside, one gets the impression that “New Girl”, with its unique group dynamic already coming through its shiny veneer, will take on the vein of “How I Met Your Mother” and “Friends”. It already shares some of the tongue-in-cheek bar humour of “HIMYM” and clearly follows the ‘I’ll be there for you’ ethic of “Friends”. Overall, with its balance of sexy and cute (what I might just give over and call Deschanelness), its serious funniness, and quite simply because Meriwether managed to pack in both a Douchebag Jar and Dirty Dancing in the pilot, “New Girl” makes a promising first impression for a sparkling comedy series, with substance.

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