Preview: New Girl

Adorable Zooey Deschanel turns over a new leaf in life - with the help of three men

In the US: Tuesdays, 9/8c, Fox. Starts 20th September
In the UK: Acquired by E4

There is a law, apparently, than whenever one refers to Zooey Deschanel and in particular her performance in her new Fox sitcom, New Girl, one must describe her as adorable. Am I a law-breaker?

No.

So New Girl sees adorable hipster Zooey Deschanel come home from work early to surprise her boyfriend, only to discover he’s cheating on her. She moves out and finds an apartment on Craigslist that’s shared by three guys. When they discover most of her friends are models, she’s given a quick invite to move in, and before you know it, the adorable, clueless-about-men Zooey is being taught how to pull and date by her new friends as they help her get on her feet again. And in return, they learn a little something about women from her, too.

Is there a big problem with the show? Well, one maybe.

There’s way too much singing. Cue the trailer.

Plot
NEW GIRL (working title) is a new single-camera comedy from Liz Meriwether (“No Strings Attached”) that features a young ensemble cast and takes a fresh and outrageous look at modern male/female relationships.

JESS DAY (Zooey Deschanel, “(500) Days of Summer”) is an offbeat and adorable girl in her late 20s who, after a bad breakup, moves in with three single guys. Goofy, positive, vulnerable and honest to a fault, Jess has faith in people, even when she shouldn’t. Although she’s dorky and awkward, she’s comfortable in her own skin. More prone to friendships with women, she’s not used to hanging with the boys – especially at home.

Of the three male roommates, NICK (Jake Johnson, “No Strings Attached”) is the most grounded. He had big plans for life, but somewhere along the way, he stopped caring and became a bartender. Usually the smartest guy in the room, he has an uncanny knack for reading people and uses humor to deflect everyone and everything.

SCHMIDT (Max Greenfield, “Ugly Betty”) is a hustling young professional who fancies himself a modern-day Casanova. Though his heart is usually in the right place, he’s always scheming ways to climb the social ladder and is driven by an immature and almost obsessive urge to be on “the scene.” Viewing Jess as a gateway into the elusive female mind, as well as a personal project, Schmidt encourages the guys to bring Jess into the apartment.

The third roommate, COACH (Damon Wayans Jr., “The Underground”), is a former high school athlete who currently makes his living as a personal trainer. Set in his ways and with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude to dating, Coach is most comfortable when he’s in the gym. Though he’ll never admit it, Coach’s macho athletic exterior is actually a cover for his shyness around women, and he struggles to translate his personal confidence into conversation, preferring to speak in sports metaphors – or not at all.

Rounding out this group is Jess’ childhood best friend, CECE (Hannah Simone, “Beautiful People”), a deadpan, somewhat cynical model who blossomed after outgrowing her promiscuous adolescent years. She has the street smarts Jess lacks and spends a lot of time doling out no-nonsense relationship advice that only a professional model could give. She and Jess balance each other well and accept each other despite their faults, making Cece the perfect complement to Jess.

As their relationships progress, the five friends come to realize they need each other more than they ever thought they would and end up forming a charmingly dysfunctional family.

NEW GIRL (working title) is produced by Chernin Entertainment in association with 20th Century Fox Television. The series is created and written by Liz Meriwether. Meriwether, Jake Kasdan (“The TV Set,” “Freaks & Geeks”), Peter Chernin (TERRA NOVA), Katherine Pope (TERRA NOVA), Dave Finkel (“United States of Tara,” “30 Rock”) and Brett Baer (“United States of Tara,” “30 Rock”) are executive producers. Kasdan directed the pilot.

PRODUCTION COMPANIES: 20th Century Fox Television Chernin Entertainment

CREATOR/WRITER: Liz Meriwether

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Liz Meriwether, Jake Kasdan, Peter Chernin, Katherine Pope, Dave Finkel, Brett Baer

DIRECTOR: Jake Kasdan

CAST: Zooey Deschanel as Jess, Max Greenfield as Schmidt, Jake Johnson as Nick, Hannah Simone as Cece, Damon Wayans Jr. as Coach

Is it any good?
It’s sweet. It’s kooky. It has a lot of singing in it. You can see why the adorable Zooey Deschanel decided to star in it.

But while it’s wry, quirky, sweet, etc, etc, it’s not hugely funny, more nice.

So you have the three room-mates. There’s not much point talking about how miscast Damon Wayans Jr is as a macho sports lover in this, since he’s perfectly cast in Happy Endings and that’s where he’s back to, come episode two, to be replaced by another character. He’s fun, he has some good lines – most of the best ones in fact – but he’s gone so don’t watch/not watch the show because he’s in it.

So let’s start with the other two guys. These don’t really come across as typical “gender clash” sitcom guys. Party guy Schmidt knows way too much about women, working in an office of apparent harridans, for one thing. He also has a habit of talking for too long, so that while he starts off well-meaning, he tends to end up having to put a dollar in the apartment “douchebag jar” by the end.

Meanwhile, Nick (Jake Johnson, who if he ever needed a job as a professional David Krumholtz impersonator, would get it without even needing to audition) is a combination sad-sack/bartender/sensitive guy who’s been dumped and still isn’t over it six months later. He’s the obvious new love interest for the adorable Deschanel, but as of yet, she doesn’t know it.

None of them come across as necessarily guys you’d ever meet, more a woman’s idea of nice guys, but they are close enough to real that you can imagine there might be guys like that somewhere. And they are nice. They’re not “a bitter and twisted woman’s idea of nice guys”: they’re a combination of what most guys would like to be and what most women would like us to be, tempered with a little reality, I think, and are supportive and kind to the adorable Deschanel.

Then there’s the adorable Deschanel’s model friend, Cece (Hannah Simone), who does very little as of yet but be model-y and mean to the boys. For a best friend, she hangs out with the adorable Deschanel remarkably little, but let’s see what they do with the character as of episode two.

But this is the adorable Zooey’s show and much of the story is about her. There’s not much you can say about the character, other than she’s an adorable hipster who sings all the bloody time for no good reason, wears big glasses and is quirky. She’s an everywoman who finds guys confusing, who tries her best in life and gets crapped upon, but isn’t so neurotic, spineless or self-centered she’s set to become the new Carrie Bradshaw any time soon.

The show’s both exactly what you expect yet different at the same. It’s clearly aimed at women, but it’s accessible to men. It is funny, just not hilariously funny. It surprises at times, even when it’s being predictable. It has some fun moments, especially the flashbacks. It has some clever meta moments, with Deschanel’s character making up her own theme tune in life, a version of which becomes the show’s theme tune. It’s a clear 1 or 2 on The Carusometer, probably losing half a mark for all the bloody singing.

I’m going to keep watching it, mainly for the adorable Zooey, but also to see how the new character turns out. I’m not going to absolutely recommend it, but it is very promising and you can see why it’s one of the few acquisitions UK broadcasters have made from the Fall US season’s new shows so far. Give it a try.