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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Televangelist: 'The New Girl' preview

Heyyyy, its Zooey JESS!
  • FOX
  • "Heyyyy, it's Zooey JESS!"

As suspected, your enjoyment of "The New Girl" will depend largely on your feelings toward Zooey Deschanel. And not just that quirky, manic pixie indie girl Zooey that we all know and love, but a hyper-Zooey, who exists somewhere in between a hyper-narcissist with no social skills and a 10-year-old (or a 13-year-old, as Zooey herself said).

It may come as a surprise then for me to say that I actually do, genuinely, like Zooey. I own all of her music, I've seen all of her movies and she has really changed my understanding of wearing tights under summer dresses. But as much as it pains me, truly, to say it — the Zooey of "The New Girl" (her character's name is Jess but, really, come on - it's Zooey) is twee to the infinity power. And a good alternative name for this show would be "Three Men and a Baby."

Which brings me to the men. I'm not bothering with names because at this point they're just roughly, roughly sketched personalities, one of whom's name is his personality. I'm talking about the jock named Coach (played in the pilot by Damon Wayans Jr., who is replaced in subsequent episodes after his other show "Happy Endings" was renewed), plus the douchebag (literally, he's asked to pay into the "douchebag jar" every time he says something particularly douchey … which is often) and a bartender who is hung up on his ex until she explains that the reason why she dumped him is because she never knew he actually cared about her. This, incidentally, makes him stop caring about her to go run after Jess so she doesn't get stood up in a date gone bad. Erhm?

Jess isn't just a "New Girl" in the apartment, she seems to be new to Earth. There's naiveté, and then there's the genuine concern that someone can't actually survive on their own. Jess falls into the latter. The protectiveness that the three roommates instantly have toward her is akin to the feelings you would have if you saw an abandoned puppy. Sure, it barks constantly and isn't house trained but … Gosh he's just so adorable! And if we don't take him in, he'll probably get run over by a car!

I'm not giving up on "The New Girl,"

but I can't help feeling that the premise is better suited to film than a television series. For how long can the guys monitor Jess's every move ("Did you remember to shave your legs? Front and back?" one of them asks her in a fatherly voice before taking her out with them to a bar), stop perving over her best friend (who is a model) and engage in grand gestures of friendship when, to be honest, she doesn't really give them much back?

Here's hoping that future episodes help rectify some of these terrible wrongs - TV pilots, especially for comedies, are really asked to do too much to justify themselves. The pressure can be overwhelming and can lead to some extremely questionable narrative choices (and usually makes them the worst episode of the series by far). But most pilots end on a cliff-hanger of sorts that make you think, "Yeah, this show's got legs!" I just didn't feel that here.

My recommendation: Watch it for Zooey, and give it a few more weeks to find its way.

"The New Girl" airs tonight at 9 p.m. on FOX. Come back when you're finished and tell me what you thought!

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