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Friday, 5 of March of 2021

Audition Review: New Girl – “Pilot”

Pink wine makes me slutty.”

While it doesn’t premiere until Sep. 20, Fox has decided that early preview sessions have worked so well in the past (Glee), that they would go ahead and unleash New Girl on us a couple of weeks early (What, Terra Nova still isn’t ready?!). Never mind that  because I’ve been drowning in promos for the series on TV or due to the painful fawning over her at the TCAs I experienced via Twitter, I feel like I’ve been on board a constant hype train for Fox’s attempt to prove that they can still do a comedy (Raising Hope in a minor, but charming, fluke, I think).

But I will take a free preview (it’s on iTunes and your cable provider’s on demand options right now; it’ll be on streaming services on Sep. 13) since it means I don’t have to make time for it while trying to sort out the new schedule. And thank goodness for that since I’d be kind of annoyed that I cleared time away from watching other shows to check out New Girl.

What we have here, in New Girl (where the hell is the ‘The’? It’s driving me up the wall), is a stab at doing a My Fair Lady-scenario where three stock character males (Schmidt: wannabe playa/frat boy; Nick: emotional husk of a man; and Coach: athletic black guy (who I’m assuming is being replaced with one sarcastic black guy) who will attempt to make Jess, an “ugly” duckling that sings to herself, wears overalls, and makes — the horror! — Lord of the Rings references into a swan fit for the company of your typical dude (instead of a dude that would be into the singing and the overalls and references to Gandalf and Middle-Earth).

Except it’s a fake stab at that premise. These three guys are no more capable of making Jess into something she is not than they are at relating to women in a way that isn’t somehow hampered by various hang-ups: Schmidt seems to work with all women and he overcompensates for his insecurities by removing his shirt in front of attractive women and saying douchebag-y things; Nick is trying to pull himself back together after a break-up; and Coach has problems listening and talking to women without yelling at them (because that’s not vaguely racist at all).

In fact, New Girl is really a reverse My Fair Lady: Jess, through her own adorableness and free-spiritedness, will make each of the guys (well, not Coach since he’s not going to appear again) a better man, a more secure man, a man that truly cares about the feelings of others. She’s already having that effect on them in the pilot, as they all rush to her aid and sing “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” to her in a crowded restaurant after one of Schmidt’s male co-workers stands her up (which is weird, since rebound sex was the states point of this date. Men are, apparently, so cruel and awful (“That means more breasts for me.”) in this narrative that they stand up women looking for rebound sex).

Am I reviewing the premise of New Girl more than the actual show at the moment? Yes. And am I aware the premises may change through the course of a series? Absolutely. It’s a necessary evolution in many cases for a show to survive, and just reviewing the premise of  show often slights and shuts down any future developments in quality and tone that the show might otherwise make.

But the premise is important as first impressions go (the premise of Lone Star, for instance, pretty much turned me off to the show), and I’m not all that interested in keeping up with New Girl‘s male-betterment/wish-fulfillment through Manic Pixie Dream Girl Jess.

So there’s the premise. If the premise appeals to you, then the pilot executes it relatively well. Jess, through Deschanel’s particular brand of MPDG, is exactly what you would expect, and there’s degree of confidence in that (“Doing something sexy with this plant…”), it’s just not my particular cup of tea. While I would probably find her antics and personality interesting, I certainly wouldn’t want to live with it.

Max Greenfield, having taken some lessons in annunciation since Veronica Mars, as Schmidt and Jake Johnson as Nick are both fine in their roles here, though I think the script pushes Schmidt’s character for cheap jokes too often (removing his shirt, the douchebag jar, discussions of motorboating (is that still a thing?)). But there’s room to grow both of them.

The jokes land nicely enough, though, again, a lot of them hinge on Jess’s MPDG personality, so while they work if you’re into that sort of thing, I found myself kind of annoyed by the overly-cutesy nature of the approach, right up to the singing of  “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” at the end. And, perhaps this is just an extension of my lack of a heart that I don’t find this particular brand of cute entertaining or interesting.

But I also acknowledge that there is stuff to like, if you enjoy this particular type of thing. The show is not bad in any way, it’s just not for me.


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