When only four percent of scripted TV shows feature LGBT characters, what’s a gay girl to do? Why, strap on your gay goggles and watch TV along with us, of course! Our handy appraisal scale is better than any old letter grade. Other sites A+. We say, “What about our lezzy-lady feelings?”
Reviewing comedy pilots is the weirdest, because with some very rare exceptions — The Cosby Show, Friends, Arrested Development, Party Down — it’s almost impossible to get a feel for how great (or horrific!) a show is going to be in 22 minutes. The episode has to to introduce its characters, tell us a story about them that compels us to come back for more, and make us laugh in an out loud kind of way.
New Girl didn’t fully succeed in any of those areas.
Fox’s marketing campaign was essentially, “Is Zooey Deschanel your own personal manic pixie dream girl? Well, wait’ll you get a load of this!” And the pilot is more of the same. I mean, yes, there is some story: When Jess tries to fulfill her boyfriend’s fantasy of boning a stripper, she catches him in bed with another woman. So she breaks up with him and moves in with three dudes to make a fresh start. But the only engaging thing about the plot is that it gives us license to watch Deschanel sing and dance and dork her way around for half an hour.
New Girl, like most comedy pilots, felt less like a production and more like an audition — luckily, Zooey Deschanel is on my callback list.
This is a tricky one. There isn’t a girl I know who wouldn’t fall head-over-heels in love with Jess. Trapped in a story inside her own head that she narrates via jingles? Yes, please. Glasses that only make her more adorable? Yes, please. Impromptu Lord of the Rings references? Yes, please. The problem is that New Girl is apparently going to run those quirks through the Male Gaze filter. I’m already not chuffed with Nameless Roomate #2 telling her to stop talking about Gollum, and it’s only going to piss me off more if we see the boys trying to sand down her rough edges to make her the kind of vanilla girl that Mr. Everyguy wants to date.
Jess is AfterEllen bait to the extreme. The Male Gaze filter is the opposite thing.
FEELINGS, FEELINGS, FEELINGS!
If a comedy pilot makes you feel mild curiosity, it has done it’s job — especially if it’s slated to air right after the most popular show in the known universe. Fox just wants you to keep your TV on. I chuckled a little at New Girl, but that’s pretty much the only feeling I felt. That and mild annoyance about the fact that I’m meant to find Zooey Deschanel undatable.
And here we arrive at New Girl‘s power rating! Zooey Deschanel is generally considered to be The Most Adorable, because Zooey Deschanel is, in actual fact, The Most Adorable. Jess is a variation of every character Zooey has ever played, all of which seem like a variation of the person she is in real life. Apparently, I’m supposed to find it pathetic that she saunters up to a guy at a bar and says, “How’s it going, sailor?” But I find it endearing. Like the “That’s Jess!” ditties she makes up on the spot, and the fact that she wanted to go out on a date in high heels and overalls. Also, the part where she asked for more free bread when she was being stood up for dinner. But the good kind of free bread. Not the “health bread.”
New Girl didn’t land a lot of jokes in the pilot, but it has potential. The cutaways made for some surprise laughs — especially a tweenage Jess singing Joan Osborne‘s “What If God Was One of Us” at a middle school party — and I’ve got to believe once they sort out the single-camera pacing, we’re going to get some more of those giggles. My favorite line of the night was, “I like your glasses.” “Thanks. They help me see.”
I want to laugh with Jess, not scowl while her roommates laugh at her. The second thing will be a dealbreaker for me.
Also, this seems like a good place to say that they really missed an opportunity by not having one of Jess’ roommates be a gay dude. There isn’t enough characterization to fill out one straight roommate, much less three. A gay guy would have made the story so much fuller and more fun.
What did you think of New Girl? Will Zooey Deschanel keep you coming back for more? Is she your own personal manic pixie dream girl?