New Shows, New City: New Girl S01 E01

Perpetual gamine Zooey Deschanel and housemates

Loyal readers (yes, all five of you), here’s the skinny:

Two weeks ago your intrepid blog-writer moved to Los Angeles, city of angels, shattered dreams, misplaced hope, etc. This move has placed me somewhat closer to the people responsible for the media I so dearly love to criticize. So my urge to eviscerate is dampened slightly by the vague threat of being black-listed. But never fear! I will remain a (self-) righteous arbiter of truth and beauty! Specifically the truth and beauty of the new FOX sitcom New Girl.

There are certain perks to be had as a member of the, ahem, film school elite, especially when one is paying the same amount in tuition that a family in Baltimore city might make in a year. (Can someone make me a LOLcat that reads, “Privlij! I haz it!”? Thanks.) These perks take the form of unpaid internships, grueling networking, and, of course, free screenings of yet-to-be-released films and television shows.

Tonight I got to see the pilot episode of New Girl, which officially premieres on FOX in September. And you know what? It didn’t suck. It was light and goofy, but generally pretty fun.

Now here’s where the truth n beauty come in: Impish Zooey D steals every scene she’s in with those big doe eyes that make me think she made an unholy deal with an anime character. An anime character who now drips enormous sweat-tears from beady rat eyes. So yeah, Zooey is pretty  beautiful, despite the thick, plastic frame glasses she wears to better impersonate an awkward girl. Oh honey, you’re never going to be the awkward girl, no matter how much bad dancing you do, or how many of your botched smiles turn into grimaces. But it’s just so darn cute to watch you try! (Incidentally, I am still undecided as to whether Liz Meriwether is mocking this ridiculous trope, or whether she genuinely thinks Zooey looks like a homely weirdo just because of some Henry Kissinger specs. Please, dear god, let it be the former.)

And the truth? Well, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that the premise of New Girl bears some similarity to my living situation here in sunny, flesh-blistering California. You see, Zooey (aka Jess) lives with three male roommates after a cruel cucqueaning by her fashion model boyfriend (Yeah, you like that one?). And I, too, live with three male roommates, though I seem to have avoided the tense situations that arise when one is in possession of a model boyfriend. Darn!

This fictional situation, and my real one, raise some interesting questions about fabricating narrative. The premise of New Girl sounds equally hackneyed and absurd, and yet, it could happen to anyone. With an adorable performance by Zooey Deschanel (or should I say “Adorkable,” like the text on the t-shirt I got in my first swag bag? Oh geez. It’s happening.), we can see how an unusual housing situation, coupled with a relatable but simultaneously pathetic main character, becomes the premise for a situational comedy. Personal experiences are magnified and details are invented, but the resulting narrative still bears a passing resemblance to identifiable events. This strategy ensures that even when we laugh at Zooey/Jess’s foibles, we can see a little of ourselves in her.

I’d wager New Girl will last at least a full season, but I am hoping for some healthy competition from Two Broke Girls and Whitney. But regular readers know how I feel about any show of this ilk: if the protagonists are women, and the show itself is mildly watchable, then I completely support these endeavors. Now if we could only see some non-white actresses in these roles. We’ll revisit the issue in ten years. Surely there will be more to discuss by that time (Unless there isn’t, in which case I will quit Hollywood without so much as a backward glance or an Emmy nom.) Until then, stay tuned!

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7 Responses to New Shows, New City: New Girl S01 E01

  1. Caylin says:

    It seems like television is the place to be right now, as writers continue to develop and create new and strong roles for women. I think what’s interesting about this upcoming television season is that these characters aren’t strictly seen on channels that are given more artistic merit, such as HBO and AMC. Also, I’m excited that the New Girl, as well as Whitney and Two Broke Girls, offer comedic roles to female actresses, especially since women in comedy has been such a huge topic lately due the work of comediennes like Amy Poehler and Tina Fey (and the unfortunate film Bridesmaids). It seems like actresses have been offered meaty roles on shows such as Mad Men and Breaking Bad, but channels like FOX, as well as other channels that show sitcoms, still have some some work to do. Another show that you might want to note is Ringer with Sarah Michelle Gellar. Though it’s not a comedy, it will be interesting to see if SMG can bring the spirit of Buffy to this show and play another kick-ass female.

    Regarding Zooey in the New Girl, I can totally see where you’re coming from. It’s hard to believe that beautiful doe-eyed Zooey could convincingly play a dork, especially because of her long list of playing the MPDG. I don’t know why, but I thought of Emma Stone in Easy A as I read this section of your post. Of course Emma was new to the scene when she starred in the film, but it’s now hard to imagine now that she could play an awkward teenager. Or maybe it’s just me. I guess my point is that Zooey Deschanel might be more believable in this role if she wasn’t “Zooey Deschanel.” So maybe don’t let those non-diegetic factors affect your opinion of Zooey too much. It sounds like the show’s off to a good start.

    Glad you’re back, TeleRevision!

    • telerevision says:

      Totally agree with your first paragraph. You also make some great points about distinguishing between Zooey and her character. I guess my perspective is a little skewed by 500 Days of Summer, but she is definitely a talented actress. I like that this show brings out a side of her we’ve yet to see.

  2. Danielle says:

    Will you ever report on the new hit series, Russian Dolls?

  3. Kat says:

    I’m excited for Two Broke Girls, and I totally agree with Caylin up there about roles for women on television. The women on Mad Men in particular get so much to work with! It must be amazing to be a female actor on that set. Except poor January Jones.

    However, the promos for The New Girl are so bad. SO BAD. That doe-eyed, lip-biting, plastic-glasses-wearing adorable awkwardness does not work on me, Zooey. I haven’t seen the show, of course, so I’ll reserve judgment, but going by those promos, to me it definitely looked like she was just doing the Zooey Deschanel thing. Which is letting her bangs do most of the work.

    • telerevision says:

      Yeah I saw a billboard for New Girl from the freeway yesterday and it was just so stupid. I’m not into the glasses/bangs schtick, but if anyone can make it work, it’s definitely Zooey.

  4. MoM says:

    I hope she wears lots of cotton. Nice to have you back so keep up the blog for us 5 fans.

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