I can’t be the only person out there who kind of detested Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer. Apart from being generally being a bit of an awful person, constantly leading poor old Jospeph Gordon-Levitt on before toying with him constantly, singing weakly to ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’, dumping him harshly saying she can’t have relationships then getting married…. well, wasn’t Summer just a bit too quirky and unreal for everyone? Well brace yourselves: in New Girl she is Summer times a billion, moving the ‘quirky’ lever from endearing to a teensy bit unbearable.
In New Girl Deschanel is Jess, a young woman who finds out her boyfriend is having an affair, so she moves in (for some reason never really explained) with three single men of varying stereotypes. And they only let her move in because her best friend is a model. During this pilot episode, the guys decide to try and help Jess rebound, she has numerous failings before being led on by one of the guys’ workmates who abandons her in favour of a party, but the fellas are nice guys and go to the restaurant and act all quirky by singing/shouting the words of ‘Time of My Life’ from Dirty Dancing to cheer Jess up in true light-hearted comedy style.
The worstthing about this comedy is that Deschanel doesn’t attempt to break out of her role as the kookiest girl on the block – Jess is occasionally (very, very occasionally) quite human and vulnerable, but this is spoiled by her insistence that watching Dirty Dancing six times a day and waiting outside of doors in flared red dresses with hands on hips is normal behaviour. Now, I occasionally sing to myself, talk to myself and think crazy things (quite often asking very ridiculous questions that are pointless but seem good at the time) but in Jess these qualities are exaggerated in the extreme. Surely no-one would think that wearing dungarees constitutes a ‘sexy farmgirl’ look.
Alongside Jess, the rather 2-D men are quite appealing (despite the very set types of douchebag, angry gym guy and semi-geek). It’s a shame we don’t really know any of their names apart from Schmidt though – it seems as if Jess’s overbearing nature got in the way of me learning the names of Mr. Semi-Geek and Mr. Angry-Gym-Guy. Still, the best interludes of actual comedy and genuine wit came from the men, particularly the 30 Rock-style flashbacks and recollections. Mr.Gym-Guy had the best 20 seconds of the whole episode when he shouts encouragement at a customer in a very aggressive style. Aside from this, the men could actually live up to their own failings: Schmidt is more than happy to put money in the Douchebag Jar when he leers over Jess’s model friend, at least being able to admit that he’s a bit of a creepy wannabe-lothario. Too bad Jess couldn’t just admit that she was acting a bit too weirdly.
These incredibly short glimmers of hope gave the best impression of what New Girl could be – a kind of buddy-bromance-come-romance with witty insights and, y’know, funny jokes. Okay, this isn’t the type of comedy that has set-up punchlines, which is absolutely fine if actually done right with wit, but New Girl lacks that entirely. Then again, should we expect anything less from a show sponsored by a Nina Ricci perfume that uses a very flowery version of the already fairly flowery ‘Sunday Girl’?
Don’t get me wrong here: Zooey is lovely and endearing in the right circumstances. Summer was a character, not the real Zooey (obviously) but she wasn’t a Deschanel creation – New Girl was created by Deschanel. Could we just have more of She & Him? They’re the acceptable Zooey level: whimsical yet comforting. New Girl could have been a great comedy, but it lacks the charm that Deschanel puts into her musical career.