New Girl: The Complete First Season (DVD)

“Did you just make up a theme song for yourself?”

Sitcoms typically come ready-made in certain types. There’s the marriage/family sitcom, the workplace sitcom, the high school sitcom, and, in this case, the roommates sitcom. New Girl takes the formula more or less established by The Odd Couple and/or Three’s Company, putting its own spin on it, with three typical guys and one outrageous woman under one roof.

Jess (Zooey Deschanel, (500) Days of Summer) recently experienced a bad breakup, and needs a new place to live. Three guys, who’ve never had a female roommate, give her the fourth room in their loft. Nick (Jake Johnson, Safety Not Guaranteed) is a bartender also smarting from a bad breakup. Schmidt (Max Greenfield, Veronica Mars) is a wannabe ladies’ man. Wintson (Lamorne Morris, Sex Love and Lies) just returned home from playing pro basketball in Europe and now has no job prospects. Together with her model friend Cece (Hannah Simone, WCG Ultimate Gamer), Jess gets involved with all aspects of the guys’ lives, with unpredictable results.

This episode list is on the rebound:

• “Pilot”
Jess moves in and the guys learn they have to adjust to her goofball personality.

• “Kryptonite”
The guys have to give Jess a confidence boost, so she can get her stuff back from her ex.

• “Wedding”
Everybody’s relationship woes come to a boil while attending a friend’s wedding.

• “Naked”
Jess accidentally walks in on Nick while he’s naked, and awkward insecurities follow.

• “Cece Crashes”
Cece has to stay for the weekend, and Schmidt sees this as his big opportunity to get closer to her.

• “Thanksgiving”
Jess has a crush on Paul, a coworker at the school where she teaches, so she invites him to the apartment for Thanksgiving, even though the guys have no Thanksgiving plans.

• “Bells”
Jess works with some children on their handbell music. Winston gets involved, bringing his competitive nature to it.

• “Bad in Bed”
Jess is nervous about spending the night with Paul, so she goes to her roommates for sex advice.

• “The 23rd”
Jess and Paul’s relationship gets complicated as the gang pays a visit to Schmidt’s office holiday party.

• “The Story of the 50”
Jess takes charge of Schmidt’s birthday party, while Nick starts dating a successful lawyer.

• “Jess and Julia”
Nick frets over his relationship with his new girlfriend, while Jess wants her help to get out of a traffic ticket.

• “The Landlord”
Jess is determined to get her landlord to like her, which complicates things for roommates.

• “Valentine’s Day”
Single on Valentine’s Day, Jess asks for Schmidt’s help in setting up a one-night fling.

• “Bully”
Schmidt begins a relationship with Cece, but she wants him to keep it a secret.

• “Injured”
Nick reevaluates his life after getting hurt playing football with the guys.

• “Control”
After discovering Schmidt does most of the housework, she encourages him to go on strike.

• “Fancyman” Parts One and Two
Jess begins dating Russell, the wealthier, and much older, father of one of her students.

• “Secrets”
The word is out on Schmidt and Cece’s relationship, with a round of who-trusts-who.

• “Normal”
Jess invites Russell to spend the night at her place, and worries about how her roommates will behave.

• “Kids”
It’s a case of bad timing as Jess babysits Russell’s daughter for the weekend, just as Schmidt and Cece have a pregnancy scare.

• “Tomatoes”
Cece questions how she really feels about Schmidt, while Jess agonizes over getting to know Russell’s ex-wife.

• “Backsliders”
More relationship woes are abound, as Jess and Nick are both tempted to fall back with their exes.

• “See Ya”
It’s a trip out to the desert to convince Nick to change his life for better.

The phrase “manic pixie dream girl” keeps being used in articles and reviews of this show. First, I love that a phrase originating from anime fans has been picked up by the mainstream media thanks to this. Second, it’s a pretty fair descriptor for the Jess character, whom the entire show revolves around. Jess not only looks like a giggly, hyperactive anime girl, but she acts a lot like one too. She doesn’t have magic powers and hasn’t been trained in martial arts since birth (that we know of), but she has that in-your-face style of comedy, seen in some of the wackier animes.

How much you enjoy this show will depend on whether you can get behind Jess as a character. If you love how she’s quirky and flighty and adorable, then you’ll be all about this show. If it drives you up the wall how she’s quirky and flighty and adorable, then New Girl is not the show for you. As for me, I’m somewhere in the middle. I found Jess’s goofball antics mostly amusing, but there were plenty of times I wished she would tone it down a little. Basically, Jess has no off button. Her bubbly attitude, her well-meaning meddling, her perky insecurities—all this is front and center throughout the series.

As for the roommates, Nick is the everyman, as most of his humor comes from reacting to crazy goings-on in the apartment around him. Schmidt begins the series as a wannabe ladies’ man, with all sorts of “playa” dialogue, but over time, he becomes the weird one among the group. He’s the second most outrageous character after Jess, and you never know what completely nutty thing is going to come out of his mouth. Winston is not as well defined as the others. Like Nick, his best lines often come from him reacting to the shenanigans of the week.

New Girl puts an emphasis on relationships. The characters are all broken goods in some way. Jess, Nick, and Schmidt are all reeling from failed relationships and difficult breakups. They find an unofficial support group among their roommates. Whenever a romance crashes and burns, these folks have each other to help them get through the aftermath. Winston is a slightly different case, as his “breakup” was leaving a lucrative athletic career, and stuck with no work prospects on the horizon. Just as the characters long for love in their life, they also long for a better financial situation, and there are a few episodes dealing with money, or lack thereof.

New Girl takes place in a heightened reality, with everyone living in an impossibly large and ridiculously overfurnished apartment that could only exist on television. As such, the vivid, if sometimes garish, colors really pop on DVD, with a lot of detail and brightness. Sound is deceptively good, mostly decent but occasionally really impressing with the surround effects, most notably during the hand bell scenes in the episode “Bells.”

Three episodes get commentaries, which are light and flighty, not unlike the show itself. There are two featurettes, one on the making of an episode from beginning to end, and one on the show’s fashions. There is also audition footage, deleted and extended scenes, and a gag reel.

In the pilot, instead of Winston, there was another roommate, Coach, played by Damon Wayans Jr. (Happy Endings). A line or two of dialogue in the second episode conveniently resolves the classic TV “pilot versus series” problem, establishing that Coach has moved out and Winston has moved in. You could argue that they’re the same character at heart, except that Wayans played Coach with a slight deadpan approach to the jokes, which offered a nice balance with the rest of the cast. Nothing against Lamorne Morris, who is fine as Winston, but I can’t help but wonder what might have been.

If you know anything about New Girl, chances are you’ve already decided whether it’s the show for you. If you’re looking for a quirky girly show about a quirky girl who does quirky girly things, then you should know this is a good example of a quirky girly show about a quirky girl who does quirky girly things.

The Verdict

Who’s that girl? She’s not guilty.

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