When it was originally on: 2011-2018
Original network: Fox
Where you can stream it now: Netflix
Had I seen it before: I think I’d seen this first episode, but not much of the series beyond this.
What IMDb says: After a bad break-up, Jess, an offbeat young woman, moves into an apartment loft with three single men. Although they find her behavior very unusual, the men support her – most of the time.
Why I picked it: The short version is “I knew I wanted shows from all of the Big 4 networks, and this was as good of a Token Fox Show as any.”
The long version is that this is one of those series where I didn’t know anyone watching it while it was actually on, but I feel like now there’s an army of passionate fans. Maybe that’s the show gaining more traction through Netflix as the ’10s went on, or maybe it’s just one of those shows that’s always had a massive following without ever being quite as trendy or buzzworthy as the other comedies of the ’10s. I also think that sitcoms have never really been part of the Fox brand in quite the same they’ve been part of other network brands. It’s not to say they haven’t had good sitcoms, just that there’s never been a Fox equivalent to a ABC’s TGIF lineup or NBC’s “Must See TV.” Perhaps New Girl is just as good as what the other networks were offering, but was on a network that wasn’t attracting a sitcom-friendly audience. Netflix’s comparatively even playing field gave the show a better shot. It’s also a pretty youth-oriented show airing a a time when young people’s TV habits were evolving at a far faster pace than older generations.
All of this is to say that New Girl is a show that seems fairly popular, but perhaps didn’t get the fairest of shakes when it first premiered. I honestly don’t know. I do know that it’ll be interesting to see if the show’s charm was evident in the pilot, or if perhaps it needed a few more episodes to hit its stride.
What I liked: I like how this pilot is relatively quick to just accept that Jess is going to move in with these three guys. I can see a lesser version having them all waffle back and forth about whether or not a female roommate in an otherwise all-male house is a good idea, which would be silly given that we all know that’s the premise of the show and it’s a waste of everyone’s time to pretend it isn’t. Instead, the show can get right into establishing what kind of relationship these four are going to have moving forward, and they do a solid job with that.
I also love how they let the four of them have a cute, fun, mostly platonic energy. One of the questions on my mind here is “which of these guys is Jess going to eventually date?” not necessarily because of anything that happens in the pilot, but simply because I know tv sitcoms usually work. New Girl isn’t it THAT big a rush to throw Jess into a will-they-won’t-they with one of her male roommates even though all three of them are single. It’s okay with letting them be friends, and understands that any relationships that might happen later will be more interesting if they establish the friendship first. Rather than letting one man “rescue” Jess from getting stood up on her date, it has all three of them show up together as a united front. These three dudes are committed to their friendship with their new roommate in a way that’s pretty wholesome and adorable.
It also does a great job of letting all three men feel like three distinct separate identities that are all somewhat archetypical, yet still original. For example, I love making the personal trainer the one who doesn’t know how to talk to girls and is self conscious about it. They’re all quite different, yet I never doubt that they have a genuine friendship with each other. It’s also endearing how these men are positive influences on each other. They made one of these guys, Schmidt, somewhat douchy, but they have Nick and Coach call him out with the “douchebag jar.” I think having this kind of somewhat questionable humor/objectification of women was a little more palatable because there were other men policing the bad behavior, and I know it’s not going to fall entirely on Jess fight such battles. I couldn’t help but compare this show to The Big Bang Theory, because it’s basically the same premise but with a dorky girl and “normal” guys, and Howard’s unwanted advances on women almost always go unchecked by the other men. New Girl found a convenient little cheat code her in having other men call Schmidt out thus avoiding this problem, or at least not having that problem to quite the same extent.
What I didn’t like: I want to like Jess more than I do. Unfortunately… the show never really trusts me to just accept that Jess is awkward and quirky. No no, surely I need more one more example of Jess’s awkward quirkiness to finally understand her. Rather than fleshing Jess out into a fully formed human, they chose to beat me over the head with the same personality traits over and over again in a way that’s supposed to be cute, but I found kind of grating. Humor is highly subjective, and a lot of will people will disagree with me on this on many shows outside of New Girl, but “awkward” does not automatically equal “funny.” Too often, New Girl rejects actual jokes in favor of Jess doing something awkward and uncomfortable, and then the squad of guys saying some version of “eww, that’s awkward and uncomfortable.”
Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Possibly? I didn’t hate this, but there’s so many sitcoms I’d reach for first.