Pilot Light 2011: 'New Girl' and '2 Broke Girls' help begin the fall TV season with girl-girl-girl power

Welcome to Pilot Light, a periodic preview/analysis of new fall TV shows. These are not full-fledged reviews (those will come later), but rather pieces that will explore common themes popping up this year, as well as noting the strengths and weaknesses of various show concepts, performances, and time-period scheduling. First up: girls, girls, girls!

2 Broke Girls, co-conceived by the season’s new It Girl, Whitney Cummings, and the Zooey Deschanel-starring New Girl are among the first new shows that will premiere (Sept. 19 and 20). In the first, Kat Dennings (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) and Beth Behrs star as waitresses in a diner. The gimmick: Behrs’ Caroline is a wealthy young woman recently brought low. Her father, who sounds not-suspiciously like Bernie Madoff, has been arrested due to illegal financial doings, and so Caroline has no cash to withdraw from him. Dennings’ Max is just a working-class girl, but with Dennings, there’s no such thing as “just”: This is an actress who puts a wicked spin on every line.

Broke Girls, which Cummings developed with Sex and the City‘s Michael Patrick King, will probably benefit by feeling familiar (it is, after all, just a variation on The Odd Couple and a thousand other odd-couple sitcoms) while making a lot of racy jokes that sound pretty funny coming from the mouths of Dennings and Behrs. It also helps the show’s survival chances enormously that it’s scheduled on Monday nights between How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men.

Similarly, when it comes to programming strategy, New Girl will get some immediate viewership from the right demographic when it’s slotted into Tuesday nights after Glee. Why, Deschanel’s character, Jess, even breaks into spontaneous song! But, thank goodness, that’s not the premise of the show. Not that it’s more original than Glee: New Girl offers Deschanel’s Jess as a young woman who’s broken up with her boyfriend and, the economy and sitcoms being what they are, moves into an apartment shared by three guys, strangers to her.

Deschanel plays up Jess’ adorability to such an extent that at the Television Critics Association gathering in August, one member of my profession actually asked the actress, “When did you first know you were adorable?” (TV critics: We’re nothing if not hard-hitting.)

These two shows aren’t so much about girl power as they are about girl strategy: All three protagonists are young women who use their stereotypical “girl” qualities — flirtiness, mock-innocence, adroit manipulation of dumb males — to achieve some of their goals. In both shows, for example, a simple goal is achieved: By the end of the premiere episode, Jess, Max, and Caroline all have new places to live. Both shows, as you may have extrapolated from that goal, are also examples of whimsical looks at a very real problem — i.e., the economy sucks. It’s hard out there for a girl with no large amount of money.

Neither New Girl (which looks as though it will soon settle in as an ongoing tale of Jess and her new roomies helping her with her romantic, not financial, life) nor 2 Broke Girls (which can find it in its pleasantly hard heart to make jokes about Caroline’s displaced polo pony by the end of the first half hour) is going to be a downer about scrimping. But both shows work as comfort-viewing for an audience that cannot take security for granted — a far cry/laugh from the casually posh lifestyle enjoyed by, say, the supposedly not-wealthy chums on Friends.

I’d be curious to know whether you are intrigued by New Girl and/or 2 Broke Girls.

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Comments (71 total) Add your comment
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  • Templar

    Since I’m enraptured by all things Zooey, her show is on my must list. Not that interested in Two Broke Girls, it seems to be a new take on The Odd Couple.

    • Nathan

      With a much worse cast, can’t imagine sitting through 24 minutes of Kat Dennings every week. New Girl might make it for a season or two, doesn’t look all that good either.

      • quan

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        seeking a good woman who can give me real love , so i got a username btsua1 on–M’illionaireloving.C óM— .it is the first and best club for
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      • Linda

        Nathan and Tiim, and pretty much every one else, can’t properly analyze or process thoughts. Or else you would see that Zooey Deschanel’s show will be super regardless of the other actors because she IS one of the best.

    • High Horse

      What kind of name is Zooey? Isn’t it Zoey?

      • Jennifer

        It’s a boy’s name a la Salinger.

      • Angelina Jolie

        Both of these sitcoms look horrible because of the lack of diversity and foreign people. Watch my movie “In the land of blood and honey” if you want to watch something of quality. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go sleep with Justin Theroux. Can’t just wreck Jen’s home by sitting on EW!

      • Tim

        Zooey is so overrated.

      • not Angie

        Jen is a loser who is a bigger homewrecker than Angie. Jen’s marriage was OVER. Justin’s partner had no clue.

      • Angelina Jolie

        I completely agree with you. Jen is a complete loser. I have all of my six kids go to her house every morning and spit in her face. Of course her marriage was over. I mean I was grinding the corn with Brad Pitt, there was no chance it would survive. But let’s stick to the subject, which is these sitcoms. Please don’t watch those. Watch my movie “In the land of blood and honey”, which will be out in cin-e-mah theaters in the great year of two-thousand-and-twelve. Now excuse me, I have to sleep with Justin again. Bye bye, my little african children!

      • Diogenes

        the words you posted could have flowed from my hands to my computer. i feel a lot like you and sometimes i feel like i am the only person in atlanta not going out and crushing on someone because i am currently doing neither of those things. i guess you showed me that i am not alone in this city.

    • Alison

      When I saw that pic of 2 Broke Girls I thought the Wayans had turned White Girls in a TV show at first.

    • bruno

      deschanel is lovely, but new girl seems kind of like it got put through the cutesy glee formulaic system of ugh. it’d be nice if they were able to make it a little grittier and a little less plasticy. that being said, interested in what’s to come of the show in general as it’s apparently got a huge lawsuit pending against it as FOX apparently stole it from the initial creator.

    • lap

      Zooey Deschanel can be cute, right up until she’s so annoying you want to throw her in a pool.

  • Aprilcot26

    I’m really excited for ‘New Girl’…I adore Zooey Deschanel!

    • TJ. Church

      I like her, but that’s not enough to make me sit thru what looks to be crap. Why can’t she star in more movies, & maybe a Death Cab vid or 2, & call that enough?

    • Tim

      Zooey is B S .. get over it.

  • AJ

    looking forward to 2 Broke Girls a bit more. That may have something to do with it’s placement behind HIMYM. glad that hour will be an easy choice for me.

    • SCBR

      I will definitely watch 2 Broke GIrls solely b/c of where it’s situated (after HIMYM) but I will actively flip to New Girl!

  • ST

    Definitely excited for New Girl!

  • rock chick

    I like 2 broke girls alot more than new girl. But both shows are better than that whitney show on nbc lol

  • angeljake

    Look forward to Kat’s new show…

  • TV Freak

    2 Broke Girls looks horrible! Just the promo alone make me cringe. The acting looks forced and does not look entertaining or funny.

  • Gerry

    Like the actesses on both shows, but neither looks all that good.
    .
    New Girl looks more promising, simply because ever since Frasier and Seinfeld ended I can’t stomach multi-camera laughtrack sitcoms anymore.

    • Lala

      Of all the sitcomes on the air right now, only HIMYM uses a laugh track (guess that has to do with the flashforwards/backs). You are are talking about sweetning which is something different. To be honest, I can’t stand any of those single camera comedies that have been flooding our tv screens for the last couple of years, so hurrah for any good old-fashioned “standard” sitcom out there.

  • LOL

    America’s gonna love it some crap this fall.

    • not Angie

      Oh god. I guess we’ll get more “reality” shows.

  • kate middleton

    I want to like them both, but I thought the promo for 2 Broke Girls was awful. I’ll give it a shot though. Definitely going to check out New Girl also.

    • Preet

      I feel you on the grown. You’re older and wiser, and at a critaen point you really gotta say enough is enough. At the same time, you’re definitely not old. Don’t let youth be wasted on the young.

  • chris

    Since New Girl is on FOX, I will wait for the ratings since they like cancelling shows after only 2 episodes.

    • Brett

      We can only hope. Zooey Deschanel’s voice is a lot like nails on chalkboard. Her acting range runs from A to B. I’d much rather watch “2 Broke Girls” than “New Girl.”

  • MrFord

    Nope.

  • 1mars

    I was sorta interested in New Girl but all the adorableness and overkill promotion is completely turning me off before it even starts.

    • Nathan

      Really doesn’t look funny at all, it might survive based on the popularity of Zooey, kinda the way Ghost Whisperer made it so long, bad show, likeable leading lady.

  • Jorge Jose Herrera

    I am looking forward to both shows. I think New Girl is going to be funny and I am a fan of Zooey Deschanel and Leo Greenberg (Veronica Mars). It looks like a fun show. I am more excited, however, for Two Broke Girls because it does seem much more comedic and Kat Dennings is absolutely hysterical. I plan to watch both of them and see them becoming hits of the season because of the large buzz surrounding both pilots.

  • kevin

    Two “girlie” new sitcoms I’m not interest with. :(

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