'New Girl' premiere review: Has Fox overdosed you on Zooey Deschanel already?

Watching the debut of New Girl, you may have been thinking, “I’ve heard these jokes before.” Oh, right: It was in the 21,875 commercials Fox offered in promoting the show, revealing punchline after punchline. Is there such a thing as too much promotion — specifically, promos that give away the best gags? Only the ratings will tell, but even if you hadn’t already downloaded it on iTunes or watched it on Hulu, I’ll bet a lot of you thought you’d seen much of this half hour well before it aired.

Not that Zooey Deschanel can or should be blamed for any of this.

She and show creator Liz Meriwether are clearly trying something different: a portrait of an eccentric as the lively center of a series. In another, less imaginative show, Deschanel’s Jess would be the wacky sidekick, the comedy-boosting help for the glammier star of the sitcom. Meriwether and Deschanel have moved that kind of person — smart, quick, cheerfully silly, unafraid to make a goofball of herself — front and center.

And it works. Deschanel comes with a certain amount of pop culture baggage — movie career, music career, Internet adventurer — but it’s the right kind of baggage: She’s like the more successful version of Jess, who’s so destitute after a romantic breakup, she moves in with three guys. Three guys, I must add, who are at present so uniform in their reactions to Jess I’m not going to name their characters until they distinguish themselves from each other. (This is New Girl‘s trickiest problem: It was a wonderful idea for Meriwether to avoid giving Jess a boyfriend — otherwise she’d immediately be just a 21st-century That Girl — but by giving her, in essence, three neutered boyfriends, boys who are friends, the writing staff has its work cut out for it to make these fellows compelling, not to mention funny in ways other than funny reactions to Jess’ funny stuff.)

I will steadfastly resist the temptation to call Deschanel adorable; indeed, what I find most charming about the character is that she’s sweet, for sure, but she’s also more than a little prickly. The brief flashes of irritation Jess displays — at being thought dumb; at being cheated on; at not having her heartache taken seriously enough — are satisfying. I hope Meriwether and Deschanel play up this aspect of the character.

The “Douchebag Jar”? As Jess would say, “Jeesh.” As a running joke, this doesn’t seem promising. In fact, it made me think that was the kind of thing I’d see on Cougar Town, and it’s likely Meriwether and Deschanel don’t want to go there. Instead, I want New Girl to continue to use its visuals as metaphors for Jess’ state of mind. The scene in the restaurant, for example, with a lonely Jess joined by her new pals, made for an interesting TV screen, filled to the edges with glum colors and the depressed air of a chilly place to eat alone.

The pilot, as many times as I’d heard its jokes, just makes me want to see next week’s episode all the more. To see how those guys develop (especially when Damon Wayans Jr. is shipped back to Happy Endings and is replaced by Lamorne Morris). To see whether Jess really is going to singsong her way through parts of the half hour. But mostly just to see whether the warm/funny/eccentric vibe New Girl gives off can be sustained. Oh, and I like the Zooey-sung theme song. How about you? I’d also be curious to know what you think about the whole ads-revealing-too-many-jokes thing.

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  • deedee

    I’m glad you mentioned the over-promotion. I felt like I’d already seen most of the pilot too. And I am also unsure where New Girl will go after this one pilot.

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      • UCH

        FOX is awful about overpromotion.
        They should be dedicating all of that energy to a show that deserves more viewers: FRINGE!!!!

      • Dave

        This show was garbage. That Zooey girl can’t act. She is so cute, then she opens her mouth and acts. UGH! I don’t see what the critics are thinking, except that she is the IT girl. But what is IT?

      • @Dave

        Agree 100%. Her acting is atrocious. She ruined (500) Days of Summer for me. She was perfectly cast in The Happening because that was nothing more than a big-budget B movie. You’re supposed to cast B movies with bad actors and they hit the jackpot with her, Mark Wahlberg, and John Leguizamo with the casting.

      • SNIKT!

        A bit MEH about the show so far…but thay may be because I’ve already seen it a hundred times over the course of the summer. But of course ZD CAN act – regardless of what angry old men and women fllled with regret who attack cute actresses on forum boards have to say on the subject. It’s no Raising Hope though, but better than anything I ever see advertised for CBS. (Two Men, Broke Girls, HIMYM….now THAT stuff is garbarge. Yeah that’s right, HIMYM IS crap people. Get over it EW.)

      • clearly

        Its an average show. The funny thing is when a girl is cute/good looking her mannerisms are deemed ‘quirks’ and are tolerated but if she is plain/ugly these mannerisms are annoying faults. If Jess was not good looking no one would tolerate her.

      • james

        Who cares.

    • Strepsi

      Initial reaction: good to watch again, but not as fully-formed and funny pilot as 2 Broke Girls. Damon Wyans Jr. is terrific, but I prefer him on Happy Endings (I love the trait of Coach though, that his only reactions are of gym training shouting).

      AGREE WITH KEN TUCKER: Zooey Deschanel is funnier when she is truly weird (singing under her breath like “Brick” from The Middle) rather than trying to be adorable…. because to me, adorable don;t age so well.

      • ZackBauer

        Hmm, I had the opposite reaction. I only watched 2 Broke Girls to see Kat’s rack, but hoped to be pleasantly surprised by the show. I thought it was pretty tired and felt sorry for Garrett Morris who was given terrible lines. I thought New Girl was pretty damn funny.

      • SaraS

        I totally agree — the boys reminded me a lot of the Happy Endings cast — similar jokes and attitudes.
        However the show was pretty funny and I would definitely watch it again. I almost cried when that one guy (?) decided to go help Jess instead of having the drink with his beloved ex-girlfriend.

      • c

        agreeting with ZackBauer, disappointed by 2 Broke Girls, and through New Girl was pretty funny, anxious to see where they take the show, and how the male characters develop. Douchebag jar was funny. think that one guy that keeps donating to the jar will eventually find his true personality.

      • asher

        I actually thought 2 Broke Girls was pretty bad, while I was surprised by how much I enjoyed New Girl.

      • Vinny

        I actually agree with all those who liked the show. Jess is a believable character and ZD IS adorable. I’m now liking her as much as her sister ED on Bones. Will be tuning back in next week for sure.

    • Cygnus

      Considering Deschanel is probably a higher paycheck coming over from movies, they have to get their marketing of her on big time. Liked last night’s ep. I think the pacing of the show needs some work. It felt broken and spastic at times. However, I liked the jokes, like the chemistry, and Zooey is cute as can be.

      • Jeremy

        I felt the show was a little choppy at times also. It also felt a little rushed. I chalk it all up to trying to show each characters personality and back story. I think it has potential, it just needs to develop the relationships a little better, as they seemed forced to me with no natural progression.

    • Winona

      Exactly – I felt as if I was watching a rerun. It will be nice to see next week’s show and hopefully not be spoiled on 90% of the punchlines.

    • bfd

      I’m willing to give it a shot. Just like the 2 Broke Girls show.

    • bruno

      i’m sorry ken tucker, did you say this show is doing something different? like what? putting the female front and centre instead of making it an ensemble? wow. how clever. it doesn;t change the fact that i feel like i’ve seen all of these people before (yes, even jess) and the male characters are such one dimensional stereotypes it was hard to watch and not want to hurt myself. there’s no chemistry with this group and the writing is sad. agree with a lot of others: raising hope is the much better watch.

  • Pat

    This show has FAIL written all over it.

    • Frizzhead

      Yup. Amen.

      • KC

        Zooey is soooo overrated.

      • UCH

        Sitcoms just need to die.

    • brandon

      Completely disagree. I loved this show. Totally hilarious and heart-warming.

      • rachel

        This show needs chemistry.. and the writing was really blah.

      • Yo

        I loved the show and loved Zooey Deschanels. I laughed for the whole half hour, perhaps because I rarely watch Fox, so missed the promotion.

      • Rory

        I loved it! I thought it was really sweet and funny. I agree though that the characters need to develop more fully – especially the guys – but that will come with time. I’m looking forward to next week!

      • no cars go

        i agree with yo, i almost never watch fox so i wasn’t overexposed to the show before watching. i really liked it, i felt like jess reminds me of a combination of my friends.

    • Strepsi

      I liked it, but Raising Hope is still far funnier (and was hilarious right from is pilot), and a better fit right after Glee with its candy-coated absurdity. I’d put Nw Girl on at 9:30.

      • G.R.

        100% agreed! I love, love, love ‘Raising Hope’.

    • Diane

      I thought it was dull and boring. I may give a second chance but I doubt it will be any better. I think it’s destined to fail.

      • elr

        My sentiments exactly! I don’t believe I even cracked a smile during the episode. Although, to be fair to the show I will give it a couple of more episodes to win me over, otherwise its gone.

  • jo

    Love the premise and Deschanel. The rest of the cast looks like it has potential. But, the direction was a bit weird…almost like the weird moments of a Robert Altman movie. The other problem is that we don’t understand why the roommates love Deschanel. They jump in her ring almost too soon. I look forward to further development and hope that the odd direction doesn’t derail the series. I see really awesome potential here. Good article Ken. First time reader.

    • Beauty

      Agree, it was so weird how they were all of a sudden her bff. It was a little rushed but I like it so far.

    • KC

      Because they’re men and all want to bang her?

      • Dave

        I would want to bang her only if she never talked.

      • @Dave

        I have the same feelings about Kate Gosselin. It would probably take a few strands of duct-tape to shut that mouth up.

    • UCH

      First time reader?
      You might want to research some of Ken’s other “writing”.

  • nellb

    ok, i know it’s the pilot, but shouldn’t they have reshoot the pilot with the new “black guy” instead of using Damon Wayans Jr in the pilot?

    Cause it’s kinda crappy to think that they are just gonna replace the one black guy with the other and no one would notice that the guys were different.

    • Tee

      I think I read somewhere that the new guy will play a different character.

      • ^

        Does it really matter?

    • Marissa

      They replace actors from pilots all the time, I don’t see what the character being black has to do with anything. Of course people will notice it’s a different guy, but they probably hope people will get over it quickly and enjoy the new actor. It’s not as if it’s easy to reshoot a pilot.

  • GiGi

    Boring Bye Bye old girl

  • wow

    lol i was thinkin the same thing when i watched the Pilot…i thought i had seen it already..soo many promos..yeah i think its really lame that theyre replacing Damon Wayans Jr. ..sorry Happy Ending fans…show is not going to last…tough break for him

  • Taylor

    I thought it was cute. I’m ready to see where the show will go!

  • Christopher

    Fail

  • G.R.

    I actually like Zooey better as a singer and songwriter (with She & Him) than as an actress, but I thought she was fine in this. I had a good laugh when she did the “ugly cry” while watching ‘Dirty Dancing'; otherwise, I found the show more sweet than funny.

    And I hope the male characters develop decent personalities in the next few episodes or so; they were kind of all-over-the-place in this pilot.

    • davey

      The character that took his shirt off over and over was so poorly written it was infuriating! The only male character that had any “realness” to him was the bartender roommate! I felt like it was trying to be a “Happy Endings” and just wasn’t working.

      • G.R.

        I’ve never watched ‘Happy Endings,’ but otherwise I agree. Multifaceted characters are one thing, but in this case the guys’ personalities (especially that of the one you mentioned) seemed to shift in ways that were more for story convenience than anything else.

      • Futurama

        Ironically, Max Greenfield, the shirtless roomie was on an episode of Happy Endings as the gay coffee shop owner.

  • Tee

    So far all the pilots for new comedies that I watched that are supposed to be so good (Up All Night, 2 Broke Girls, New Girl), I’m just not liking any of them. Out of those 3, I’d say New Girl was probably the most decent though. I might watch episodes online when they pop up and I’m bored, I don’t care enough to watch it live or add it to the DVR though.

    • sly

      agree … was disappointed with New Girl, Up All Night and Free Agents (haven’t seen 2 Broke Girls) … I did like Whitney and Unforgettable …

  • diana

    i love the show cant wait for next week I know meriwether and shes epic i can tell you

    • KWise

      I agree. I thought it was HILARIOUS. I will totally watch it again. Why are people being so negative here? it was adorable. I also liked the d-bag jar running gag. And a lot of the jokes were not stale for me, as I guess I don’t just sit around and veg in front of the TV all the time, and thus I hadn’t seen too many promos for the show.

      • Jenn

        Agree with everything you said KWise. I hadn’t seen many promos either, so all the jokes were hilarious. I had to wipe my eyes most of the episode from laughing so hard.

      • hayley

        I agree! I completely enjoyed the show.

      • lindsay

        I agree with you all. I don’t watch fox so I hadn’t really seen any of the clips. i thought it was sweet and adorable. I loved the jar, and I think more guys should have to pay up for acting that way. I actually liked the guys, and I thought they were better than most guys portrayed on television. I really liked it, and I can’t wait for next weeks episode!

  • Ash

    I was pleasantly surprised by this show. I think it has potential and I’ll be tuning in next week! Of the new comedies from this season I’d say New Girl is the best so far.

    • Milinda

      I totally agree. I laughed a lot. I want to be friends with Jess! And the ending with them singing in the restaurant was awesome. So funny and awkwardly touching at the same time. Love this show– but don’t really care for the d-bag guy so far.

  • SDSouth

    Zooey Deschanel is funny ! And so is the show.

  • Justin

    I thought this show was hilarious and probably the funniest comedy I’ve seen since Modern Family. The subtleties of Deschanel’s character are amazing. When she lays in front of the TV and watches Dirty Dancing, her new roommate comes over and turns the TV off, she just points to the TV longingly. It’s hilarious. The girl is quirky brought to a new extreme, but it’s so pleasant and fun to watch. I just loved it.

    • Justin

      I also don’t really get the complaints I keep reading about Zoey’s character being too annoying or too overly quirky. If the viewing public can stomach Liz Lemon and Michael Scott for years, there’s no reason we shouldn’t all love Jess.

      • KCatty

        Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because women in their late 20s/early 30s who seek attention by acting like children (Zooey herself compares this character to her 13 year old self.) aren’t endearing, but are just weirdly pathetic. And basically a slap in the face to real women everywhere.

        I actually liked the guys. Too bad Coach is out of there. Not that I’ll be watching again to know the difference.

      • Justin

        You missed the mark entirely. But it’s fine.

      • asher

        @KCatty – The difference between Liz Lemon & Michael Scott and this Jess character is that Liz and Michael have brilliant writers behind the words they say. Jess doesn’t yet, IMO.

      • asher

        Sorry, the above comment should have been @Justin.

  • george

    I just didn’t know at the end. The other characters need a lot of development. If the other characters don’t develop, I’m going to get tired of Zooey’s character quickly. We have to live with the guys week after week too.

    • Ken

      There were 3 room mates? The guys seemed to all be the same unmotivated fellas. They need development. Too bad Wayans isn’t going to be involved and the douche became nice way too quickly. Zooey could be another Lucy but you’re right she did seem stuck as a Marlo.

    • Strepsi

      Agree – and they need to decide if the handsome Jewish douchebag is really a douchebag or not (with his friends, he was cringingly douchey). He’ll be funnier if he is.

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