Zooey Deschanel opens her bright blue eyes and begins singing a tune that goes “Hey girl/Whatcha doin’?” The background changes behind her and its revealed that other actors are moving around set-pieces like a music video. Deschanel continues singing her tune to finish with “Who’s that girl?/It’s Jess!” New Girl’s opening sequence screams of annoyance at first, then turns to charm later in the series.
Back in the ripe year of 2011, actress Zooey Deschanel’s career was practically soaring through the zeitgeist as both annoying and admirable. She was always in the acting world, granted, but her role in the indie flick (500) Days of Summer pushed her to the frontlines, along with being the frontwoman in her two-piece band She & Him. Deschanel was deemed the woman every boy dreamed of while being the woman every girl wanted to end up as; quirky, weird, and dreamed of…AKA the exact definition of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. So when New Girl’s marketing began to sprout up on FOX, promoting it as “adorkable,” and showed clips of Deschanel doing practically what she always does, audiences either jumped for joy or buried their heads into nearby pillows.
To be fair, I was one of those who wasn’t particularly fond of New Girl. Deschanel’s appeal had worn off soon after 500 Days and her She & Him project was only getting attention because of who she was in movies, not who she can be on stage. FOX’s marketing wasn’t helping any concern I or any other waning audience members had by not showing off anything other than Deschanel. New Girl looked to be stale, unoriginal, and a shameless capitalizing on the current Zooey Deschanel Explosion. Who cared?
When the pilot aired it drew 10.28 million people, an absolutely huge number in this age of Hulu, Netflix, and any other means of watching TV on something other than a TV. Despite being one of those millions who watched, I wasn’t hooked. New Girl was essentially the Zooey Deschanel Show with A Few Other Guys In There Too. Nothing special here! Move along!
Quickly, however, creator Elizabeth Meriweather and her team of comedy writers started molding together a comedic ensemble that not only made Deschanel’s acting chops much better, but also made the show a must-watch every week. That annoying opening sequence no longer was annoying, it was cute and fitting to the show’s overall tone.
By episode three, “Wedding,” it’s apparent that the show was moving towards the ensemble it was always meant to be. And by episode nine it was fully formed to make one of the great episodes found in the first season, “The 23rd.” The Christmas-themed episode found all characters working together to enjoy their own version of the holidays at Schmidt’s (Max Greenfield) workplace party. Nick (Jake Johnson), trying to do the right thing, ends up accidentally telling Jess’s boyfriend (Justin Long) that she doesn’t love him. And Winston (Lamorne Morris) is stuck enjoying babysitting a co-worker of Schmidt’s son, finding himself a nice job for the future. “The 23rd” propelled New Girl to its place as one of the funniest comedies on TV. That enjoyable feeling continued throughout the first season with arcs that featured Lizzy Caplan as Nick’s girlfriend, and Schmidt and Cece (Hannah Simone) hooking up secretly. All contributed to some really great comedy and moments filled with fantastic quipping off each other as each actor melds so well with whoever is their opposite.
As if it wasn’t already satisfying television week-to-week, season two kept pumping out solid episode after solid episode. Established pairings like Nick/Jess and Cece/Schmidt provided New Girl with go-to A-plots, if needed. But some of the best work comes from Nick/Schmidt and Jess/Cece (the show, for some reason, doesn’t care too much about Winston being front and center despite Lamorne Morris’ fantastic comedic timing), having the show embrace close life-long friendships that the current cynical television landscape has forgotten.
That’s where the show truly succeeds: being completely joyful and without-a-doubt hilarious at every turn and twist. New Girl’s take on the classic will they/won’t they pairing of Nick and Jess shocked fans when they saw the two share an electrifying kiss for the first time in “Cooler.” If this were any lesser show, the pair would have been together by the next episode and/or had a big fight to separate the couple for another season. But no, the writers knew who these characters were and just how’d they react to being a couple. Dancing around it just enough to fill the remainder of the season while also confronting it many times, New Girl satisfied viewers on their beloved pairing of Nick and Jess.
The gripping nature of the characters and their shenanigans ended up earning the show five Emmy nominations and plenty of nods in Top 10 lists for the end of the year. Hesitant fans found themselves hanging out with Schmidt, Jess, Nick, Winston, and occasionally Cece every week; hesitant viewers sang along to the once-annoying theme song.