What I’m Watching: The New Girl

The New Girl (Fox, Tuesdays)

Okay, so this is a show I didn’t expect to like. Zooey Deschanel is always so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with her twee little singing voice and her goody-goody cotton outfits and her healthy eating habits and her Death Cab for Cutie husband. Bah! I half expect pink bunnies to pop out of her perfectly coiffed hairdo at any given moment. Fittingly, she often plays characters that seem surprised if not completely unaware that they’re gorgeous and charming and wonderful and this “oops, you like ME, an already classically attractive woman, even though I like indie bands and nerd games and have doe eyes?!” charade leaves me with a case of the grumps. So much “accidental” perfection rubs me (the perennially coffee-stained and mustachioed old girl) the wrong way. More of the same is what I expected from her role as Jess in The New Girl, but this time I was wrong-ish.

Rather than a syrup-soaked sitcom, The New Girl actually plays out as pretty quirky off-brand fun. At times it remains schlockily familiar in its premise and execution, but for the most part I find myself really loving Deschanel as Jess — and this is the last thing I thought would happen. On the show, Jess catches her longtime boyfriend cheating and thus must move out and find a new living situation. She meets up with three dudes she found on Craigslist who ultimately keep her due to her friendships with female models. With each episode thus far we see the group forming a unit and letting all of Jess’s freak-flag-flying weirdness open up the too-cool-for-school man squad to new experiences and better self understanding. Yeah, all of that business is pretty saccharine, I suppose, but once more it’s Jess that I’m enjoying here.

With this sitcom set-up, you might expect Jess to need tons of help in the boyfriend department but this is not the case. From episode one, we know that she’s held her own in a serious relationship and when taken to the bar she’s quite capable of picking up dudebros for casual makeouts. One might also expect the magical transformation crap storyline that includes removing the glasses and applying proper makeup to turn the nerd into the glamour girl. Admittedly, this card does get played a little, but the cool part is that Jess remains herself no matter what she’s wearing or in what situation she’s placed. When pushed into a chic dress to attend a wedding she constantly points out how she has to wear little girls’ bike shorts as makeshift Spanx to look appropriate. Of course, the ridiculous shorties, and later her stupid chicken-dancing, go on to completely undermine her look of perfection. Add in her totes realistic and dorky dialogue and her penchant for turning any random activity or event into song and you might as well be listening in on any of the kick-ass women I know and call friends.

Is the show perfect? No. There’s definitely material with which to quibble. However, if I were to make a joke here about “The Trouble With Quibbles,” new girl Jess would totally snort-laugh at it. I respect that. And come on, as Zooey has taught us before, sometimes pithy perfection can be more than a little annoying.

Ana Holguin writes PopHeart for The Idler.

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