Fox’s debut sitcom New Girl continues tonight. The show stars Zooey Deschanel from (500) Days of Summer as “an offbeat and adorable girl in her late 20s who, after a bad breakup, moves in with three single guys.” Hey, thanks for the logline, Fox.com! That sounds hilarious!
How offbeat and adorable is Zooey Deschanel as Jess Day? Wow. How much time do you have? The first episode is an absolute assault of offbeat adorableness, starting with the cringe-worthy credit sequence of Zooey making various “cutesy” faces at the camera. Still watching?
After that, Zooey tries (and fails) to be seductive. She walks around with her shirt tucked into her underwear. She sings theme songs to herself. She burns her hair. She dances silly. She cries during Dirty Dancing. And she references Lord of the Rings.
Oh, she’s just so … adorkable!
Except she isn’t. She’s pretty much just being Liz Lemon. Only younger and hotter.
In fact, I’d bet real money that there was a production note at some point that said exactly that. “Make her more like a younger, hotter version of Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon.”
Zooey has traded in her usual snarky romcom character for one that is supposed to be clueless and cute. Problem is, Zooey can’t quite pull it off yet. Her version of quirky comes across as spacey and vacant. It doesn’t feel genuine. Everything she does plays like a put-on. I found myself wondering, “Is she being humorously peculiar or did she hit her head?” She delivers her lines with a blank stare. There’s cute and then there’s … concussion.
The show has its moments. Her three dude roommates make a good team. I like the inclusion of a “Douchebag Jar” that the guys must pay money in to when they’re being douchebags. Which is all the time. All that’s missing is a bad acting jar. Which was also pretty frequent in the pilot.
As far as the comedy goes, expect to see things you’ve seen before. In the pilot, Zooey is reeling from her breakup and has no idea how to talk to guys anymore. Whatever will she do for rebound sex? Yes, she’s hot and willing, and in the real world that would be enough, but this is a romantic comedy squashed into 21 minutes, so enter her three male roommates to show her the way. One problem, though – Zooey is wearing glasses and overalls. Oh, she’s so eccentric and cute. But however will she attract a guy dressed like that? Time for a makeover!
I don’t think I’ve seen a hot girl hiding behind glasses and overalls since She’s All That, and later when Not Another Teen Movie made fun of it. Back in 1999 and 2001 respectively.
Perhaps the chemistry between the cast mates will improve in subsequent episodes (Damon Wayans Jr. gets replaced by Lamorne Morris in tonight’s episode). And there’s potential as far as the ”situation” in the sitcom goes. But the comedy… that’s a letdown so far. The show seems less concerned with actually being funny, and I can’t imagine it will maintain whatever appeal it has with the sheer onslaught of Zooey’s awkwardly-delivered quirkiness every single episode. There’s only so much manufactured “offbeat and adorable” one can stand.
It’s going to get old. It already is old because 30 Rock has been doing it better for the last five seasons.
I humbly submit my new title for New Girl: “Not Another Liz Lemon.”
New Girl airs on Tuesdays at 9/8c on Fox.