Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'New Girl'
[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]
Show: "New Girl"
The Pitch: "So we've got Zooey Deschanel and..." "Stop! SAY NO MORE!"
Quick Response: It's going to sound like a weird comparison, but "New Girl" is like FOX's sitcom equivalent of ABC's "Castle." When "Castle" first premiered, ABC was making a simple contract with viewers: If you find Nathan Fillion charming and promise to ask *nothing* else of a quirky crime procedural, we can promise you 44 minutes of Nathan Fillion being charming EVERY week. ["Castle" has become a bit more than that, thanks to Stana Katic, but that's still the basic backdrop of each episode, three seasons later.] With "New Girl," FOX is making an equally simple contract: If you find Zooey Deschanel utterly and completely irresistible and demand little more to a single-camera comedy beyond Zooey Deschanel's particular brand of twee majesty, we can offer you 22 minutes every week. That's selling the entirety of "New Girl" the tiniest bit short. Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield and Damon Wayans Jr. are all acceptable foils to Ms. Deschanel, but whatever individual gifts they might hypothetically offer in the future -- Wayans' future being particularly brief, with "Happy Endings" demanding his time after a couple episodes -- for the sake of the pilot, they're being well paid to respond with encouraging confusion and amused bafflement as Zooey Deschanel does what she does. In this case, she sings (frequently), she cries, she falls down and when she puts on a little black dress, everybody suddenly realizes that she's been hot all along. It's SHOCKING. Thus far, nobody's asked Deschanel to stretch in any meaningful way, but just because she could probably play this role in her sleep, doesn't mean that she chooses to. She's fully committed and, if you've loved Zooey Deschanel in the past, the odds of your not falling for her here are low. But anything else -- that includes the premise, the dialogue, the three supporting actors and the arc of the pilot -- is window-dressing.
Desire To Watch Again: High. It turns out, at least for a couple weeks, that I'm one of those viewers who will be totally happy to watch Zooey Be Zooey on a weekly basis. My patience won't be endless and I feel like the loss of Wayans is actually a big loss for "New Girl," but when you have as strong a cornerstone as "New Girl" does, you *ought* to be able to make that work. [Note: One of the disadvantages to Letting Zooey Be Zooey is that if you're one of the not-so-few viewers who have any kind of antipathy towards Deschanel, you're more likely to have your issues re-confirmed, rather than overcome.]