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New Girl on the Block: Is New Girl Already Getting Old?

Posted: 24/01/2012 15:43

So, the hotly anticipated, latest US import New Girl has arrived, and, judging by the very mixed reviews the show has garnered, it's caused somewhat of a Zooey-shaped stir. Reviews are divided, the twittersphere even more so. Just who is that girl?

Most of you will know her as the quirky, heartbreaking leading lady from 2009's cool indie rom com (500) Days of Summer. Others will know that she's one half of poppy folk band She & Him. And the real fans will know that her name is pronounced Zoe, not Zoo-ey.

Yet it is, quite surprisingly, the show's main character, kooky, funny and downright silly teacher Jess played by Deschanel who is the root of the very clear divide in opinion. Reviews have labelled Jess as annoying, ditsy and twee, with Emerald Street last week declaring after only a mere two episodes that it was "time to kill kooky". Now, hang on a minute. Since when did kooky become loathsome? True: the self-obsessed theme songs are a tad on the annoying side, but then they're supposed to be. How can you want to kill someone who wears vampire teeth at a wedding while dancing the chicken dance? Surely not. Branding her "endearingly dumb" is off the mark too; endearing she quite clearly is but dumb is a misappropriation if ever I saw one.

Would a show about her perfect, shiny-haired model best friend Cece be better, then? Doubtful. It would be like giving one of the 90210 girls full reign of a show. We need a character who isn't perfect: one we can feel embarrassed with, laugh at and ultimately like, despite minor peeves. Who's never worn some sort of slimming cycling short underneath a tiny garment and felt like collapsing hours later at some point in their life? Those who haven't probably shouldn't be watching it.

Deschanel has created a character that is on the one hand unique and on the other completely relatable. Her knack for delivering punchy, giggle-inducing lines coupled with her doe eye-grazing fringe makes for the age old combo: girls want to be her; guys want to date her (despite her goofiness). It's no surprise it works so well - Zooey co-produces the show. In short, it makes me laugh out loud. Of course, it's no Mad Men, nor The Killing, but it's not trying to be - it provides that much needed, unabashed silliness for the Friday night slot and it does it well. Credit is not just owed to Deschanel - the script is more subtle than your typical American sitcom, eschewing the more obvious humour of say, Two and a Half Men. The comic timing of the other characters Nick, Schmidt and Winston is brilliant, their banterous exchanges being more than a touch reminiscent of Friends.

In fact, New Girl and Friends share many of the same qualities (and even the same costume designer): the well defined characters (the goof, the pretty one, the man whore, the lovable grump, the unemployed one); the dynamics of flat sharing; the non specific apartment based set which could be anywhere in America; a will they/won't they subplot; the Thanksgiving episode - the list goes on. The only thing that it lacks is the canned laughter and a live studio audience. Yet it is hard to imagine New Girl sharing the same hysteria and successful run that Friends enjoyed with UK reviews already playing it down and ratings steadily dropping since the first episode - which were modest, comparatively, in the first place.

It is a real shame. Perhaps we've grown out of 1990s comedy. Perhaps the lives of 20-something-year-old flatmates isn't an original premise anymore. Or perhaps we've spent too much time watching TOWIE, Made in Chelsea and Desperate Scousewives, that we wouldn't know a good TV show if it smacked us in the proverbial face.

Zooey recently said in an interview of her time at college "none of these people understand what's cool about me. My specialness is not appreciated in this place". The same applies to the reception of New Girl. I can safely say, however, along with many others I'm sure, that I appreciate her specialness - kooky songs, vampire teeth, cycling shorts and all.

 

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