New Girl - Pilot episode reviewed
Review by Rob Carnevale
DON’T be too hard on Channel 4’s New Girl… she’s kooky, sometimes irritating, but mostly fun. Plus, it’s hard to make a really brilliant first impression in just over 20 minutes!
Created by Elizabeth Meriwether and directed by Jake Kasdan, New Girl is a hit US series that offers the type of slickly packaged comedy that could only exist within the realms of the small screen.
It’s quick-witted, sometimes obvious but smartly acted and offers genuine chuckles rather than hearty laughs. And while there’s plenty wrong with it for the nit-pickers to deliberate over, it’s still effortlessly entertaining Friday night viewing on the evidence of this first episode alone.
Indeed, once Sky 1 brings back Modern Family at 8pm, you can then switch to Channel 4 at 8.30pm for a solid hour of US laughter.
So, what is New Girl about? Essentially, an offbeat young girl named Jess (Zooey Deschanel) who, after a bad break-up, moves into an apartment loft with three single men (Jake M. Johnson, Max Greenfield and Damon Wayans Jr.).
Although they find her behavior very unusual, the men support her – most of the time – as she attempts to get her life back in order and re-connect with the world.
The formula offers a tried and tested take on Friends (the three male buddies part) with How I Met Your Mother and beyond and feels false when measured against any kind of reality (or the type of ingenuity displayed in Deschanel’s own far superior Days of Summer).
For instance, everyone is impossibly good looking; Jess’ kookiness would probably be far too irritating for three red-blooded males to even consider wanting to share their home with (particularly as she wears it on her sleeve), let alone the fact that their loft itself is far too tidy and well decorated for a lads’ home-share. While (wouldn’t you know it) one of them works behind a bar to provide a convenient venue in which to hang out… all the stuff of formulaic convention.
But one of the yardsticks of a good comedy is how well a cast can pull it off and thus far the chemistry seems right (even though, it would seem, Wayans Jr is about to be replaced by a new actor from the second episode!).
Deschanel just about keeps her kookiness in check to be worth sympathising with and rooting for, Max Greenfield is a suitably cocky (but kind of endearing) duche-bag (who is overly prone to taking his top off to impress the ladies), and Jake M. Johnson offers a slick mix of timely comic delivery and winning wounded charm (he’s still attempting to come to terms with a break-up six months before).
Indeed, I wouldn’t bet against the softer, more sensitive one of the guys developing feelings of a more romantic nature for Jess. But then who am I to guess (although all good comedies seem to have a will they/won’t they device at their core)?
And then there’s the situation comedy itself… admittedly, most of which derived from Jess’ fascination with Dirty Dancing in this first episode; but which delivered some suitably amusing situations and a great final pay-off scene, mid-restaurant.
Hence, while New Girl isn’t really doing anything special at this stage, it is fun, frothy and frequently amusing – and we’ll certainly be tuning in again.
New Girl airs on Channel 4 on Friday nights from 8.30pm (and yes, a second season has already been commissioned).