Goodbye, New Girl

Well, that snuck up on me. When I sat down to clear New Girl off the DVR, I didn’t even realize I’d be watching the last adventures of the former occupants of apartment 4D. For the last 6 years, New Girl has been my TV comfort food. It introduced me to one of my favorite bands, Beach House. More importantly — after watching the entire first season on Netflix in about a week and scouring the internet for coverage – it introduced me to all you lovely folks back at the mothership.

It feels like too-faint praise to say a show was reliable. At its best, New Girl could be the best show on TV. I think Eric Adams called the last five minutes of New Girl his favorite drama on TV (apologies if it was a different reviewer, I can’t find the recap), and I’m not going to do better than that compliment. At its worst, New Girl was merely really frickin funny. Whether it was an all-time great episode or just filler for the 20-plus episode schedule, it was (at least) five players with an effortless chemistry who were always committed to the joke.

It has to be said, the show got off to an inauspicious start. I don’t mean the pilot was bad. Rewatching the pilot, all the ingredients that make New Girl great were already there (well, almost all – Lamorne Morris hadn’t joined the cast yet.) There was the aforementioned chemistry. There was the improvisational shagginess that let its talented cast go for it all. There was the Nick and Jess of it all. And there was Zooey Deschanel’s personal brand of… I’m reaching for the right word… a kind of nerdy whimsy, but in an endearing way. Yeah, there was that off-putting ad campaign featuring the word that will not be uttered. Adorkable. Shit, I think I just uttered it (and how did ‘adorkable’ not set off my spellcheck?).

Most importantly, there was heart. The story of the pilot is simple – a girl moves into a loft with three bros (Elizabeth Meriwether’s original title was Chicks and Dicks.) They have some reservations about this new girl. Is she going to intrude on their established dynamic? Is she going to be a cooler? In the end, when the three bros have a choice between personal gratification at a sure-thing party and helping their new friend out of an embarrassing non-date, they (reluctantly) choose their friend. They choose to make each other better. That’s the heart of the show.

I’m wondering: where does New Girl fit in the Golden Age of television? Without a doubt in my mind, season 2 is the best serialized romantic comedy that ever aired on TV. But I feel like more cynical shows – stuff like It’s Always Sunny or Rick and Morty – get points because there’s a perception of a higher degree of difficulty. That sort of show has to not only be funny, but it has to keep the audience engaged with characters you’d never want to meet in real life.

Don’t get me wrong, those are brilliant shows. I think, though, there’s a degree of difficulty in taking characters who are decent, who are vulnerable, who can be gentle, and who genuinely love each other, and making those characters also be funny as hell on top of everything else. It’s so easy for characters like that to end up saccharine and hollow. I mean, look at crap like Full House.

I still have about a million things I want to say about how much I loved New Girl. Winston Bishop, the supernaturally sensitive and weird cop. Tugg Romney, with a silent ‘g’. True American, the game whose rules nobody knows, and yet everybody plays by. Furguson (RIP). Nadia’s crazy stories about Russia. Schmidt over-enunciating all his words. Cece just reacting to the weirdos she’s fallen in with (and eventually married to). Deschanel’s sneaky great physical comedy. And, good lord, The Kiss; that electrifying kiss, AKA the only time I’ve literally stood up and clapped while watching a TV show. I could go on for a while, why don’t you guys finish the list?

 

Goodbye, New Girl. I’m going to miss you. I mean, except when I’m watching you on Netflix every time I need a little mood boost.