Tuesday, September 6, 2011

New Girl: My Thoughts on the Pilot

As I was browsing through the Comcast ON Demand offerings, I saw Fox’s upcoming comedy New Girl listed. I figured it was just a short featurette, but to my surprise, they had the complete pilot available. Intrigued, I decided to give it a shot.

Credit: FOX

Before I get too far into this review, I have to make a disclaimer; I went into New Girl with negative expectations. I was somewhat curious about it, but I didn’t like the previews. My biggest issue with New Girl’s pilot is something that had already bothered me in the trailer: I found Zooey Deschanel’s character to be annoying. I’ve enjoyed Zooey in other movies like Elf and 500 Days of Summer, but I thought her performance in New Girl was too over-the-top in its quirkiness. It’s not just Zooey’s fault; the script practically begs viewers to see her character, Jessica, as adorably quirky because she sings a lot and wears glasses. There were a few brief moments where I bought into her character and thought her to be funny. It’s possible that these brief moments could be glimmers of improvement in the future. However, I currently find the character annoying for the most part. I could see some viewers finding her endearing, and I think most people’s opinions about New Girl are going to depend on if Zooey’s character and performance works for them.

I enjoyed her male counterparts a bit more. They form a fun little group and were well cast. However, I was a little disappointed at how one-dimensional the male characters are. Damon Wayans Jr.’s aptly named character, Coach, is portrayed simply as the tough, sometimes insensitive coach, and Max Greenfield’s Schmidt is the girl-obsessed toolish guy. Jake Johnson’s character, Nick, is the closest to having more than one dimension, but he’s still just the guy who’s not over his girlfriend. To be fair, it’s hard to develop characters in a short thirty minute pilot, and I feel like this flaw will be quickly overcome. The three actors have a nice chemistry together. Unfortunately for New Girl, that chemistry is going to be disrupted. Damon Wayans Jr. is currently working on the second season of Happy Endings, so his character has been written off after the pilot. I’m curious how the replacement of his character will affect the group dynamic.

Plotwise, I wasn’t really impressed with New Girl’s pilot. If you’ve seen the show’s trailer, you’ve seen the whole plot of the first episode. There’s just not that much to it, and it’s far from original. Again, this is somewhat forgivable because this was a pilot. Pilots often have scanty plots because they have the difficult task of setting up a series. I did really enjoy the series’ premise. The idea of three guys adjusting to living with a girl may not be an out-of-the-box idea, but it's a fun one. There's a lot of interesting ground that the show could cover.

New Girl's pilot definitely had that pilot feel to it. I see this as both a bad and a good thing. It’s a bad characteristic because it gave it an raw and slightly unfinished mood. As an episode, this pilot just didn’t work that well for me. The writing wasn’t particularly unique or witty, and the main character annoyed me. As a pilot setting up a show, however, it did a decent job. This pilot feel could be a good thing because it gives some hope that New Girl will improve over time and just needs to find its footing.  Plenty of great shows have had mediocre pilots. Plus, there were a couple of moments that I enjoyed, and the premise has a lot of promise. I think New Girl will instantly charm a lot of people. It has that hipstery, Zooey Deschanel vibe going for it, and some people will be drawn to that. Personally, however, pilot just didn’t work for me, I’m probably not going to seek out future episodes unless I hear that it’s improved, but I might stop and watch another episode if I found it while flipping through channels.

If you’re interested in checking out New Girl, you can watch it on Comcast ON Demand like I did, or you can watch it Tuesdays on FOX at 9/8c starting September 20.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on New Girl in the comments. Do you plan on watching pilot? If you've seen the pilot, what did you think? Do you think you'll watch regularly?

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