Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Girl 1.01: "Pilot"

“You know, when I saw your ad on Craig’s List, I thought you were women.”

I think Tuesday night was the beginning of what will be the replacement in my TV pantheon when HIMYM likely goes off the air after next season. “New Girl” is a fun, quirky comedy starring Zooey Deschanel, but unless you live under a rock, you probably knew that already. I thought, from the preview, that with the twee and the quirk, this show would be right up my alley. I’ll admit, when I first saw this pilot, I wasn’t quite sure if it lived up to the expectations I had built up in my mind. But I will say this. When I finished rewatching the pilot to write this blog post, I had a big smile on my face. The likes of which I haven’t seen since Pushing Daisies (on the spectrum of smiles caused by TV, that is). Sure I like my “eat your vegetables” television like “Friday Night Lights” and “The Wire” just fine, but I also need a dose of cute now and then. And “New Girl” delivers in spades. It’s not just Deschanel who does the quirky cute thing for which she’s famous. Her three roommates are also all charming in their own ways.

The episode opens with Jess explaining to her potential new roommates why she needs to move. She explains her rather embarrassing break-up in painful detail. Her boyfriend didn’t seem especially happy, so she decided to spice up their relationship by arriving home dressed only in a trench coat and doing a striptease for him. Only problem is that he had another woman in the bedroom. And there’s also the little detail that all the guys wanted to know was whether or not she had any pets. Our Jess is an oversharer for sure! And did I mention she likes to sing? She’ll randomly sing lines to herself on a pretty regular basis, and Deschanel even sings the show’s theme song.

The tenant interview also gives us an introduction to the guys. Schmidt (Max Greenfield, aka Deputy Leo from “Veronica Mars”) is a smarmy guy who likes to take off his shirt and often has to pay a dollar to the apartment “Douchebag Jar.” Coach is a personal trainer who has trouble interacting with women in a way other than yelling. Nick is kind of a doormat. His girlfriend, Caroline, broke up with him six months ago, and he hasn’t been the same since. We see brief flashbacks to illustrate each of the guys’ personalities, and I think Nick’s was my favorite. As Caroline tries to break up with him, he puts his hands over his ears and starts singing “lalalalala.” I also really like the concept of the Douchebag Jar, which is pretty much around just for Schmidt. I like it because it shows self-awareness on Schmidt’s part and the easy friendship between the guys. The other guys have no problem telling Schmidt to pay the jar, and he’s got no problem paying it.

True to his doucheyness, Schmidt is all for letting Jess move in as soon as he finds out that she has many friends who are models. The guys need to conference in the bathroom to make the final decision, though. Schmidt is in favor of letting Jess move in, and Coach is not in favor (because he wants to be able to relax with his pants off when he gets home from work), so it’s all up to Nick. Nick starts listing the pros and cons of living with a woman, all learned from living with Caroline, of course. Schmidt threatens to make an executive decision that Jess is in, and Jess hears him. She yells with happiness, thinking she’s in, so the guys don’t want to let her down by refusing her. They quickly regret this decision, as Jess spends the next week in the living room, dressed in pajamas with take-out containers around her, watching “Dirty Dancing” over and over.

The guys don’t really feel they have time to deal with Jess’ antics. Schmidt is most concerned with the upcoming “Wild, Wild West” charity auction party. It’s a tough invite to get, and the only person who can make it happen for the group is Nick’s ex, Caroline. Nick really, really doesn’t want to call her to ask for the invites. Coach is the first to take a proactive step towards de-whinifying Jess. He starts yelling at her to “stop it,” like he would for one of his clients, but that just makes her cry more. Then Schmidt takes over. He suggests that Jess should find a rebound, and he says that the group will go out after work that night to find one. Jess seems to think this is a good idea, even coming up with a theme song for the event.

There’s an awkward but amusing conversation in the apartment bathroom while Jess is in the shower (wearing a bathing suit for some reason). Nick and Schmidt are talking about the party and how Schmidt doesn’t want to pass up the opportunity to motorboat hot women. Jess gets out of the shower and tries to give Schmidt a pep talk, and it becomes obvious that she has no clue what motorboating is. The boys have a laugh at that, of course. Jess also bonds with Coach while she’s curling her hair for the big rebound hunt outing. Coach says that he’s been told he’s not good at talking to women (he just yells at them), and he’d like Jess’ help with that. They have a little conversation about shopping for jeggings where Coach makes a little progress, but then Jess accidentally sets her hair on fire with the curling iron.

The guys and Jess are all at the bar where Nick works as a bartender. There’s some goofiness where Jess is getting advice from Schmidt about how to smile, but when she actually tries to hit on a guy, it’s a disaster. Her brilliant pick-up line is “hey, sailor.” What I did like about this scene was that Coach and Schmidt were cheering her on like they were watching sports. While they’re all at the bar, Schmidt’s douche friends drop by and give him a hard time about not being on the list for the Wild, Wild West party. Schmidt begs Nick yet again for help, but Nick isn’t enthusiastic. Jess and Nick have a really sweet conversation about how they’ve both been dumped and their different perspectives on life in general. They definitely have some chemistry. Jess is distracted from the conversation when Schmidt’s friend Peter starts hitting on her, and she ends up accepting a date with Peter. Meanwhile, Nick, motivated by Jess telling him not to live life bitter over Caroline, texts Caroline and gets the group into the party.

At some point in the near future, Jess is getting ready for her date with Peter. Her friend (and former roommate) Cece is sitting in the living room, and since she’s a model, the guys can’t help but ogle her. Schmidt is especially gross about it. If it wasn’t for the Douchebag Jar, he’d be an irredeemable character. Not able to take the boys anymore, Cece goes to help Jess with getting ready. Jess is wearing overalls because she thought the milkmaid look would be sexy. Cece and Jess end up switching clothes, and the guys are surprised to find that when wearing a little black dress, Jess is kind of hot. I thought this was a rather clichéd moment, personally. The one thing that saved it was that Jess stopped the adoration dead when she started doing some silly dance moves.

Outside the Wild, Wild West party, Nick runs into Caroline. Caroline wants to go for a drink so they can catch up. First, though, Nick wants to know why she dumped him. It turns out that Caroline never realized he actually cared about her until after they broke up. They’re about to go for that drink when Schmidt’s douchey friends, including Peter, show up at the party. The guys realize that Jess has been stood up for her date with Peter (Peter thought she texted him too many times), and Nick leads the charge to go rescue her. And he abandons Caroline to do so, which was surprising. Schmidt is the last of the guys to decide to leave. Which is understandable, considering he wanted to go to the party more than the rest of them.

Jess is about to get kicked out of the restaurant because they need the table when the rest of the guys show up. They tell the waitress that they’re her boyfriends. Jess cries happy tears at the gesture, but the guys don’t quite know what to do with that. To get Jess to stop crying, Nick starts singing “(I’ve Had) The time of My Life” from “Dirty Dancing” really off key, and the rest of the guys join in too. Schmidt is the last to join in, of course. Jess pretty much thinks this is the greatest thing ever. The hostess doesn’t think so, though, and she kicks them all out of the restaurant. Back at the apartment, they all watch “Dirty Dancing” together. Schmidt makes a comment about how no matter what, he’d do Jess, and after thanking him for the compliment, Jess tells him to pay the Douchebag Jar. This makes her officially a member of the group. Now I’m just left to wonder which of the guys she’ll date first. Sweet but sort of bland Nick, or kind of gross but more interesting Schmidt?

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