The level of appreciation one extends “New Girl” will be predicated in large part on viewers’ reaction to Zooey Deschanel’s central character, and whether they find her winsomely quirky and adorable, or intermittently irritating. In truth she’s a bit of both, but as Jess, the actress does project sweetness and vulnerability to go with her considerable quirks, as do the trio of guys who adopt her as a roommate. Fox hasn’t exactly set the world ablaze with live-action half-hours, but this one feels infused with more “Fox attitude” than most.
Newly broken up after walking in on her boyfriend with another woman, Jess needs a new apartment. Still, she’s an unlikely addition to the digs occupied by Nick (Jake Johnson), still smarting from his own break-up; Schmidt (Max Greenfield), a ladies man who thinks it’s a winning maneuver to remove his shirt at the drop of a hat; and Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.), a personal trainer with serious anger-management issues.
(Wayans will be replaced in the next episode by Lamorne Morris, after Wayans’ existing program, ABC’s “Happy Endings,” received an unexpected renewal. Or to translate, “We were too cheap to reshoot the pilot.”)
Series creator Elizabeth Meriwether (who wrote the romantic comedy “No Strings Attached”) has peppered the show with nifty touches — including the jaunty title theme (in keeping with the Jess character, who concocts little mini-theme songs about herself); Schmidt’s pals putting out a “douchebag jar” for every time he behaves like one; and Jess consoling herself via repeated viewing of “Dirty Dancing.”
Oh, and did we happen to mention that most of her friends — starting with best pal Cece (Hannah Simone) — are models, which is what wins the dudes over in the first place?
“New Girl” possesses ample energy, even if it almost instantly violates “Seinfeld’s” old “No hugging, no learning” rule. Then again, heart is part of its DNA — how much Jess’ eccentricities (got to love a gal who quotes “Lord of the Rings”) and fragility will impact her roomies, and what sort of influence the guys will have on her as she braves the dating scene.
Deschanel (whose sister Emily stars in Fox’s “Bones”) can be an acquired taste, but her wide-eyed zeal — put to especially good use in “500 Days of Summer” — ought to translate well to TV. The guys are less distinctive, with Greenfield possessing the most potential simply by virtue of his character’s amusingly obnoxious streak.
Scheduled Tuesdays, Fox has provided its most promising half-hour with a solid launch pad behind “Glee,” and exhibited some real patience last year by renewing the marginally rated “Raising Hope,” which returns as “Girl’s” running mate.
“New Girl” might require similar benevolence to fully find its stride, but at the very least, it deserves to hang around long enough to fill the douchebag jar.