‘New Girl’ not quite in its groove, but getting there

The third episode of “New Girl” was an improvement over the shakier second episode, helping the show remain my favorite new broadcast comedy of fall 2011, but it still seems right on the edge of its comfort zone.

The least of my worries, I think, is the preseason fear of whether Zooey Deschanel’s Jess might become too precious. She was just fine compared to Tuesday’s D plot that put Winston (Lamorne Morris) in a battle of the ushers with an overly precocious 8-year-old that was as painful as they come — neither believable nor funny. Further, I like Morris, but I’m not convinced at all by Winston as an ex-pro basketball player, foreign or not. His identity needs to evolve, the faster the better.

Also, just once I’d like to see a wedding on TV where guests didn’t automatically hook up, and instead sat around the table wondering why it was that on TV, guests at weddings automatically hook up.

NewGirl_Wedding-Sc7_0044 But the storylines involving the rest of the cast mostly worked, with Natasha Lyonne a particularly game pants-suited enemy-with-benefits for Max Greenfield’s Schmidt (though I wish the writers would dial back Schmidty’s prodigious sexual history, which seems phony). Deschanel was charming and funny, Jake Johnson solid as a guy trying to get over a longtime love, and the climactic scene was sweet and well-played.

“New Girl” isn’t the immediate creative success that something like “Modern Family” was, but it’s ahead of the game in comparison to most other halfhours at the same stage. And certainly, it has time to figure things out — it remained the No. 1 show among adults 18-49 on Tuesdays, regardless of timeslot.

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