March 6, 2012

THE SKED @ PALEYFEST 2012: “New Girl”

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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There’s something infectious about watching the people behind a brand-new TV hit enjoy their success, and at tonight’s PaleyFest salute to this year’s break-out comedy hit NEW GIRL, the pleasure of the cast and producers bubbled over.  
To an unusual extent that the panelists acknowledged themselves, the dynamics among the cast members and writers seemed not unrelated to the relationships in the show.  By the time creator/showrunner Elizabeth Meriwether had finished kicking off the session and introducing the episode being screened, it came as no surprise later on when star Zooey Deschanel summarized her character Jess by saying she was equal parts the 13-year old versions of herself and Meriwether.  Similarly, the good-natured snarky bickering between Jake M. Johnson (Nick), Max Greenfield (Schmidt) and Lamorne Morris (Winston) could have been outtakes from any given episode, and there seemed to be a gray area between where the actress Hannah Simone left off and her character Cece picked up.

Everyone concerned spoke several times of the show’s efforts to deepen and develop the characters as the show goes on, and it turned out that the screened episode “Injured” (which airs tomorrow night) was a standout example of this principle in action.  “Injured” may be the first episode of New Girl that takes place entirely outside of the apartment all the characters except Cece share, and it centers on Nick rather than Jess.  In the course of the episode, Nick has a health scare, and the tone of the episode resembles the bittersweet 50/50 more than New Girl‘s usual carefree celebration of character eccentricities.  More interestingly, the episode has a very loose, casual feel akin to an F/X comedy.  Not incidentally, “Injured” was directed by Lynn Shelton, whose reputation is in semi-improvised indie relationship comedy-dramas like Humpday and the excellent upcoming Your Sister’s Sister–whether “Injured” was actually partly improvised or just very well scripted (by J.J. Philbin), it shows New Girl starting to put some distance between itself and its cutely charming roots.  
There were little in the way of spoiler revelations in the course of the evening–as producer Jake Kasdan noted, the series has few enough continuing storylines, they didn’t want to ruin any of them–except that Dermot Mulroney and Jeanne Tripplehorn will appear in an arc (Mulroney as a Jess love interest), and that shippers hoping for the seemingly inevitable Jess/Nick coupling will have to wait for a while.  
With Glee fading, New Girl is now at the center of FOX’s Tuesday night, with an audience slightly smaller than CBS’ 2 Broke Girls but with far more pop cultural and critical cachet.  The show has plenty of time–years, undoubtedly–to work out how and where they want the series to go.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."