September 28, 2011


More articles by »
Written by: Mitch Salem
Tags: , , , , , , ,


A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot in the spring and production of episodes for the regular season:  a writing/producing team is hired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover in the off-season) give plenty of notes, both helpful and otherwise, and critics begin to rear their ugly heads.  The results can include changes to tone, pace, casting and even story.  Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular episodes of this year’s new series as well.
Previously… on NEW GIRL: Lovely but kooky and dorky schoolteacher Jess (Zooey Deschanel), freshly dumped by her boyfriend, goes online to find a new place to live, and winds up rooming with 3 guys, 2 of whom are not-as-cool-as-he-thinks-he-is Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Nick (Jake Johnson), himself trying to get over a broken relationship.  Their agreement to take her in becomes less relulctant when they find out that Jess’ best friend is hot model Cece (Hannah Simone), easily the smartest and most levelheaded of the bunch.

Episode 2:  When pilot season ended, Damon Wayans, Jr found himself with an embarrassment of career success.  Not only was New Guy, in which he played third roommate Coach, ordered to series, but his bubble show Happy Endings was picked up for a second season by ABC.  Since ABC had first call on his services, Wayans exited New Guy.  Somewhat unusually, and presumably as a cost-saving measure, FOX decided not to reshoot the pilot, but rather to leave Wayans in it and replace Coach with a new character, Winston (Lamorne Morris) in the second episode, with just a very quick explanation for his presence.  (He was an original roommate in the apartment, but had gone to Europe to play basketball.)  At least in the short-term, this is a little bit of a trade-down, not through any fault of Morris’ , but because Coach had a clearly distinct character in the pilot (he was a personal trainer who couldn’t help acting like a drill sergeant), while for now Winston is just an undifferentiated one of the guys.

That aside, though, the show’s second episode, written by series creator Elizabeth Meriwether and directed by pilot director Jake Kasdan, is pretty much as charming and offbeat as the pilot.  The main storyline continues and starts to resolve the pilot plot, as Jess tries to get over her busted romance by facing her ex-boyfriend and reclaiming her possessions (including and most crucially from the roommates’ point of view, her TV, since she accidentally busted theirs with an abortive in-house basketball move).  The B story, in which Winston tries to mind-game the apartment’s big bedroom back from Schmidt, is thinner.

As in the pilot, the pleasures of New Girl aren’t in the story as such, but in the slightly odd sense of humor throughout (either you get it when one of the guys notes that Jess, wearing several of her recaptured hats at once, looks like Helena Bonham Carter, or you don’t).  Even at this early stage, the ensemble works together extremely well, with Deschanel a consistent delight and the others fitting comfortably into her rhythm; the laughs from a gag like Jess repeatedly driving past her ex’s house because she can’t bring herself to stop the car comes from the reactions of the other people in the car with her.  The episode also has an unusually sharp sense of musical humor, with several of the punchlines coming from the songs playing on the soundtrack.

It’s a little surprising that New Girl had such instant ratings success in its premiere, because Deschanel has never been a mainstream movie star, and Meriwether’s humor is much more like a Sundance indie than a Hollywood romcom.  (Let’s officially forgive her for writing No Strings Attached.)  We’ll see soon enough if its wide audience stays with the show, but meanwhile New Girl continues to be one of the highlights of the new season.

Original Verdict:  Potential DVR Alert 
Pilot + 1:  Set That Season Pass

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."