(Television Without Pity) — "New Girl" was the first new show of this fall to get picked up for a full season, as well as the one pilot that actually merited its giant summer ad campaign. And while we were utterly charmed by Zooey Deschanel's shtick in the premiere, we were more than a little underwhelmed by the second episode. Not that it was terrible, but it just wasn't as consistently funny as the debut. That's often a problem with pilots in general -- either there is too much exposition and the pilot is dull, or the pilot is captivating but the writers struggle with how to recapture that on a weekly basis. So we watched last night's third "New Girl" with a little trepidation, and while Zooey is still Zooey (that's not going to change, so if you hate her, just quit reading now), this episode was far more enjoyable than last week's, giving us hope that this show will live up to the buzz in the long run.
The second episode actually seemed more like a generic pilot than the premiere, possibly because the show had to replace the verbally berating style of Coach (Damon Wayans, Jr.) with Winston (Lamorne Morris). Shoehorning in a new character in Week 2 was more than a little bit awkward, and was handled really badly and having Schmidt and Winston compete over the larger room wasn't amusing or creative. But now that's out of the way, along with Jess' emotional stupidity about her ex-boyfriend, and not a moment too soon.
What we initially liked about "New Girl" was not just Jess, but the newfound relationship between her and the roommates. While the second episode was severely lacking in that chemistry, Episode 3 more than made up for it. Plus, the show managed to "suppress the Jess," limiting her quirkiness to a moderate amount of singing and weird teeth, while still allowing her to be funny. And having her try to help Nick get over his ex-girlfriend demonstrated that she could pull her weight in the friend department instead of always being the girl that needed saving. She actually put on her big girl panties (though she did have to cut them off) and forced Nick out of his funk and onto the dance floor. And while there was a moment where the episode looked like it was building into a romance between the two, it ultimately went for a comedic moment instead. It seems inevitable that the writers will hook these two up at some point, but hopefully it won't drag down the show the way Barney and Robin's relationship on "How I Met Your Mother" did.
Watch a clip from Episode 3 here:
Schmidt was his wonderfully rocking sex-driven piggy self, trying hard to woo his gorgeous dream girl (played by our favorite "Melrose Place 2.0" alum, Katie Cassidy) while really being sort of smitten with the rough-around-the-edges Gretchen (the wonderful Natasha Lyonne). Their awkward sexual encounter was pretty damned fantastic. (Can she come back? With another stylish pantsuit?) Also, Schmidt deserves props for delivering the best line of the night ("Who let the dirty slut out of the sluthouse?"), not once, but twice, with a different inflection that made all the difference.
And while the Winston storyline was a little weak (he fought with an eight-year-old usher and the two awkwardly gyrated around Jess on the dance floor), it wasn't intolerable. And having him at the wedding was key because this show seems to thrive when the roommates are together, and not split off into sub groups. Everyone had their own little plot to follow through, but by remaining in a 200-yard radius of each other, they were able to react to what was happening across storylines, further developing the symbiotic relationship they have. Plus: slow-motion chicken-dancing to Phil Collins! That's the kind of bizarreness you only get when four roomies convene. And that kind of weirdness, along with the easy camaraderie, is what can make this show so uniquely entertaining.
"New Girl" airs Tuesdays at 9pm ET on Fox.
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