About a month ago, I posted my first impression of Fox’s latest gloss-loaded sitcom, New Girl. If you did read that review, you will see that I was fairly optimistic. I was looking forward to how the show developed its promising characters. I was also hoping that the writers wouldn’t get caught up in Zooey Deschanel’s ‘i-pretend-to-be-goofy-even-though-i’m-conventionally-attractive’ slapstick. Yes, her quirky character, Jess, is the protagonist of the show but read on and I shall elaborate upon how her performance lets me down.
First, however, let us take a look at some housekeeping issues. The use of the token black guy is an age old Hollywood habit. New Girl took the concept and shot itself in the proverbial foot. A post-pilot casting change saw one token black guy (Damon Wayans Jr playing Coach) being replaced by another (Lamorne Morris as Winston). Now I understand that the writers wish to keep the show culturally diverse (barely!) but the switchover from Wayans to Morris was tacky and extremely unimaginative. Both their characters are scripted to be the same person. They are both athletic, loud, aggressive, in-your-face, African-American stereotypes. And that is probably why the tokenness of that particular role in the sitcom jumped out at me.
Next, let us take a look at Deschanel’s severely undercooked, cringe-worthy act as Jess. Let us not kid ourselves- this girl is hot. She has all the physical features that our culture associates with attractive people. She is a human being fit for celluloid consumption. Yet, the writers throw in a bad haircut and a pair of glasses, and hope to convince us that she is naught but a socially aloof weirdo. Epic fail. She claims to be sexually inhibited yet prepares to bare her body in front of her roommate without a second thought. She has very poor aesthetic judgement yet it requires just a cutscene for her to present herself as drop-dead gorgeous. I understand that writers need to tap into the physical attractiveness of their actors in order to attract eyeballs (think back to Rachel Green on Friends), but Jess’ personality can never be convincing as long as they treat her as Zooey dressed up as a hipster on Halloween!
New Girl was a big disappointment. I have never been a fan of Deschanel’s wide-eyed, monotoned attempts at acting (100 Days of Summer would have been revolting had it not been for the earnest performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Yet, I was hoping that Fox’s writers would back this mannequin act with some serious sitcom substance. Then again, as my friend pointed out to me, when was the last time Fox had a good sitcom?
New Girl is 4 episodes in. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to watch another episode.