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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New Girl deals with another new girl

FOX's New Girl this week deals with the conflict between "Jess & Julia." Jess (Zooey Deschanel) asks Julia (Lizzy Caplan, Party Down, Cloverfield) for help getting out of a traffic ticket. Julia agrees, but isn't all that nice about it. So Jess betrays Julia's insecurities to Nick (Jake M. Johnson), whom Julia is dating. Meanwhile, Winston (Lamorne Morris) realizes he doesn't have, and never had, game with the ladies when meeting up with an old flame (Kali Hawk, Bridesmaids), and Schmidt (Max Greenfield) obsesses over his perpetually damp towel.

It's cool that New Girl finally dwells on female relationships. Much of the premise and early episodes involve Jess and the boys. Which is fine. But now viewers get to see Jess hanging out with Cece (Hannah Simone), their lesbian friend Sadie (June Diane Raphael, NTSF:SD:SUV), and even interacting with Julia! Yes, Cece is a main character, but she's been barely used, like Stephanie (Kellee Stewart) was at first in the excellent sitcom My Boys, certainly a forerunner to New Girl. Unlike The Big Bang Theory, New Girl decides to expand the other gender earlier than expected. Only time will tell if it's a wise move or not, but for now, it's welcome to see some other sides of Jess as she deals with her fellow women. It also takes a little of the shine off her alluring, adorkable ways, a good thing.

Girls can be catty, which seems to be a theme of "Jess & Julia." It's not without merit in the real world. However, watching girls acts like "Mean Girls" can also be very uncomfortable. The discussion Sadie, Cece, and Jess have about the games women play will hit a little close to home for many viewers. Some may laugh, and some may cringe. This reviewer tends to fall into the latter category. Why can't they just be straightforward and honest? It will certainly allow for more getting along, understanding, and an easier time of life, in general.

That being said, the resolution of "Jess & Julia" is very satisfying, as Julia is drawn into Jess's gal circle. That's not to say that every female must sit and gossip and crochet, or even that Julia enjoys such things. Hopefully no one will take it as a commentary against the career-driven, less emotionally open woman, who is a perfectly valid type that needs no excuses. The series likely isn't stating that. But it's also good to see Jess and Julia getting along given their mutual affection for Nick, who surely wants his roommate and girlfriend to be civil to each other. Jess and Julia both make effort, and thankfully, they seem to find a way to work things out.

Might Jess's clash with Julia point to some hidden feelings for Nick? Jess and Nick definitely have chemistry, but New Girl has yet to explore this in any meaningful way. It's early in the series, and no one really expects the two main characters to hook up yet. But a jealous streak would explain Jess's initial dislike of Julia, and if Julia picks up on it, her hostility back. Of course, the girls could just be having a personality conflict.

Lest one complain that New Girl is treating women unfairly in "Jess and Julia" and painting a better picture for men, one only needs to look as far as Winston's subplot to disprove that. It's refreshing that a series pokes fun at athletes getting girls just because they're athletes, and explores what happens when the playing stops. Too often egotistical jocks get away with more than they should, a serious societal imbalance, though admittedly, not one that applies to every sportsman. Being a lower level on this hierarchy, Winston gets a harsh dose of reality relatively early on in life. This is great, because it gives him time to change, which he tries to. Winston is a likeable character, and having him figure out how to treat women will only add to that positive image.

And Schmidt is just damn funny. The whole towel debacle is classic Schmidt. He is easily the most laugh-inducing character on New Girl, and there can never be enough humor at the expense of his neurosis. True, it is gross to learn he has been sharing an (unwashed) towel with Nick. But the hilarity of Schmidt's reaction throughout "Jess and Julia" is well worth that punch line. Wonderful!

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