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Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Girl no longer new but still funny

FOX's New Girl presented the first two episodes of its sophomore season last night. In the first, "Re-launch," Jess (Zooey Deschanel) loses her job. She spirals into depression, and even though she tries to bounce back by being a Shot Girl for Schmidt's (Max Greenfield) penis cast removal party, it just isn't enough. Which is why, in the second installment, "Katie," she is on the prowl for sex, which she finds easily enough.

New Girl could be tackling the political issue of school budget cuts, something plaguing the country right now, as there are tons of teachers like Jess right now who can't find teaching jobs (this reviewer included). Yet, as a comedy, the circumstances surrounding Jess losing her job are mentioned, and moved past quickly. The writers aren't out to make any political statements, and Schmidt's angry mutter of "Obama" is too much of a bit to be taken seriously. New Girl sticks to what it does well: laughs. It doesn't force anything more, a wise decision, as tackling this large issue would not work well with the show's tone.

This is also why the series can be forgiven for falling in to the TV trope of seeing unemployment as an opportunity to re-invent oneself. Most of us in the lead characters' economic class, battling student loans and high gas prices, would have to be out looking for a job the day after being fired. Jess is allowed to luxuriate in her grief, and yet, because of the execution of the actress and the story, it works.

Poor Jess. She is pretty, to be sure, but she is not a sexual creature. She'd like to be, but she doesn't really know how. Part of the charm of New Girl is that it will take a very special man to find the things that she does a turn on in the bedroom. It's why the premise of a girl living with three men who don't want to jump her bones comes across as realistic instead of phony. They can care about her without wanting to get into her pants all of the time. Jess is an acquired taste, quirky in the extreme. Which makes for a very funny, novel series, especially because there aren't a lot of lead female characters on TV who embrace a lack of wooing power.

Yet, in "Katie," boys are falling in line to get her number. The beautiful looks always trumps until Jess opens her mouth to make it awkward. One suitor, Bearclaw (Josh Gad, Book of Mormon) is weird in his own right, though not in a way that fits Jess. Instead, she ends up with Sam (David Walton, Bent, Perfect Couples), a man who thinks that she is Katie, a girl he has been chatting with online. Even after Jess confesses the truth, he still wants to be with her! That's a good man, right there, able to see Jess's inner character, even after she screws up. Or the sex is (somehow) just that mind blowing.

Of course, Sam won't be around forever. We see Nick's (Jake Johnson) tender side emerge once more as he seeks to cheer Jess up. They may not be ready to be together yet, but it's they'll get there eventually. They both might go through a few other partners on the way, but make no mistake about it; Jess and Nick will hook up.

Schmidt is also feeling a little down. He tries very hard to talk a big game in "Re-launch," throwing his danger-themed party. But, despite the large pool of eligible ladies, he doesn't find a girl to sleep with. In fact, he barely notices there are any gals at the party save one: Cece (Hannah Simone). Schmidt is done with his player days (if they ever really existed), and while he still tries to pretend machismo, his heart is spoken for. This is a character we can all really relate to, and his pain breaks our hearts.

That's not to say that he deserves Cece back, though. Yes, he will make up for dumping her someday. But for now, although Cece is starting to forgive him, he hurt her too deeply for a quick reconnection. So she'll date Robby (Nelson Franklin, Traffic Light) for awhile instead. We haven't seen why Cece would want to be with Robby, who, at first glance, appears ill-suited to her. But I'm sure New Girl will get to that. Or just make the character a one-time guest star.

In these two episodes, besides the excellent shipper stuff, New Girl also includes a lot of humorous side plots. Some really work, like Winston (Lamorne Morris) getting weird with fruity drinks and, strangely enough, but only because of the ending, Nick talking to a homeless man (Justified's Raymond J. Barry) he believes to be a future version of himself. Others, like Parker Posey (Louie, A Mighty Wind) as a sad, washed-up Shot Girl, don't. But overall, the show returns strong, mixing the humor and heart that it captures so expertly.

New Girl airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Check out my website, JeromeWetzel.com! First posted at TheTVKing

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