jason stives, a year later, is still adorkable…
Last year Pop-Break began a weekly coverage of Fox’s latest hit sitcom New Girl, and after four reviews it sputtered and ran out of steam. For this writer it was a challenge to commit to a weekly episodic review of a freshman show let alone one that seemingly was still finding its feet slowly after just four installments. However, sticking with the show on my own time for the rest of its initial run, the show grew and found its place on television as being one of the freshest comedies to premiere on network television in quite some time. For many, as New Girl enters its second season with a two episode premiere, Zooey Deschanel is still to some very unbearable and so is the show. You either see her as some ironic spin on the current trend of hipster culture or annoying yet lovable pastiche of a pixie. Having met the woman in person there is a biased that says she is far from either and more down to Earth and earnest but her character of Jess on New Girl is an overextended sitcom stereotype although done for a specific effect.
The thing about New Girl is it’s structured as a stereotypical sitcom minus the laugh track but thrives on clever writing and flawed personas in its main four of Jess, Nick, Schmidt, and Winston. The two that are down to Earth ultimately balance out the quirky sitcom-esque nature of the other two leads and this is the footing in why New Girl has found appeal and success. So after the first season of building how do we reintroduce the show for its second season with the duel episodes of “Re-launch” and “Katie?” By imposing the things that made the show shaky to start and tonight’s premiere installments range from iffy to highly entertaining. The first episode “Re-launch” fell back greatly on its initial interpretations of the characters and is aided by an arcing plot point much like the first season in this case instead of it being Jess facing the crisis of surviving without a boyfriend it’s about Jess surviving being unemployed. Jess early on loses her job as a teacher and in typical fashion it devastates her enough where she can’t handle what she is doing in her life.
“Re-launch” greatly focuses on Jess and Schmidt leaving Nick and Winston as background noise that provide occasional laugh and moral points but nothing more. No longer going through a member crisis, Schmidt is free of the penis cast he was left in for two months and is ready to relaunch is libido with a danger themed party (a theme Nick and Winston both predicted very early on in this episode). Here Max Greenberg is in his typical over the top fashion but is allowed to be grounded by his own conscious mainly trying to impress his ex Cee Cee when she is seeing a new and average looking guy, something that baffles the flaunting Schmidt. In the midst of Schmidt’s literal relaunch party, Jess, in order to stay busy and possibly consider a new direction, volunteers as a shot girl, something that requires a lot of pep but given its own Jess spin, making her more of a flapper cigarette girl than a drunk, trash talking professional one which we get in the form of a clueless and spot on priceless guest spot by Parker Posey. But as expected it doesn’t fit Jess and the real theme of these two stories revolve around Jess struggling with two self created identities which she sees as a way to start a new for herself.
It’s not that “Re-launch” wasn’t funny but it kind follows a very generic plot and despite some great moments, like Nick trying to be mean to Jess but sounding more like an old man, it follows logical steps at best. The second episode “Katie” on the other hand has a little more texture to it and provides a great plot device for Jess in this case the notion of her juggling multiple men after being mistaken by a guy for being the Cupid Match date he was suppose to meet up with. Hence Katie is born into Jess and her bubbly psyche and it’s quite amusing to watch as her roommates warn her early on that she doesn’t have the tolerance to try and date multiple guys. This is put into practice when Nick gives Jess number to a beer delivery guy who is a little too attached on dates. Again, Jess confides in her roommates to seek the answer and that more than anything seems to be the linking theme of this season, the notion of friendship which as trite and cliché as it sounds works very well for the main four. When you consider the classic sitcom motifs, New Girl has now run through two of those and the importance of their friendship is the latest.
Yes, I know it is very cheesy but then again that is the underlying thing about New Girl it’s overtly cheesy in the most classical sense but you have characters that are very aware of it. In “Katie,” Nick encounters a man at the bar claiming to be himself from the future sent back in time to aid in his life. Now, Nick knows very well it’s ridiculous but for someone who lacks answers he kind of believes it but the resolution snaps him back into place about his own judgment as you really can’t take advice from someone who looks like a homeless Timelord. The only thing that doesn’t work too well here is the sub plot involving the visit of Winston’s family and Schmidt’s immediate idea that he needs to get back in the game and try and nail Winston’s sister. It’s such a small plot point that it doesn’t benefit either character even though it had great potential.
So New Girl is back with much the same at the start but compared to the beginning of last season it has a lot it can work with down the line and considering how familiar we are with these characters at this point, the development will come slowly but will be helped along the way by some really good laughs.
Re-launch: 6.5 out of 10 (Good)
Katie: 7.5 out of 10 (Very Good)
All Photos Credit: FOX