Deschanel’s “New Girl” Walks a Fine Line
Issue   |   Tue, 11/27/2012 - 23:08
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By balancing its characters’ polar opposite personalities, “New Girl” successfully brings humor to an ultimately brutally honest show about post-college adult life.

“New Girl” premiered its second season on Fox late this September after a successful season last fall. What started off as a means of channeling the cutesy and awkward caricature that has become Zooey Deschanel’s trademark since “500 Days of Summer” soon morphed into a full-fledged hit as its directors fleshed out the supporting characters and gave them stronger plotlines. The show revolves around the lives of four often down-and-out characters in their late twenties as they struggle to keep their footing in the adult world. Deschanel plays the adorable elementary school teacher Jessica Day who answers an ad for a roommate on Craigslist and ends up with three male roommates: the grumpy but kindhearted bartender Nick (Jake Johnson), the wanna-be suave womanizer Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and the ex-professional basketball player Winston (Lamorne Morris). Together, they navigate the adult world of long-term relationships, monthly wages and gas bills, while keeping their heads above water, although they all may be a bit disheartened and worse for the wear by the end of each episode.

The balancing act that the writers of “New Girl” perform with each episode is that of being heartbreakingly honest about the soul-pounding trials and tribulations of the adult world while maintaining the constant Deschanel-esque light, quirky witticism and humor. It is important for them to ensure that one aspect never outweighs the other, because the complicated relationship between real life troubles and cutesy humor makes for a much more sophisticated show than would be possible if it were allowed to become either too dark or too light. A great way that this dynamic is maintained is through the wildly different natures of each of the main characters. Jess’s constantly upbeat, sing-songy demeanor is balanced out by that of Nick, who, in the Thanksgiving episode, “Parents,” admits that he doesn’t know why he “ruins things.” This most recent episode, in which Jess attempts to make her long-divorced parents fall back in love with a plan reminiscent of “The Parent Trap,” serves as a perfect marker for Schmidt and Winston’s natures as well. In it, Winston instigates a competition between Schmidt and Schmidt’s cousin — who also goes by Schmidt — in a series of feats to prove their manliness in order to decide who will get to retain the title “Schmidt,” for there can “only be one.” It is clear that Winston, the most levelheaded of all of the roommates, can easily take advantage of Schmidt’s incredibly caricature-like immaturity — and, as usual, hilarity constantly ensues.

New developments that this season has brought about have hinted at a sexual tension and possible budding romance between Nick and Jess. Although hints were dropped in the previous season, they have become more explicit this season; with each passing episode, Nick and Jess constantly turn to each other for support when they encounter difficulties in their lives, especially when it comes to relationship problems. Whenever Nick seems to be about to step up to the plate, however, he is, without avail, hilariously prevented from doing so. The latest example of this was seen in this season’s Halloween episode; while Jess is working at a haunted house, Nick enters the house to warn Jess with intel he has discovered about her significant other, and ends up punching her in the face instead when he is startled by her. Nick and Jess constantly butt heads (both literally and metaphorically), but they are always there for each other in the end. Yet, the support they lend each other seems to be awkwardly and perpetually hovering between sibling-like love and romantic love. The show has been dancing around their budding whatever-it-is for several episodes now and this theme is definitely going to start getting very old very fast if the writers don’t pick a track and stick with it; the suspense can only last so long.

The show has seen success thus far, being nominated for several awards, including Golden Globe awards for Best Comedy Series and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy series for Deschanel. It will surely continue to be met with positive reception on the parts of viewers and critics alike — as long as its directors continue to focus on and flesh out characters other than Deschanel’s and maintain the balance between the comedic and the serious. A heartwarmingly realistic show about the daily wars that are fought in the workplace, in friendships and relationships and at home, “New Girl” was a hit from the very beginning and will hopefully continue to be for many seasons to come.