An impressive total of 10.1 million people watched Zooey Deschanel’s New Girl premiere last night. I was one of them. And an extraordinarily large number of people enjoyed the show. I was not one of them.
Admittedly, I was predisposed to not liking it. Though I enjoyed blonde Deschanel in Elf, I have disliked mostly everything brunette Deschanel has done in recent years. That is, besides The Happening, because it’s impossible to dislike a movie that awesomely awful. So while my love for The Happening led me to laugh at the sight of Deschanel falling over a plant in New Girl last night (she’s just there to use the bathroom, guys), I just couldn’t bring myself to crack a smile during any other hijinx during the premiere. Especially since New Girl only made me sad that My Boys is no longer on the air.
After all, there are plenty of similarities between New Girl and Betsy Thomas’ dearly departed TBS series. Both star quirky females. But whereas Jordana Spiro’s P.J. was spunky, confident, and smart, Deschanel’s Jess was – at least in last night’s premiere – desperate, sad, and unabashedly unbearable. In fact, almost every character in New Girl has a My Boys counterpoint: There’s Nick (Jake M. Johnson), the romantic nice guy who, like Kyle Howard’s Bobby, will likely end up romancing the show’s heroine; there’s Coach (Damon Wayans Jr., though not for long), who, like Michael Bunin’s Kenny, doesn’t know how to chat up the opposite sex; there’s Schmidt (Max Greenfield), who, like Jamie Kaler’s Mike, is over-confident in both his ability to attract women and his sense of humor; and then there’s Cece (Hannah), who, like Kellee Stewart’s Stephanie, is the heroine’s sole female friend who just can’t get into this dude stuff. Except, oh yeah, there’s one big difference between these folks: My Boys’ characters were so multi-dimensional and funny, they felt like they were your own friends. New Girl’s characters are so obvious and bland, you remember meeting them once at a SigEp frat party and never turning back. (Especially Greenfield’s Schmidt – holy hell, I haven’t seen anything that unfunny since last night’s Leno.)
But perhaps the most jarring difference between the two series was the way they chronicled their heroine’s friendship with the dudes in her life. Whereas My Boys gave us an accurate, sweet portrayal of male-female rapport, New Girl drew a picture of friendship in which irrational, unbalanced women could only be gawked at – and saved by – their male counterparts. Frankly, coming from someone with plenty of male friends in her life, this was downright offensive. Even though I can’t take Deschanel’s manic pixie dream girl act, I can respect the fact that Jess is an individual with a strong personality. But the fact that she simply was not strong enough to pull herself together without the help of three men who previously spent most of their time treating her like a pariah? P.J. would throw a drink at Crowley’s all over that upsetting concept. Actually, no, she would drink it, because why waste a perfectly good beer?
Now, I have to take into account that this was just a pilot. Plenty could change in New Girl’s future, and, who knows? Perhaps I’ll even find myself liking the show after a few more views. (Hey, I disliked Cougar Town before its unorthodox storytelling won me over.) But, in the meantime, some advice for Jess: Take a page from P.J. and trade in the helpless desperation for robust – and, yes, quirky – confidence. And own your singledom as much as you own that horrible theme song.
How did you feel, PopWatchers? Did you also feel similarly taken aback? Oh, and, also, one more thing before I go: Why did Jess’ trio of boys only agree to take her in when they found out she was friends with models when they clearly have a woman with model looks sitting right in front of them? Oh, that Zooey Deschanel: She’s got glasses and a ponytail! Anybody but her!
Follow Kate on Twitter @KateWardEW