I am the worst kind. I am the person who didn’t even watch the pilot of this show because I had a preordained idea of what Zooey Deschanel had come to represent, in terms of star image, and assumed that the show would be an extension of that image — with a few well-chosen male friends to extend and extrapolate upon it. I am especially the worst kind, given the ease with which I ascribed to arguments concerning Deschanel’s overarching suckiness, for lack of a more academic term. She was too wide-eyed, she was singing in those insufferable Cotton commercials, she was twee. She was a more modest Katy Perry. She was what was wrong with feminism. I hated her.
But I totally didn’t. I’ve loved Deschanel since she played her records for her kid brother in Almost Famous. I especially loved her in All the Real Girls, which offers a totally different side of the Deschanel image, Danny McBride before he was Danny McBride, Paul Schneider being so weirdly attractive, and enough stunning vistas to make you move to North Carolina this very minute. It’s a quiet film, but it gets its hooks on you — the kind of film you still think about years later.
But then there was Elf and 500 Days of Summer and the duets with M.Ward — I mean, I can’t lie, they appeal to me the way that Anthropologie appeals to me, the way that every dress she ever wears appeals to me. But I also try and disavow the things that too obviously appeal to me. I often fail. I own many Anthropologie dresses, even if I do buy them on sale. So when Zooey Deschanel told Glamour that…
“I’m just being myself. There is not an ounce of me that believes any of that crap that they say. We can’t be feminine and be feminists and be successful? I want to be a f–king feminist and wear a f–king Peter Pan collar. So f–king what?”
…I posted it to the blog’s Facebook page. I admitted that I had judged Deschanel. I admitted I was wrong. And then everyone kept talking about how great New Girl was, etc. etc. so funny go watch it etc.
So fine. I did. I started with S02, as suggested. And it is legitimately, consistently, hilarious. I love it. I love all of it. Don’t get me wrong: I get why people dislike her. And what made me love the show wasn’t necessarily a recuperation of the much-loathed Deschanel image. She’s still wearing cute dresses. Her eyes are still wide. But the show is about her in the same way that Seinfeld is about Jerry: it’s mostly about friendship, situational humor, and the specifics of being a certain age in a certain time….as a certain demographic, which is to say middle-class, educated, urban people.
So here’s what I’ll stand by about New Girl: it’s not all about Zooey. The guy who played Officer Leo D’Amato in Veronica Mars is really, really funny. I kinda want to date the law school drop out turned bartender. The way it deals with race and gender is compelling and generative; I want to show every episode to my class and have them start a conversation about it, and not in a “ack look at how gross this is” sorta way. I laugh — really hard, like embarrass myself at the gym hard — all the time. It surprises me. You should probably start in S02, although I’ve heard great things about some of the episodes in S01. And if you’re in your late-20s/early-30s, educated, lived in an urban setting — either with a group of friends or hung out with a close-knit group of friends — it will probably make you nostalgic, or speak to your experience, or both. For me, it reminds me of the years when I lived with my girlfriends and had a close group of guy friends and we spent all of our time together — this was before engagements or babies — and were all way too wrapped up in each other’s business, and made fun of each other all the time, did weird projects, went silly places, accidentally got drunk on Tuesday nights, and were just generally, totally cheesily supportive of one another.
I realize that we could all do that because we were gainfully employed and able to pay our rent and had health insurance and were not crushed by student loan payments. I also realize that privileged people born between the years of 1975 and 1985 are not at a loss for programming that speaks to their desires and needs. But this is one of the most consistently amusing, compelling, and surprising I’ve found. If you feel like it will speak to you, give it a try. Or don’t, and tell me what programs do speak to you, and I’ll try them too. As clearly evidenced above, I love to be proven wrong.