Here’s something I’ve been thinking about: The seventh and final season of New Girl takes place in the spring of 2020, courtesy of a three-year time jump after the season six finale, which took place in the spring of 2017. In New Girl world, everything is great in 2020. The series’ central characters have all found love and happiness. Downtown Los Angeles remains sunny and bright and filled with people.
A fantasy? Perhaps. But it’s the kind of fantasy that some of my friends and I are increasingly turning to in these times of stress and social distancing. The Office shows us a world where people still go to work every day (at a paper company, no less). The Simpsons shows us a town where no matter how bad things get, they’re never all that bad. And New Girl shows us a candy-coated city where kissing is always great and never scary.
New Girl has rough patches, but even at its worst, it’s competently made — and that matters a lot more than you might realize. When you’re looking for something to watch that will stretch on and on, a competently made sitcom is better than almost any other type of television. One episode rolls into the next, and a show’s good stretches (of which New Girl has many) and bad stretches (of which New Girl has many) start to blend together.
But as one New Girl episode becomes another becomes another, as the show’s central couples come together and fall apart, over and over again, the series’ top-notch acting, writing, and directing carry me through. With the very similar Friends no longer streaming on Netflix (it’s coming to the new streaming service HBO Max in May) and with so many people looking for their next sitcom marathon — now might be New Girl’s time to shine.
New Girl started as a Zooey Deschanel vehicle. It became one of the best ensemble sitcoms of its era.
The first half-season of New Girl was that rare thing in modern TV: a massive, massive hit. Its first few episodes set new ratings benchmarks, and its success helped several other shows on the Fox network thrive.
New Girl's early success was largely tied to its star, Zooey Deschanel. When the show premiered in 2011, Deschanel was well-known for her roles in a variety of films, ranging from the sweetly plaintive (All the Real Girls) to the kookily mainstream (Elf) to somehow both at once (500 Days of Summer). New Girl’s ad campaign plastered Deschanel’s face all over buildings and buses across America, with the word “ADORKABLE” stamped atop her. It was an aggressively irritating campaign, but it worked. The show quickly found an audience.
Its initial high ratings dropped across the first season, as the series became more than The Zooey Deschanel Show. Yet some of the viewers who came for Deschanel ultimately stayed for what became one of the top ensemble casts of the 2010s. The show’s central premise involved a young, newly single woman named Jess (Deschanel) moving in with three single guys in a downtown Los Angeles loft.
The dyspeptic and unambitious Nick (Jake Johnson), the smooth-talking would-be Lothario Schmidt (Max Greenfield), and the walking non-sequitur Winston (Lamorne Morris) formed a great comedy trio, and Deschanel had fun chemistry with all of them — though her romantic chemistry with Johnson became the engine that fueled the show’s second (and best) season.
New Girl’s pilot featured a different roommate named Coach, who was played by Damon Wayans Jr. The character left the series in episode two and was replaced by Morris’s Winston because Wayans was committed to a different TV show. But in later seasons, after Wayans was free of his other obligation, Coach returned. New Girl never quite figured out how to use him, but he’s so funny you might not mind. (Also spending an extended stint of episodes in the apartment, eventually: Megan Fox, of all people.)
Like all comedies built around will-they/won’t-they pairings — and New Girl has two of them, if you include Schmidt’s flirtation with Jess’s best friend Cece, played by Hannah Simone — this one has its ups and downs. Watching the show week to week, those ups and downs could feel hard to ride out. But in a marathon, you’ll blow past the weaker moments so quickly you might not even notice.
New Girl has 146 episodes to work your way through, with just enough of a serialized spine — largely about Nick and Jess’s romance — to create a sense of forward momentum. Some episodes are perfect for watching over and over again (like any of the ones featuring the show’s made-up drinking game, True American) while others will just be a pleasant way to pass time.
But in all of them, you’ll get to hang out with fun characters, who say funny things, who are played by terrific actors. You’ll live in New Girl’s bright and beautiful world for 21 minutes at a time, and even when things go wrong, they’ll never feel truly dire. If you’re looking for a new Netflix marathon, try it out. Worst case is you’ll probably find yourself wondering just how these characters might survive being quarantined with each other here in our world.
New Girl is streaming in its entirety on Netflix.
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