- All episodes of New Girl are now streaming at SBS On Demand.
- New Girl begins at 6pm weeknights on SBS Viceland from Monday 7 October
It’s really funny
New Girl is a finely tuned comedy machine from a time when American sitcoms were at their peak. An angst-free relationship comedy about people who don’t quite have the rest of their lives sorted out, it begins with bubbly thirty-ish teacher Jess (Zooey Deschanel) moving in with three guys after her bad breakup: shiftless bartender and would-be writer Nick (Jake Johnson), seemingly sleazy Entourage-style man on the make Schmidt (Max Greenfield), and Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.) who left after one single solitary episode to be replaced by former Latvian basketball star Winston (Lamorne Morris).
It’s the kind of sitcom set-up where you might expect a lot of Jess acting offbeat while the guys supply the comedy reactions, but here everyone rapidly turns out to be weird, including Jess’s best friend (and initially, voice of reason) Cece (Hannah Simone). They’re a fun bunch that audiences want to spend time with – the goal of every American sitcom since Friends.
(Also, New Girl is funnier than Friends.)
It’s also got heart
Originally the show was largely sold on Deschanel’s “adorkable” (actual word used in the promotions) charm. Fortunately, it quickly became clear that this was an ensemble show where the chemistry between the cast was just as important (and just as big a part of the show’s success) as her quirky charm.
It’s a relationship comedy, so it’s no surprise that there’s a will-they-or-won’t-they subplot between Jess and Nick. But it somehow manages to develop naturally and never feel forced – even when later in the run they actually get together then fall apart. And even that isn’t enough to totally dampen the chemistry between them… though when Megan Fox’s character Reagan turns up later in the run (brought in during a stretch when Deschanel was pregnant) it’s a serious speed bump.
There are some great guest stars
Fox’s role was originally a fill-in, but it worked out so well that she returns later on as a semi-regular guest star. She’s not the only character who makes a comeback; remember Coach from the very first episode? He’s back as a regular in season 4 (Damon Wayans Jr. left the show when another sitcom pilot he was in, Happy Endings, was picked up. When that show was cancelled, he was available to return).
There are plenty of other memorable guest stars lurking around during the show’s seven-season run: Adam Brody as Jess’s rubbish ex! Linda Cardellini as Jess’s sister! Jamie Lee Curtis and Rob Reiner as Jess’s parents! But the biggest guest star of all is also the most unexpected: Prince.
Supposedly the musical superstar was such a big fan of New Girl he asked Zooey Deschanel personally if he could be on the show, and his appearance as himself – it’s season 3, episode 14 if you want to check it out – is a comedy highlight both for his charming strangeness, and for the way the cast freak out in his presence.
The main cast is even better
Often the lead character in a sitcom is fairly one-note. Think Jerry on Seinfeld: their job is to be the eye in the comedy storm, the sensible one reacting to the craziness around them. But one of the things that makes New Girl so much fun to watch is that everyone’s in on the fun. Jess might be sweet and funny (and often musical; in real life Deschanel is one half of band She & Him), but she can be kind of intense, and that quirkiness can go to some strange places at times.
On the other hand, fiercely determined underachiever Nick is scarred by a bad breakup, a bad attitude towards money, a bad approach to household repairs (he does them himself to save money; he also has no idea what he’s doing) and a string of bad decisions; otherwise, he’s a great guy.
On yet another hand, marketing manager Schmidt initially doesn’t seem like much of a great guy at all; an overly confident ladies’ man who isn’t afraid to throw his money around (and be kind of controlling with it), he’s so consistently awful his flatmates have set up a “douchebag jar” that he has to pay into every time he does something typically douchey. But he’s a childhood friend of Nick’s, his swaggering manner is clearly an over-reaction to his childhood obesity, and – most importantly – he’s really a softie at heart.
And Winston? He’s a bit all over the place, being a former basketball player-turned-nanny-turned-radio-host-turned-scared-of-the-dark-guy-turned-prankster-turned-cop. He’s not great at doing puzzles, he’s even worse at pranks (despite loving them) and he once brought a badger as his guest to a wedding. The one consistent element with him is that he’s intense; when he gets into something, he gives it his all… even when he has no idea what he’s doing.
The show’s standout running gag is a mix of a drinking game and that game you play when you’re a kid where you have to cross the room without touching the floor (“the floor is lava”). Initially it seemed to largely involve the cast shouting out Presidents’ names while jumping on furniture. Somehow it’s hilarious to watch: it became the big breakout sensation of the show, even leading to a promotional bus tour hitting 19 US cities in 2012. And though an official set of rules were eventually released, the main rule remains the same: “there are no real rules”.
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Margaret Atwood has returned to the story of 'The Handmaid's Tale' with her new book, 'The Testaments', and the team from Eyes on Gilead is reuniting for a book club edition of the podcast. Join Fiona, Natalie, Haidee, Sana (and yes, Baby Greta), as they examine: How does the story wrap up? Is it a fitting fall for Gilead? Can we ever look at certain characters in the same way, as we watch future seasons of 'The Handmaid's Tale'? THIS EPISODE CONTAINS MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS FOR 'THE TESTAMENTS'.