It’s a new year, and you know what that makes me think of? The sitcom New Girl. Is it because “New” is in the title of that show? Yes, yes it is. Sometimes, things are that simple. Although, I think New Girl is a show worth writing about. I used to do it on a weekly basis when it was on the air. It was successful and popular, but it has not had legs like, say, The Office or even somehow Schitt’s Creek. That’s not to knock Schitt’s Creek. It just happens to be a Canadian sitcom, so its success and popularity is a genuine surprise. Credit Netflix, sure, but New Girl is on Netflix too. It’s been in syndication in the past. Now, though, only a couple years later, it feels like New Girl is well out of the zeitgeist. If anybody talks about Zooey Deschanel, it’s because she’s dating one of those Property Brother guys. That’s a little odd, because it’s a really good show, and also one that seems like it could have had some legs.
New Girl started off broad and a little sweaty. It was about Deschanel as Jessica Day moving into a loft with three dudes she didn’t know. She was weird and quirky and “adorkable” and made things awkward for everybody. Of course, the guys came to accept her anyway. Then, one of the dudes, Coach, was replaced after the first episode. It took them a minute to figure out all the characters, including Jess. That’s not great, given that she was the main character, and the show was pitched as a star vehicle.
What turned New Girl around was when it became an ensemble piece instead of a show about a wacky girl and the dudes who tolerate her. They figured out Jess as a character, but they also figured out Nick, Winston, Cece, and most importantly Schmidt, who could have been a broad, one-note character. Instead, due to a revamping of his character and the performance of Max Greenfield, Schmidt became a delight. New Girl became something of a Millennial Friends, with all that entails. That means both that it worked as a hangout sitcom but also was flawed in that it asked you to care about the main characters even when they were being unlikeable and problematic. Had New Girl leaned more into being a Seinfeld for the smart phone set, it would have been even better. Even so, it was a good show.
And yet, what has its legacy been. Do people talk about True American? Does Schmidt ever get quoted? More Millennials are watching Friends than are watching New Girl, for whatever reason. Perhaps in the new year we should be watching New Girl. I must admit, even as a fan of the show I have rarely rewatched episodes. Perhaps I’m part of the problem. Then again, I never watch Friends either.