As a viewer, one of the most gratifying experiences of watching television is following a show from its initial days of relative obscurity into its second season of unadulterated confidence. In this case, that show is Fox’s “New Girl,” which started off year two with a successful doubleheader this past Tuesday, Sept. 25.
Admittedly, any show with the famous and beloved Zooey Deschanel as its leading lady is probably destined to succeed from the beginning. But even so, what New Girl specializes in is character nuances — rather than the less sophisticated but more initially gripping tactics of shock, suspense or dumbed-down humor — which can be a risky bet in the TV world. Luckily, through skilled writing, relatable yet ridiculous humor and seriously pro facial expressions — especially in the case of Nick Miller (Jake Johnson) — “New Girl” has managed to work itself into a spot in which audiences are fully attached to the characters as people with stories, not merely props for plot development.
With these two opening episodes, it’s clear that creator, producer and writer Elizabeth Meriwether is cognizant that her viewers are officially obsessed with the personas she has crafted, giving her the security to start expanding their stories without the fear of losing fans.
“In the first season, you’re setting up the character and you’re introducing the character to people watching. Then in the second season, it’s fun because you can twist things and show different sides and surprise people with a different part of the character, which I think is fun,” Meriwether said in an interview with TV Guide.
Deschanel’s character, Jess, is the quintessential embodiment of an elementary school teacher: She wears cute dresses to work and bows in her hair, she makes cupcakes and she routinely sings about everything from bullying to safe sex. So naturally, this season started off with Jess losing her job, one of her defining features. Essentially what this does for “New Girl’s” second season is open it up to vast possibilities in character development, which apparently includes Jess being the desire of multiple guys’ fancies. It’s an opportunity for Jess to be re-branded as something other than “adorkable.”
Speaking of re-branding, a review of “New Girl’s” season two premiere would be incomplete without mentioning the removal of Schmidt’s (Max Greenfield) penis cast. For anyone who doesn’t watch this show: Yes, you read that correctly. As only Schmidt can do, in honor of his phallic freedom he throws himself a danger-themed party in order to “re-brand” himself as a new man with a newly functioning “peernast,” as Jess would call it. The only downside to this two-episode premiere is that it feels like Winston (Lamorne Morris) was barely in either of them, save for a short and silly foray with a girly drink and the introduction of his WNBA-playing sister and feisty mother.
The one big shock that the show did have to offer was in the form of Cece’s (Hannah Simone) new boyfriend, Robby (Nelson Franklin). Pre-Schmidt she singularly dated hot assholes, but it seems post-Schmidt she’s dating down — as Nick says, “Oh wow, Schmidty, you really lowered Cece’s bar.” It’s not that Robby’s horribly disfigured or unbearably gross or anything, it’s just that he seems far too ordinary. And let’s face it, Cece and Robby just don’t have the same dichotomous chemistry as Cece and Schmidt. It remains to be seen whether Cece is dating Robby because she really and truly likes him, or because she’s still not emotionally ready to commit to a guy who says things like “chut-a-ney,” uses body gelato in the shower and has his very own douchebag jar for stupid stuff he says, but who is, deep down, quite caring. But who can blame the girl if she’s not ready for all of that.
Luckily, the one thing that hasn’t changed at all this season and actually only seems to have gotten better with age, is Nick’s amazingly versatile and hilarious facial expressions. To truly appreciate this, viewers should pick one “New Girl” episode to watch and just focus on Nick’s face the whole time — don’t look at anything else. It’s gold. Though “turtle face” is obviously still a household staple to the show, Johnson’s repertoire has expanded, making him one of the rare actors who uses his entire body to represent a character.
And now, the elephant in the room: Nick and Jess. Last season, it seemed like the two were inches away from finally getting together; however, as Meriwether has stated in several interviews, she’ll be pulling the two apart a bit more in this season to allow them each to develop as individual characters. But it definitely goes beyond just character development. The truth is, sexual tension is often the heat that burns beneath a show, roping audiences in and keeping them frustrated enough to watch week after week, but as soon as these impending televised relationships are realized, a show deflates like a flameless hot air balloon. So although it might drive “New Girl” fans nuts to see Nick and Jess on the edge of what would probably be one of T.V.’s best relationships since Gilmore Girls’ Luke and Lorelai, it’s probably in the show’s best interest to keep them apart.
Among the deluge of shows that premiered this past week, “New Girl” is definitely on the top of the list in terms of inarguable successes, which hopefully bodes well on what’s to come of this season — more intriguing character development and uncontrollable laughter.
Sklar is a member of the class of 2014.