The theme song of a television show can tell you a lot about what you’re going to see. You say “I’ll be there for you” and almost automatically think of Monica’s apartment and Central Perk in “Friends.” Everybody knows your name at “Cheers.” Play the theme of “How I Met Your Mother” and you imagine snapshots of Ted, Lily, Marshall, Barney and Robin in the bar.
That minute or less between the opening moments of a show and the rest of the episode set the tone for the personality of a series.
In Fox’s new comedy “New Girl” from writer Elizabeth Meriwether, the main character, Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel), writes her own theme song. That’s the kind of girl she is — one who makes up songs on the spot for everything she does. She doesn’t hide tears during chick flicks and she doesn’t shy away from quoting “Lord of the Rings” when she feels it is necessary.
Jess is unabashedly herself. She knows who she is, yet sometimes seems to be lost within herself at the same time. When she catches her boyfriend cheating on her in a nightmarish, embarrassing scenario involving a trench coat sans clothing, a pillow, a plant and, of course, a song, Jess promptly moves out. She moves in with three guys looking less for a replacement boyfriend and more for protectors and friends.
Nick (Jake M. Johnson), Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Coach (Damon Wayans, Jr., who will be replaced by Lamorne Morris for the rest of the series) reluctantly provide just that. They all have their own problems: Nick can’t get over his ex-girlfriend, Schmidt can’t get over himself, and Coach can’t get over treating girls like boys.
Naturally they are concerned when they realize they’ve taken in a girl who watches “Dirty Dancing” more than seven times a day and goes through boxes of tissues at an exponential rate. In spite of their apprehension they take Jess in like a lost-puppy and give her a place to call home. Alongside Jess’ best friend Cece (Hannah Simone) — who happens to be a model — Nick, Schmidt and Coach turn out to be just the kind of friends Jess needs in order to move past her post-breakup tears.
The main draw of the show is, of course, Deschanel. I have yet to meet a boy or even a girl who doesn’t have at least a little bit of a crush on her. Deschanel plays dorky Jess with all the charm you would expect from her.
To her new male roommates, it is entirely ridiculous when Jess struts out in a tight black dress with her hair pulled back and is suddenly and shockingly gorgeous. But let’s get this straight: Zooey Deschanel is beautiful. There is no point in pretending that she looks anything less than that with a pair of oversized glasses and slightly poofy hair. Yet she still manages to portray the offbeat goofiness of a girl who is completely unaware of this fact.
The main problem with the episode is nothing more than that it is a pilot episode. It has sincere charm and jokes that made me laugh, but it lacks the ease that you find a episodes or even seasons later in a series.
The stories between each of the characters felt slightly disjointed rather than being part of one cohesive plot. But that ease is found with time, and in this case, “New Girl” deserves the time.
Dorkiness can be contagious and will likely rub off on both Jess’ roommates and the audience. Just like the theme song of Jess’s life asks, “who’s that girl?” she always responds with a resoundingly proud, quirky, and honest “Jess!” Before we know it, the theme song of this new girl in a new show might be one that has us singing along for hours, or even days after the episode.
The pilot episode of “New Girl” is available for free on iTunes until its premiere on Sept. 20 at 9:00 p.m. on Fox.
Rosenberg is a member of the class of 2012.