The pressure of being 'official'
Published: Sunday, September 22, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 22, 2013 23:09
One tends not to expect much when watching a sitcom, a television genre that is all-too-often beset with predictable storylines, dull jokes and an obnoxious laugh track. Occasionally a sitcom like “Seinfeld” or “How I Met Your Mother” will break new ground and be critically acclaimed, but these shows are few and far between.
“New Girl” is not exactly a groundbreaking show. The premise (a woman shares an apartment with three men) is hardly revolutionary and on paper the characters themselves seem to read like walking stereotypes: the quirky girl (played, of course, by Zooey Deschanel), her sassy best friend, the douchebag, the neurotic guy and a black best friend.
What sets “New Girl” apart from other run-of-the-mill sitcoms is how earnestly they embrace the typical tropes of a sitcom and flesh them out into believable characters with interesting lives. It remains predictable, but that predictability is usually not a hindrance, as the writing and a cast work well to keep the audience attentive and coming back for more.
In many ways, the season three premiere of “New Girl” displays the positive side of fully committing to its genre without attempting to be edgy. The episode takes place in the immediate aftermath of the second season finale in which Nick and Jess had formalized their relationship. The main plot of the premiere is an exploration of what exactly a formal relationship would entail. On one hand, they are now remarkably angst-free (and the chemistry between Jake Johnson and Deschanel reflect this looser relationship). On the other, they are still roommates and must deal with the pitfalls of living together about 40 minutes after they’ve fully committed to a relationship. The episode explores such difficulties with hijinks typical of a sitcom, but the story is heartwarming at its core.
Less well-written is the B plot of the episode, which deals with the other major event of the finale of last season: Schmidt’s love troubles with Cece and Elizabeth. In this case, predictability does not work to New Girl’s advantage. Part of the show’s charm is its ability to carve out cliché storylines and turn them into something interesting, but Schmidt’s subplot has no originality whatsoever and saddles him with another hackneyed romantic arc. Nor does his decision to try to date both women improve matters; the show had spent so much effort establishing Schmidt as essentially a nice guy in previous seasons that this ends up being a disservice to his character.
Overall, this was an adequate premiere. It tied up most of the loose ends of the previous season while keeping the audience interested in the story arcs to come. Despite Schmidt’s storyline being rather melodramatic and overwrought, it had a good balance of drama and comedy (mostly thanks to Winston’s antics with a puzzle). Perhaps most importantly, it managed to preserve the core chemistry among the roommates despite Nick and Jess’s newfound relationship.