And if you watch New Girl, the single-camera comedy she produces and stars in, you'll see her successfully extend her personal style and humor into what over two seasons has become one of the funniest shows on television. Along with show creator Elizabeth Meriwether and a breakout cast, Deschanel and her writers took a questionable Three Horny Roommates and a Girl premise and transformed it from amusing trifle into something genuinely fresh and inventive.
The show's early episodes are an admittedly erratic mix, but the smart, appealing characters and high quality of writing make the potential clear. Like so many comedies--think of Seinfeld's slow-as-molasses first season--the series had to find its tone, its characters' voices, and the strengths and weaknesses of its cast members. But by the time Dylan McDermott's character shows up in a late-season storyline, the pieces are all in place, and New Girl's momentum, confidence, and humor become tough to resist.
it). A cute, romantic, quirky grade-school teacher, Jess finds herself in need of a place to live after having her heart broken by her cheating live-in boyfriend. Enter three new roommates: Schmidt, Nick, and Coach (replaced by Winston in Episode 2). Best buddies from way back, these late-twentysomething man-children ultimately give in to Jess's weirdness and charm (and the fact that her best friend, Cece, is a model).
Though sometimes pixie-like (and only occasionally manic), Jess is anything but a dream girl, proving just as in need of guidance as her struggling roommates. Much of the comedy in the early episodes stems from the guys playing off Jess's goofy awkwardness ("What have we gotten ourselves into?"), some of which can feel forced depending on your tolerance for a grown woman acting like a clueless girl. But that note lessens as the series evolves, especially as its ensemble nature becomes apparent.
"Girl" in the title notwithstanding, this is just as much an ensemble comedy as Cheers or Friends or How I Met Your Mother, the three programs it's most easily compared to (and yes, it approaches their heights). If Jess's character starts off a bit cartoon-like, then so are the show's men, especially Max Greenfield's preening, inwardly sensitive Schmidt--a character (and actor) who was Season 1's surprise MVP. Greenfield's ability to shade the callowness of his former-fat-guy-turned-cad with a little-boy-lost sensitivity is a wonder to behold, right up there with Neil Patrick Harris' less redeeming Barney Stinson. The guy's a douche, yes, but as the show (and characters) ultimately acknowledge, he's more an aspirational douche than an actual one.
It was wise of Meriwether to hitch her sail to Deschanel and the more writer-friendly environs of television. Considering the indignities her work suffered in the movie industry, the critical success of New Girl must have provided a hard-earned sense of vindication--enough, one hopes, that even FOX's 'A' word sounds like music to her ears.