Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Best New Show on TV (No- really!)

            There are those out there who’ve said I’m not very discerning- about movies, TV shows, music, books, etc.  And I would say they’re not completely wrong.  These people claim that I like everything.  They’re not completely wrong on that, either.  (And what’s so wrong with liking everything, anyway?)  But allow me to address both issues.  I have different ways of telling myself whether something is good or not.  It often just comes back to a pleasant memory about something, the perception that the enjoyment of a certain piece of media or experience was prevalent throughout the group I’m experiencing it with.  This may be the truest about TV shows in general, however.  I enjoy “having shows” with people.  I’ve heard it said that with as complex and high-brow as a lot of TV has gotten over the past decade or so, that TV is the new reading, in that it’s full of stories people religiously follow and enjoy discussing.  I still enjoy reading, and there is still a lot you can get out of reading that you can’t get out of TV, but this gap is becoming increasingly narrow.  The show I want to discuss now would in no way replace reading, both because of how long it would take to catch up with it and because of a lack of need for height in one’s brow for those who watch.  That show is Fox’s New Girl.
            There are many reasons I should not like this show.  It has Zooey Deschanel who, while I think she is very attractive, very much and for a long time has annoyed the H out of me.  [Excuse me while I try to convince myself that is not a phrase she would use….. okay, I’m good.]  She has that really annoying iPhone commercial, which I don’t like for several reasons, and she’s definitely not as good an actress or singer as she thinks she is.  Though I give her an A for effort in both.  And the other simple fact is that I rarely hitch my wagon to shows that are so blatantly vehicles for big name stars.  But this vehicle has been able to glean adequate performances from the lesser cast members and create characters you root for.  If the show were Zooey and Anyone Else You Recognize, it wouldn’t work, because you wouldn’t buy those two famous people ever in the same place.  As it stands, the rest of the cast’s anonymity is one of its strengths.  They are able to form a believable rapport with each other and an actress who at least tries to cultivate a down-to-earth vibe.
            As a side note, this was a show that cut out the first Token Black Guy from the pilot (probably because he didn’t test well), and if it was because of his character, I blame the writers- he was an amalgamation of different characters they had in mind, which didn’t work for anyone.  Though the other roommates referred to him as Coach and I thought that was cool.  The recent reference to him leaving in a recent episode made me forgive them for this whole debacle.
            The show could also have shot itself in the foot with all the things Fox has done wrong historically:  Over-estimating what it had and putting it in a timeslot where it couldn’t succeed, for one.  Over-selling it.  Under-selling it.  Incorrectly packaging it with another show or simply marketing it poorly.  In my opinion, they pretty much did everything right.  They gave the public the pilot free on iTunes, so they could make up their mind in good time.  They packaged it with Raising Hope, a similar style of sitcom, together in the 9/8c timeslot, and moved it ahead of that show when the time came.  The only issue I kind of have is that the show’s poster on Hulu is a weird one with Jess (Zooey) giving some joyous pose and her roommates sitting behind her looking exasperated.  The tag is “Boys will be boys.  Jess will be Jess.”  That doesn’t quite capture the dynamic of the show.  I would say the opening song and credits does that better.
            Hey girl… whatcha doin’? Zooey starts singing.  Her roommates come in with cardboard cutouts that eventually form a picture frame with her in the middle with the label New Girl.  When she’s done singing, they bring the cutouts down and walk away, not resentful-like, but conspicuously ignoring her.  This captures the relationship the show-writers are trying to cultivate- one of mutual respect and tolerance, but sometimes annoyance.
            And they do a fantastic job.  They’re greatest strengths include creating situations which themselves create the tension and awkwardness from which great dialogue simply appears.  They are the least clich├ęd circumstances for a show that I’ve seen in a long time.  While the script isn’t jam-packed with as many jokes per second as possible, like 30 Rock, it has as many memorable scenes as any on network TV right now.  The Christmas episode, for example, had two of the most genius plot devices that I’ve ever seen.  In the opening scene, you find out that Jess has gotten the three late 20s guys she lives with roller skates.  This is without a doubt the most perfect gift she could have gotten them for the purposes of the show.  I could probably spend the next three paragraphs dissecting how it’s funny.  But I won’t.  I’ll just say that I split a gut and then yelled at my own roommate for five minutes after the episode about why that was the single funnies thing they could have done, him nodding and agreeing the whole time.  The other scene which was pitch-perfect, was when her roommates and her best girlfriend went with her to this street where all of the houses put up lights, only to find they were all turned off.  Her friends proceeded to get out of the car and make a ruckus so that all the neighbors turned their lights on.  It had the perfect mix of sentimentality, rebelliousness, and visually-pleasing Christmas-themed props.  Just a textbook scene from a show that I will be keeping tabs on for many seasons to come.