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New Girl, “Pilot” (1.01)

Jess (Zooey Deschanel) smiles in a black dress.

A pre-air yet spoiler-free review of the pilot, written by Liz Meriwether and directed by Jake Kasdan, after the jump…

I’ve had a chance to see the pilot of this new sitcom, premiering on September 20. I’m a mild fan of Zooey Deschanel, but not so much that if it’s a bomb, I’d give it a pass. And after watching it, my first thought is…

That was ferociously charming.

The best thing a pilot can do, particularly one like New Girl that doesn’t have a hard formula, is demonstrate a cast chemistry that works. And though the show will be losing Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.) after the pilot, I still think that this show has developed a fantastic chemistry between its Core Four. Each character alone is alright, but it’s actually when they share scenes together that they shine, with the group scenes best of all.

I like all of the remaining castmates a lot. Zooey Deschanel‘s Jess only occasionally resembles a human being, but when she hits the right notes she feels like she’ll definitely be able to carry the lead on the show once she settles into the role. Jake Johnson starts the episode like a forgettable mook covered in angst, but as it goes on, he slowly develops into a really charming foil to both the spastic energy of Jess and the pure douchebag nature of Schmidt. And Schmidt himself, though I’m more used to Max Greenfield playing adorkable, is a wonderful douchebag. And what I love is that he’s shown to be overconfident and yet not good at it. Watching him strike out with Cece was wonderful, as he dug himself further and further into that hole. Though she’s not part of the apartment crew, Hannah Simone‘s Cece is a fun foil to the apartment gang. And though he’s committed to Happy Endings, if Damon Wayans Jr.‘s Coach returned, I wouldn’t be unhappy.

The jokes aren’t always gold – but, the key to laughter is ‘jokes x chemistry’, I think. And just as good jokes can help a pilot where the chemistry’s just developing, great chemistry can make ‘decent’ jokes laugh-out-loud worthy. I definitely found a few of those here. The first half has a few moments I found to be ‘too much’, but by the end of the episode, I’d definitely gotten into it.

The real test is, can I imagine season three? And I can. And do I want to watch more? Yes. There’s plenty of ways it could go wrong, but I like what I see. Bring on episode two.

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