Here at EW, Fall TV Wish List is a new weekly series in which our TV critics Melissa Maerz and Jeff Jensen weigh in on what they hope the coming season will bring for some of their favorite shows. This week: Fox’s New Girl, which premieres its third season on Sept. 17 at 9 p.m.
WHERE WE LEFT OFF
At the end of season 2, Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) got their big, John Hughes-finale moment and made out in a parking lot to the strains of a dramatic love song; Cece (Hannah Simone) dumped Shivrang (Satya Bhabha) at the altar; Elizabeth (Merritt Wever) and Cece forced Schmidt (Max Greenfield) to choose between them; and poor, lonely Taylor Swift ran off with her sweet Shivvy so she’d never have to cry into her journal again.
WHAT WE LOVED ABOUT LAST SEASON
Melissa: So many things. Great physical comedy. One-liners that capture Schmidt’s “bromain” so well, you could screen-print them on a freshly ironed muscle tank top. (The best: “They make shoes for your penis. They’re called pants.”) The very funny “Virgins” episode, which added depth to characters that don’t normally get much screen time (Lamorne Morris’ Winston!) and finally — finally — gave us that elevator-door-jammingly urgent hook-up between Nick and Jess. Also: Nick’s tortured face when that random Asian man cuddles him. Elizabeth embarrassing Schmidt with her favorite kitten t-shirt. And all the other times that this self-aware show acknowledged that even fans of cuteness can only take so much of it before they cringe.
Jeff: What Melissa said. New Girl continued to be a welcome guest in the TV queue, thanks mostly to the comic chemistry and camaraderie of the cast. It feels like the actors can tackle anything the writers throw at them, from zombie Woody Allen impressions and to hallucinatory wrestling matches with invisible trolls. Episodes like “Halloween” and “Virgins” brilliantly synthesized slapstick, cracked-ribald laugh lines (“It was like a wind-sock on a windless day”), and character-driven storytelling. And the Jess-Nick hook-up was well-mounted (so to speak) and almost everything I hoped it would be (sorry). What Max Greenfield was to the show in season 1, Jake Johnson was to the show in season 2: an inspired breakout performance that deserved an Emmy nod. Robbed!
WHAT WE WEREN’T SO CRAZY ABOUT
Melissa: With her parakeet-pajama-wearing, tiny-gold-top-hat-crafting, Elvis-impersonating, zany-voice-utilizing quirkiness, Jess still feels less like a real adult woman than some whimsical cartoon dreamed up by a teenaged musical-theater-camp refugee — or maybe a really tiny kitten. How is it possible that she’s been alive for thirty-some years, and she still can’t handle getting her period without sobbing over a photo of a teacup Yorkie? (Yep, go rewatch “Menzies.”) Her relationship with the house grump, Nick, has tempered that wide-eyed little-girl shtick somewhat: She was afraid to say “penis” last season, and now she’s actually making use of Nick’s, but she still insists on calling her virginity “my flower” and resorts to doing Scooby-Doo impressions after sex. Ruh-roh.
Jeff: Taking away Jess’ teaching job and making her cast about for new work and professional fulfillment was a promising premise that never produced much meaningful story. That one episode with Jess subbing for Cece at a car show model — so clumsy with awkward product placement — was a real lemon. I often lost sight of who Jess was and who she really wanted to be through the season. This might have been the point; still not very satisfying. The fact that happiness for her in season 2 was largely found in chasing after boyfriends further bugged me…when I thought about it too much. I usually didn’t. Similarly, Schmidt lost some of his season 1 potency as we waited for the show the finally get around to getting him back to Cece, although I was engaged by the Schmidt-Elizabeth-Cece love triangle at season’s end, even though it felt all-of-a-sudden.
WHAT WE’RE HOPING FOR NEXT SEASON
Melissa: The quickest way to kill a TV romance is to trade any hard-earned, will-they-or-won’t-they tension for the kind of smug, in-jokey coupledom that’s so sweet, you could contract diabetes just watching it. (See also: Jim and Pam in The Office, season 6.) So Nick and Jess really need a legitimate conflict, and not just the same old kooky, he-forgot-to-bake-her-favorite-gluten-free-cookies-on-Valentine’s-Day kind of thing. Since he’s a curmudgeon and she’s a hyper little pixie, it would be nice to see them get annoyed with each other, just like mismatched couples do in real life. And the fact that we’ll soon meet Jess’s sister suggests that there might be some much-needed family drama to complicate their romance. Whatever happens, now that most of the suspense has been drained from their relationship, it’s up to Schmidt to draw out this Cece vs. Elizabeth decision as long as he can. Also, can someone please give Winston an episode where he gets to do more than advise other characters on their love lives? If not, I’m going to start shipping Winston and Schmidt.
Jeff: In addition to stronger stories for Schmidt and a plain decent story for Winston, I hope the writers attend to Jess as an individual, just as much as they blow out her relationship with Nick. Here’s where I differ with Melissa: Count me among the very few who thought Zooey Deschanel never had to apologize for herself, who has always been been entertained by Jess’ allegedly alienating, Feminist-challenged “whimsy.” (Although, yes: Burn those bird-brained PJs!) New Girl is a heightened, even bizarro-reality portrayal of twentysomething find-yourself-ness; I struggle to see how Jess is any more alarmingly off-putting — or should be taken any more seriously — than the nutty, reductive caricatures of manhood embodied the boys on the show, especially this season. If anything, I’d like to see a little more personality from Jess in season 3: I thought she flirted with becoming a mere “girlfriend trophy” as the narrative doted on Nick’s evolution into romantic hero in the latter part of last season. Yes, I do see how too much “whimsy” — as impossible as that might be to measure — can be problematic. But blandness? That would really take the wind out of New Girl’s wind-sock. So to speak. Weirdly. (Sorry.)