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New Girl: Season One

Fox // Unrated // October 2, 2012
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted September 30, 2012 | E-mail the Author
In 10 Words or Less
As Jess says, let the adventure begin

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: New Girl; smart, quirky sitcoms; Max Greenfield
Likes: Zooey Deschannel, the rest of the cast

The Show
I really need to learn to have a little patience when it comes to new sitcoms. I am entirely guilty of whatching a single episode and writing shows off entirely. Sure, I am frequently dead-on in my assessment, but if I was in charge, Community probably wouldn't have made it on the air, so weak was my view of the pilot. My reaction to New Girl was similar, as I wasn't impressed with the first episode, outside of my devotion to the Queen of Quirk, Zooey Deschannel. However, spurred on by Mr. Matthew J. McCue, I stuck with said show, and was rewarded handsomely in the form of a hilarious season from one of the funniest shows on TV and one of the best ensemble casts.

Of course, when the show is called New Girl, the focus is going to be on the new girl, Jess (Deschannel), who, after a bad break-up with her boyfriend, moves into a loft apartment with three guys. A quirky middle-school teacher with an odd sense of humor and a love for all things cute, Jess has problems in her relationships with guys (and pretty much everyone else.) Insecure and a little bit naive, Jess dives into love and risks getting hurt, while trying to watch out for her friends' lives, which they may not want her to do. This season, her life was defined by two big attempts at a follow-up relationship, one with a male Jess, in the form of her fellow teacher Paul (Justin Long), and the other with her polar opposite, older rich guy Russell (Dermot Mulroney.) In both cases, her neuroses are her own worst enemies.

Her new roommates, Nick (Jake Johnson), Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Winston (Lamorne Morris) have their own problems as well, whether with women, work or life in general. Bartender Nick, the group's sad-sack, is coming off his own bad break-up, but he's suffering from a lack of motivation as well, having dropped out of law school without a goal in sight. Schmidt, a wanna-be womanizer, pretty much has it together, with the exception of being a complete douchebag most of the time, living a life obsessed with labels and style. Meanwhile, Winston has returned from his time playing basketball in Latvia, without a job or prospects, in terms of a career or a relationship. So basically, they are a perfect group for Jess to join, and together, her femininity and their understanding of the male mind might make all their lives better.

While Deschannel is undeniably the star of the show, with her off-beat charm lending the show its general tone, Greenfield broke out in a big way, working in tandem with the writers (not to mention an all-star line-up of directors including Jake Kasdan, Michael Spiller, Jason Winer and Peyton Reed) to make what could have been a one-dimensional Lothario into a hilariously egotistical schmuck battling a lifetime of low self-esteem, who, when faced with a real choice, will try to do the right thing. Practically every episode has a stand-out moment from Schmidt, with some episodes, mostly those focusing on his secret sexual liasons with Jess' model pal Cece (Hannah Simone), becoming more about Schmidt than Jess. That's not to say that Johnson and Morris aren't a big part of the show (because they are) but Greenfield manages to get the best lines on a consistent basis, in part because his character gets some of the oddest quirks, like his obsession with seeing Nick's penis. You know that Johnson and Morris are good, because you have to be good to keep up with the show's great guest line-up, including Lizzy Caplan, Rachel Harris, Tom Lennon, Martin Starr, Phil Hendrie, Lake Bell, Matt Besser (as a stripper) and a very funny Kareen Abdul-Jabbar.

Though the show does manage to evoke some of the feel-good emotion that shows like Community and Modern Family use to great effect, it's not quite as saccharine as those shows can be. When the three guys come to Jess' rescue, which they frequently do, the sweetness of their actions is cut by something just as ridiculous, like when they save her from being stood-up on a date, and follow it up with an obnoxiously loud, off-key and lyrically incorrect serenade of "Time of Our Lives" in the middle of a fancy restaurant. There's no doubt the characters care about each other, but they also won't pass up the chance to make fun of their pals, something they do relentlessly. When Winston decides to get an earring, it sets up an epic run of jokes by his roommates. Sometimes, your friends make fun of you more than anyone.

There are plenty of highlights in the show's first season outside of the pilot, which is notable mainly for the presence of Nick and Schmidt's roommate Coach (Damon Wayans, Jr.), who moved out by the second episode, when Wayans' series Happy Endings was picked up by ABC. Throw a dart and you're likely to hit an outstanding story, like Jess going as Nick's date to a wedding to make his ex jealous, the gang's disastrous Thanksgiving, Schmidt's birthday on a bus, Jess' attempts to have sex with Paul or Schmidt's date with Cece's Russian roommate, which will never not be funny. The scene where she describes the things she likes to Schmidt could be on a 24/7 loop and it wouldn't stop being funny. It's an example of one of the things that's so interesting about the show's style, namely the way they create multiple gags for a single joke, and then just run with them. As a result you get hammered with punchlines, increasing their impact, often at the end of an episode, capping it off on a high note. One of 24 high notes in the set.

The Discs
The 24 episodes of New Girl's first season arrive on three DVDs, packed in a clear single-width keepcase with a dual-hub tray, a two-sided cover that lists the episodes and special features and a couple of promotional inserts. The discs have animated anamorphic widescreen menus with options to play all the episodes, select shows, adjust languages and check out the extras. There are no audio options, but subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish and French.

The Quality
The anamorphic widescreen transfers look solid throughout, with appropriate color and a decent amount of detail, though the show does lean toward a softer look, so don't expect razor-sharp visuals (it would have been nice to get this on Blu-Ray to see the visuals in an optimal quality.) Black levels are strong though, most notably in "See Ya," where they spend the night in the desert. There are no obvious issues with compression artifacts.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks are strong and clear, positioning the dialogue in the center channel, while the side and rear speakers give the music some enhancement, along with some minor atmospheric elements. You're not going to find any dynamic mixing going on, but this isn't the kind of show that lends itself to that kind of audio, as it's mainly a dialogue-driven show. There are no obvious issues with the sound though.

The Extras
The set includes three audio commentaries, including tracks on the pilot and season finale, and "Bad in Bed." On the pilot, you get creator Elizabeth Meriwether, producers Brett Baer, David Finkel and Katherine Pope and Kasdan., while the other two commentaries feature the series' core four actors. The crew track is a bit more informative, though you do learn about Jess' awful car from the cast, along with just how sweet Justin Long is. Considering everyone but Deschannel hadn't seen the finale, they spend a bit of time just watching, but they're having a good time chatting.

A ciouple of featurettes follow, starting with "Dress Like Jess" (7:42) looks at Deschannel's character's unique costume designs, with the star joined by costume designer Debra McGuire to talk about clothes, the designers in Jess' closet and going shopping. It's actually better than I probably made that sound. "New Girl: Evolution of an Episode" (9:23) was more interesting, focusing on the finale, and the various efforts that went into making it happen.

Considering an episode was shot without Morris, it's interesting to see how he got the job, which is what the five-minute "Auditions with Lamorne" is about, as you get to see him screentest with his future cast mastes. It's actually rather casual, but obviously they made a good choice.

Three sets of deleted and extended scenes are included, totalling almost 14 minutes. Some othem are just slightly longer versions of scenes in the show, including an extended version of the Schmidt/model dinner, but there are a few completely new scenes. As mentioned before, the writers and cast often develop alternate jokes, and these discs include over six minutes of these gags, including more of Schmidt's douchey statements and Nick's depressed, bearded warnings to his future self. If only they included more of these. Instead there's a nearly nine-minute gag reel, which shows the cast basically just being goofballs, messing around and screwing up on-set. I've seen funnier, but it's still amusing.

Also included here is a five-minute sneak peek of FOX' new series Ben & Kate. It honestly looks more like a movie than a TV series, but hey, I've been wrong before.

The Bottom Line
New Girl is part of a new genre of sitcoms that could be better labeled at charcoms, as the comedy doesn't come from the situations but the well-fleshed out characters, and it only got better as the season went on and we got to know the gang better. The DVDs look and sound good, and offer up a decent amount of extras, but the real appeal of this set is revisiting the show's outstanding first season and all the laughs it provides.

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

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*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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