As Jess says, let the adventure begin
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 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.
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.
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