Fox's sitcom New Girl is one of our favorite new shows of 2011. The zany comedy puts a quirky spin on the classic hot twenty-somethings-living-in-a-city formula, and this little LA gang has already won our hearts.
However, few shows are perfect from day one, and New Girl still has a few kinks to work out. We're not complaining: any show that makes us laugh this consistently is a-okay with us. However, we do want to see the show reach it's greatest potential, so here are a few suggestions on how it could be even better.
1. Make it a true ensemble show: We have nothing against Zooey Deschanel's Jess. She's generally charming. However, it's her dynamic with her male roommates that really makes the show — and their dynamics with either other, even when she's not around. New Girl has already started moving away from Jess as the central character, embracing it's entire cast almost equally. We hope the trend continues.
2. Focus on the character interactions: We'll be honest: sometimes, Jess' cutesy antics can be grating. So can Schmidt’s (Max Greenfield) self-important parading around, and even Nick’s (Jake Johnson) woe-is-me attitude. Every character on the show has the potential to fall into overwrought stereotype, and while over-the-top characters can be hilarious in the right context (see: Parks and Recreation's Ron Swanson), New Girl's strength lies in feeling just real enough to be plausible. The show is at its best when it focuses on casual banter between the characters, as opposed to single person set pieces.
3. Give the characters more depth. In the same vein, the more we learn about these characters, the more we like them. Believable specificity is the key to great comedic characters. We're sure that depth will come over time — it's already started — but creating complex character doesn't just mean big moments. One of the most telling scenes of the season was when Winston told Nick he liked Paul (Justin Long) because Paul asked Winston's grandfather's name — and then revealed that he knew the name of both of Nick's grandfathers. Nick, of course, had no idea about Winston's grandfather. It was a small moment, but said a lot about both characters. We want to see more interactions like that.
4. Keep mixing it up. Ensemble sitcoms have a tendency to fall into patterns, relying on the same few character combinations over and over again. This is necessary to some degree, but it's an easy way to become stale quickly. We're already seeing some combinations come to forefront on New Girl (Jess and Nick, Schmidt and Nick, Schmidt and Cece), and while we don't have a problem with them, we hope the writers remember to keep mixing it up. Look at the hilarity that resulted when Jess and Winston (Lamorne Morris) teamed up in Season 1, Episode 7, "Bells." More of that, please.
5. Be wary of romance. Nick's failed attempt to have casual sex with an incomprehensibly sarcastic bartender? Hilarious. Nick's ex-girlfriend angst? Boring. Again, this is a case of everything in moderation. Dating will always have a place on the show, but one of the weaknesses in the pilot was the emphasis on Jess and Nick's romantic lives, and the show has gotten increasingly hilarious as it moves away from that focus. (Again: Look at "Bells," which didn't mention romance once). We hope New Girl maintains a balance that puts a sizable emphasis on the non-dating foibles of everyday life.