The television show “New Girl” has been a fixture in my life since I stumbled upon it during my junior year of high school. I greatly enjoyed watching the camaraderie between the cast in their central setting: the loft apartment in Los Angeles. There was Jess (Zooey Deschanel), the ditzy, adorkable protagonist; her best friend Cece (Hannah Simone), the uber glamorous model and Jess’s three male roommates: Nick (Jake Johnson), the underachieving writer, Schmidt (Max Greenfield), the high-strung self-professed playboy and Winston (Lamorne Morris), the affable basketball player.
To prepare myself for watching “New Girl’s” seventh and final season, which premiered earlier this month, I went back and watched the first couple episodes of the first season. It reminded me of what I loved most about the show: Jess is this unabashedly airy, bubbly character who bursts into the lives of three men and stations herself there. Her new roommates have to adjust to her presence in their lives and accommodate her in her equally endearing and ingratiating ways.
I realized that one of my favorite parts of “New Girl” in the beginning is the big-brotherly rapport Jess develops with her three roommates and how the three guys step up to support her during moments of crisis. It was also delightful to revisit the times when Schmidt took Jess up as his own personal project to mold into a refined lady, similar to “Pygmalion.” As for Winston, he and Jess were similarly lackadaisical and playful. Meanwhile, there was the cute undercurrent of attraction between Nick and Jess. Seeing them at the beginning reminded me why their relationship worked: Nick was a dude who was constantly done with everything, and Jess was the unrelenting whirlwind of childlike wonder. They were opposites who attracted.
Schmidt has always been my absolute favorite character. He never fails to make me laugh out loud in every episode, and he has grown remarkably over the course of seven seasons. He started off as a “player,” infamous for having to put a dollar in the “douchebag jar” every time he said something crude. His obsession with appearance and delusions of grandeur were as entertaining upon second viewing as they were the first time around.
All together, the four roommates are engaging to watch because of how they gather around the kitchen island or living room sofa and exchange rapid fire dialogue of varying absurdities, reacting exaggeratedly to each other.
After my trip down memory lane, I started the seventh, and final, season of “New Girl” on Hulu, which is set three years after the season six finale. I was struck by how much “New Girl” has lost its lustrous appeal. It seems less shiny, less fresh. It is no longer as laugh-out-loud funny as it once was. It dawned on me that this could be a result of the characters’ growth and development. Now that we’re arriving at the end of the series, characters are reaching their pinnacles of success, which force them to be taken more seriously. They have gotten over their hang-ups and glaring flaws and are no longer misfits.
Schmidt is still as outlandish as ever, but he is tempered by his wife, Cece, and their new kid and family home. Nick is now the successful author of a best-selling, award-winning series. He dresses professionally and has, amazingly, reached his previously untapped potential. Winston has found his calling as a police officer and is in his own long-term relationship. Jess is more mature and subdued in her theatrics, and her relationship with Cece has lost the magic it once had. Cece no longer has to serve as the cool and collected contrast to Jess, as Jess has now matured out of her previously childlike ways.
“New Girl” now relies on cheap laughs, lackluster blow ups between characters and a loud-mouthed three-year-old for entertainment. For example, a recent episode spends too much time on Schmidt and Cece’s child simply being a verbal wildcard. It feels like the cast has outgrown the wild situations the writers are forcing them into. My once-beloved show has devolved into a cheap situational comedy featuring overly melodramatic performances with no real heart or soul. It seems like the writers no longer know what to do with the characters now that they have evolved and matured.
I will finish “New Girl” because of my fondness for the characters and their respective journeys, but it is no longer the enjoyable, escapist ride that it once was. It is time to let it go.