Spoilers for the excellent "New Girl" pilot after the jump:
Perhaps the pilot of "New Girl" is just a little too cute in places. In fact, there's no "perhaps" about it. The opening episode of this extremely promising new comedy relies almost entirely on its goofy, off-the-wall characters to produce laughs by acting... well, goofy. The result is a show that (at least initially) does feel just a bit manufactured. That's a problem: one that the show's probably going to have to address at some point if it's going to work long-term. There will come a point when watching the zany antics of Zooey Deschanel's Jess and the silent, bemused reactions of the people around her just isn't enough anymore.
But one can't go by what might happen with a show ten or twelve episodes down the road. And for now, all I can say is that "New Girl's" first episode had me smiling throughout and laughing out loud numerous times. The series seems to have an effortless charm that's going to make it really fun to watch even if it so far appears to lack the ambition that sets a show like "Parks and Rec" or "Community" apart from the general sitcom crowd. And the performances from all involved are quite superb.
That starts with Deschanel, who proved herself quite adept at playing a quirky, lovable character in the film "(500) Days of Summer". Jess is one such character: a slightly crazy young woman who moves in with three guys after she catches her boyfriend with someone else. They don't know quite what they're getting themselves into, however, as some of Jess's behavior can be quite... well, let's just call it "exuberant". Deschanel's portrayal of the character is pretty much note-perfect, although I do hope she dials down the zaniness factor (most notably the spontaneous singing) a bit in subsequent installments.
The three male actors (who along with Hannah Simone's Cece make up the rest of the supporting cast) are also quite good. Their job is basically to play straight men to Jess: something they do very well. However, the show's creative team is smart enough to give each their own unique quirks: such as Nick's attempts to move on after a bad break-up of his own. So while the show does revolve around Jess, there's a strong ensemble being built here. And that's something that bodes well for "New Girl's" future. (Note: Damon Wayans Jr.'s Coach isn't going to be around for very long, which is too bad considering he was actually my favorite character of the three.)
There's not much more to say, other than that the pilot hits pretty much all the right notes. It introduces the central concept well, although I'm still not sure what the long-term story is going to look like. And it does a wonderful job of establishing an immediate bond between its characters: albeit in slightly over-the-top fashion involving (you guessed it) singing. While zany behavior is likely going to be where most the comedy comes from, the best sitcoms are built around solid relationships between their characters. "New Girl" appears to be well on its way in that regard. And as I've already mentioned, it's very funny. This fall definitely looks pretty barren in terms of good new shows, but there are bright spots. Here's one of them.
Will I Keep Watching?: Definitely. "New Girl" will be getting the full review treatment for at least the next couple of weeks while I decide whether to add it to the weekly rotation. If it keeps up the level of quality seen in the pilot, I almost certainly will. Whether I'll be reviewing it weekly throughout the season is another matter altogether. Some shows ("Modern Family", for instance) can be very good while at the same time not really requiring weekly analysis. This may be one of them, but I won't know until I've seen a few more episodes.
* Note: Don't expect the reviews to be this quick every week. FOX put the pilot online a week early, so I was able to write this one well in advance (which was kind of nice).