This post has been a long time coming, but I didn't really know how to write it. (I kind of just want to shake everybody and bellow, "WATCH NEW GIRL, DAMN IT!") So let me take a crack at it now.
First, ignore all of the marketing for the show, particularly the egregious word "adorkable," and the idea that it's about an excessively quirky girl moving in with three stable guys who are bewildered by her but she teaches them to be free and they show her how to snag a man. To set the record straight: all of the characters are world-class weirdos.
The show is about relationships - it's basically got drama-level character development in service to a very funny comedy. (If you appreciate the slow build (and revelation) of characters on The Good Wife, you will find something marvelous in New Girl.) It's kind of odd to me how much I've responded to the show, because I tend not to like shows that are explicitly just about relationships; I usually need another layer in there, something to give the show a focus, underneath which all sorts of relationships can be negotiated. That show Brothers and Sisters failed to convince me that its characters liked, loved, or even tolerated each other but was supposed to be about a close-knit family; conversely, I found the fraternal dynamic of the Winchester brothers to shine through every scene of Supernatural, even when Dean and Sam were not thinking about each other but about whatever entity they were trying to defeat. Veronica Mars had her cases, as did Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Mal and Zoe had to worry about keeping Serenity in the air and the crew alive. The Papen County crew had the whole "alive again!" thing plus Emerson's cases. They still managed to forge relationships I wanted to watch.
The characters of New Girl don't have overarching issues like that. It's a home/family show, not a workplace comedy. The set-up is simple: JESS (Zooey Deschanel) has been in a relationship with Spencer for six years. In the pilot, she comes home early from a trip and finds him in bed with another woman. She crashes on her best friend CECE (Hannah Simone)'s couch for a few weeks but needs to find a permanent place. She answers a Craigslist ad and ends up in a loft shared by three guys: NICK (Jake Johnson), SCHMIDT (Max Greenfield, unrecognizable from his days as Deputy Leo on Veronica Mars), and WINSTON (Lamorne Morris). That's it. She moves in and they all move forward.
What that description doesn't tell you is the two most important things: one, that the show is blisteringly hilarious, and two, that there are real feelings underlining every move that's made. Nick is childhood friends with Winston, and met Schmidt in college; you can feel the weight of their shared history in all of their stupid rituals and phrases, in the way they think about each other - they are convincingly frustrated by and in need of each other. The girls have been friends since they were in elementary school, and it shows; each has the other's back even when she doesn't really understand where the other one's coming from. And it matters that these characters are in their early thirties, not twenties - there's a significance to their actions that's entirely missing from twentysomething shows. They're dealing with having reached their thirties, single and maybe unclear about what they want their futures to look like. These five characters have to deal with economic realities, the loss of parents and partners, and other stuff that actually happens in the real world. The show doesn't give short shrift to men's feelings or women's non-romantic feelings. And they all actually express themselves! It's kind of amazing to watch.
It's not been flawless out of the gate, of course. It's gone in for some necessary course correction. Remember watching the first few eps of Community, when it was trying to push the Jeff/Britta romance and the Troy&Pierce friendship, before realizing that it would be better to pair up Troy with Abed and let Jeff and Britta stay apart in order to establish each of them as a hilarious, needy weirdo? New Girl spent its first few episodes pointing out that JESS and NICK (both reeling from breakups) were its long game and then throwing that out the window in favor of character-revealing relationships for both of them with interesting, likeable guest stars. So it's not like Happy Endings, which seems to push the reset button at the end of every episode and to gleefully discard one episode's characterization in the next, in service of a funnier joke; watching New Girl in order allows you to see how deeply satisfying the characterization is.
I was going to write more, under a cut, about some specific arcs that the show has pulled off beautifully and this phenomenal cast, but that'll be better once you all have caught up. So, go! There are two seasons (that's 49 episodes) to watch, and then come talk to me about all of your feelings about Jess and Cece and Winston and Schmidt and Nick. Trust me.
(Also, thank you to all the tumblr-ers (particularly blithers) from whom I have shamelessly cribbed these images. "SHAMELESS!" thunders Theodore K. Mullins.)
This same entry also appears on Dreamwidth, at http://innie-darling.dreamwidth.org/429046.html.