Channel Guide: A Column About TVOn the Zooey Deschanel-led New Girl, titular character Jess Day is an aloof, offbeat, and (let’s face it) awkward twenty-something, forced to move in with three random guys after a tough breakup. She wears thick-framed glasses, watches Dirty Dancing on a loop, and even weaves Lord of the Rings quotes into regular conversation at the blink of an eye. On paper, well, she’s not that far from myself- another Woody Allen-loving, Star Wars-quoting, sometimes bespectacled gal. So why is it that week after week, I find myself increasingly annoyed with her overly twee behavior?

In my mind, Tina Fey pioneered the awkward television comedy. Sure, Seinfeld was full of the one of the small screen’s most relatable casts – people who handled everyday life’s uncomfortable encounters with the exact opposite of aplomb. But Tina Fey? She brought a whole new brand of nerd to TV, epitomizing the notion of “letting your freak flag fly.” Liz Lemon, the mumbling, boy blazer-wearing writer averse to “dude stuff” became a champion of awkwardness. More than that, she became a TV character that women who (like Elaine Benes) lacked grace, could relate to. She says the wrong things, she can’t land a man, and her affinity for Mexican junk food is unmatched (why do you think rich 50 is middle class 38? It’s all the preservatives in the Sabor de Soledad).

Lemon’s behavior is often more-than-cringeworthy – a literal lesson in how NOT to conduct the life of a middle-aged woman. Yet for some reason, I love her. I tune in from week-to-week, and often claim her to be my spirit animal – a perfect embodiment of everything I love. With New Girl, Fox seems to be shooting for their own Liz Lemon, albeit 20 years her junior. Jess too struggles with men, and her appreciation for shrunken blazers is just as strong. Yet rather than finding myself relating to her, I can’t help but roll my eyes as her behavior crosses the line from awkwardly adorable into entirely unbelievable. EVERY.SINGLE.WEEK. In fact, her behavior is a veritable checklist of the things that usually cause this embarrassment-phone to shield her eyes. Walking in on her male roommate in the buff prompts her to reveal she’s not comfortable saying the word penis. Getting ready for a wedding? Well it’s time to break out the redneck teeth!

Let me clarify by saying that I don’t hate the show.  In fact, I think that the dynamic amongst the cast members overall is pretty darn charming. It also has to be said that I am one who drank the Zooey Deschanel kool-aid long ago – I own the albums, I love her movies (I’m willing to overlook that time she fictionally broke the heart of my poor little Joseph Gordon-Levitt)- but most often, I defend her in the inevitable conversations detailing her overrated indie status. This show, though? It may just have used up my Deschanel defense, and I’m OK with that.

What’s the problem? Why can’t I just grin and bear it, lapping up Zooey’s primetime debut like the rest of my fellow ladies? Am I judging the former Mrs. Gibbard too harshly? Comment away.

As always, the Channel Guide archives await.

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