This week, I had the chance to take a first look at two new American sitcoms with the word “girl” in the title. New Girl stars everyone’s favourite indie pixie lady, Zooey Deschenel, while 2 Broke Girls is the new thing from Sex and the City producer Michael Patrick King. Both will be coming to Channel Four early in the new year.
I came to the screening wondering if these might be particularly girly shows, not that it would be a bad thing – I might not have been given any choice about having to watch Sex and the City by my girlfriend at the time, but I got a little caught up with the antics of Carrie and friends, often bemused, sometimes a little scared, but always wanting to know what would happen next. But other times I do find that female-focused drama offers nothing for me, at best they cn often seem quite bland, at worst there’s something like the movie Sex and the City 2, a sequel far more terrifying and morally repugnant to that of The Human Centipede.
As it turned out, while I can see 2 Broke Girls being a little more popular with female viewers, there’s something for everyone there. And New Girl looks like being the best new comedy to cross the Atlantic this season.
2 Broke Girls
2 Broke Girls stars Kat Dennings as Max, a sassy waitress in a shabby Brooklyn restaurant who has a second job as a nanny for a pampered it-girl. She’s joined by Caroline (Beth Behrs), a rich girl whose daddy has just gone behind bars for running a Bernard Madoff-style Ponzi scheme and now is living on the Metro with a suitcase full of her only remaining possessions. This odd couple get the idea of opening up a cupcake shop, which will apparently cost them $250,000 and at the end of the first episode (and presumably all that follow) we see a total of how much money they’ve saved so far.
This on the surface appears to be a standard American studio multi-camera sitcom, something that sits alongside the likes of How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory. The opening scenes of the first episode sadly overdo the (canned?) laughter, making the mistake of thinking that hearing a huge audience reaction after a weak line is preferable to hearing none, when the reverse is true. However, there are some very good lines in there, some of them closer to the bone than anything I’ve heard on US network shows before. There’s a lot to like, from the fact that the girls’ apartment is a lot more realistic than the huge, luxurious pads seen in most sitcoms, and Dennings in particular can be very good.
From the first episode, I’d say that 2 Broke Girls shows plenty of signs of potential and could turn out to be pretty good. It’s certainly something I’d be happy to watch on a whim, picking it up and putting it down from time to time. Not quite sure, though, that it’s something I’d make an effort to be sure to watch each week.
New Girl is something else entirely. Zooey Deschanel is Jess, a bubbly, sweet girl who sings her own theme tune (“Who’s that girl? It’s Jess!”) and is generally quirky, kooky and a bit dorky – in an entirely loveable way, to me at least. She has to move to a new place after catching her boyfriend with another girl, and ends up flatsharing with three guys while she attempts to get over the end of her relationship by watching Dirty Dancing five or six times a day.
While I can imagine she might grate on some people, I found Deschanel adorable in the lead role. The guys are all interesting characters too and are easy to get to know within the opening half hour. There’s Coach, a personal trainer who does a lot of yelling, played by Damon Wayans Jr. who sadly leaves the cast after the first episode, replaced by Lamorne Morris as Winston. Max Greenfield is Schmidt, a self-styled ladies man who thinks it’s impressive to take his top off. Nick (Jake Johnson) is the third flatmate, a barman who still struggling to get over a breakup of his own, six months earlier.
This is a really enjoyable new show, which takes the more modern single-camera, no-audience approach. It’s often very subtle, with some clever and very funny lines almost thrown away in the background. Yes, the first episode does have to have a typically American moment of sentimentality which you can see coming a mile off, but it’s somehow forgivable because of how charming it is, managing to make me feel warm where usually I’d be wincing. Although it is very funny, the reason I’m already looking forward to seeing the second episode is because it’s lovely to be in the company of the main characters.
I’d definitely recommend giving New Girl a try when it appears on Channel Four in the new year.