Saturday, September 17, 2011

Men Are the New Women

The Fall Television Season for Teens and Parents

New Girl starring the adorable and very funny Zooey Deschanel as grammar school teacher Jess gives us a wonderful twist on the “gal whose pals have got her back” show. The “girlfriends” are played by three guys: Jake Johnson as nice guy Nick; Max Greenfield as ladies’ man Schmidt, and Lamorne Morris as former athlete Winston (though Damon Wayans Jr. starred as roommate Coach in the pilot, he won’t be part of the series). Men are the new women, and I mean it in the best possible way. Feminism has come full circle when women and men can be pals without the show being about sexual tension in the apartment. Jess’s new roommates become her great friends who rescue her when she’s stood up by her “rebound” date. As Nick announces as they swoop down to save her, alone at her restaurant table, “We’re reverse Mormons. One man just isn’t enough for her.”

The tag line for the show is “Simply adorkable” and Deschanel is fresher than fresh as Jess, the Lord of the Rings quoting hipster. Deschanel gives Jess plenty of cute quirks. My favorite is that she can come up with a moments-notice “theme” song for every turn life offers her. She gets the guys singing by the pilot’s end. You’ll sing, too.

Speaking of adorable/adorkable women, you should check out the web series The Retributioners starring Stephanie Faith Scott as Stephanie. It blurs the line between reality and fiction and is witty, touching, edgy, and often hilarious, just like life. The series was created by Scott and her writer/director husband Eric Rasmussen and it’s better than most of the sit-coms on television. Scott plays a woman in the city who tracks down people who did her wrong and makes them pay. Only not really. She’s actually too sweet to enact any real revenge and often finds herself getting sucked in all over again. She’s Mary Tyler Moore for the 21st century. Catch all the episodes on their site.

And The Retributioners is miles above either of NBC’s new sit-coms, Up All Night or Free Agents.

Up All Night stars Christina Applegate as Reagan, producer of the Oprah-like women’s show, “Ava.” She and husband Chris (Will Arnett) just had an adorable baby girl. He left a law firm to stay home with the baby as Reagan goes back to work. They look to be—how do I put this—very wealthy. And they whine about all the work that goes into raising a baby. And then they whine some more. And then it’s over. I mean, hire a nanny already.

Saving grace? The scenes at Reagan’s workplace are sensational thanks to Maya Rudolph as Ava, who is merely terrific. I hope this show improves drastically and doesn’t get cancelled for Maya’s sake, or rather for the viewers’ sake. Rudolph’s that scary good.

Can’t say the same for the actively unfunny Free Agents starring Hank Azaria as recently divorced public relations man Alex who breaks into tears at the thought of his sad life. And Kathryn Hahn as co-worker Helen lives among 21 life-sized photographs of her deceased fiancĂ©. Now that’s what I call funny! Alex and Helen wind up in bed; regret it, don’t regret it, who cares? Anthony Stewart Head does what he can with the singularly unoriginal role of boss Stephen who’s rich and great looking and never stops talking about his fabulous life. There is nothing in his character you haven’t seen before (many, many times).

Don’t get me wrong—I love the mega-talent Hank Azaria—but experience suggests he’s a classic character actor, all quirks, tics, and funny voices, not a leading man. And as a voice talent, he’s second to none. The Simpsons owes this guy for their very success. I figure he made some kind of deal with the devil, one of those ironic bargains where he gets to be super-famous, but only his voice achieves fame. He’s just not a leading man, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of; leading men can be very boring. As boring as Free Agents. Just don’t. Do some reading. Or take up crochet. You’ll thank me later.

What do you think? Seen any of these shows yet? Share your thoughts here.


  1. I've seen a preview of New Girl and just wasn't won over. It didn't seem like anything I hadn't seen before.

    The roommates were caricatures and I thought it was trying too hard.

    I did like Jess for the most part. Zooey Deschanel is just irresistibly cute.

    I might tune in again to give it a second chance.

  2. Did you see the full pilot? It's available on their website.

  3. Maybe she's explained it in interviews, but I can't fathom why Deschanel is doing TV at this point in her career. Perhaps her own deal with the devil? Get to the brink of movie superstardom AND have a credible indie music career, but just prior to really breaking through, you have to do FOX sitcom. Very Jason Schwartzman-esque, but at least he's on HBO.

  4. Great point, Jack. Wonder if Deschanel will be too big for tv sooner rather than later. Better catch this series while you can.