“I just want to have a weird, wonderful life together,” Nick Miller tells Jess Day in the first of tonight’s farewell episodes of New Girl.
This is a lovely and fitting sentiment on the day that Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) finally get married, after years of flirtation, false starts, and misunderstandings. But it’s clear to anyone who’s been watching the Fox sitcom for seven seasons that these two have already had a weird and wonderful life together. So has New Girl itself — multiple lives, in fact.
Most long-running series evolve in some way, but few have shed identities quite as often, as easily, or as successful creatively as New Girl has through its many lives.
First, it was the Zooey Is Adorkable show, as all of the marketing, and much of the writing, were focused on the big-eyed 500 Days of Summer star’s many quirks, her clumsiness, her sloppy and vulnerable emotions, and her penchant for singing her own theme song. In the early days, the show was so Jess-centric that her three new male roommates barely registered as characters. (The most memorable of the three, Damon Wayans Jr’s Coach, left after the pilot because Wayans was still attached to Happy Endings, though he returned periodically and was even a regular castmember for a couple of seasons in the middle of the run.)
Charming and funny as Deschanel was, that version of the series wasn’t sustainable (though the show was a genuine hit back at the start, and for many years now has suffered tiny ratings even by #EndTimes for broadcast TV standards), and the writers quickly fell in love with Max Greenfield’s off-kilter line readings as the loft’s lovable douchebag Schmidt. Greenfield was soon carrying a lot of the comedy load as it became the Schmidt Says Funny Things In Funny Ways show, while the writers tried to get a handle on both Nick and especially Winston (Lamorne Morris, who replaced Wayans starting with the second episode).
Soon, the writers and many viewers fell in love with Nick, who was slowly revealed to be not the straight man of the loft (a role that Jess somehow took on as the years went by, with Hannah Simone’s Cece also filling it from time to time), but its weirdest resident: a gruff loner with a dark Chicago childhood who seemed incapable of functioning on basic levels of adult life. (A subplot in tonight’s second episode has him baffled by the idea of foot lotion, or even how to properly say “foot lotion.”)
Somewhere in the midst of the Nick Miller Is A Freak show, New Girl also became a romantic comedy about Jess and Nick realizing their attraction for one another and struggling with their feelings, given their close living situation and pre-existing relationships with other people. This eventually became the Be Careful What You Wish For, Nick And Jess Shippers show, as when they finally got together, they were miserable and also largely detached from the rest of the group.