Review: ‘New Girl’ does just fine without Zooey Deschanel in ‘No Girl’

A few thoughts on last night's Zooey Deschanel-less “New Girl” coming up just as soon as I'm sorry that the pretzel fell out…

When “New Girl” debuted, every aspect of it was so fundamentally built around Deschanel that, when Fienberg and I discussed it on that week's podcast, he understandably dismissed any attempt to discuss her male co-stars. Four seasons later, the show has evolved so much that Jess is arguably a less essential character than either Nick or Schmidt. Deschanel's great, and Jess provides an important dynamic to the loft – the absence of which was the subject of much of “No Girl,” where Jess being sequestered on jury duty made things more chaotic than usual – but the show's core relationship, and the driver of much of its comedy, has become the friendship between those two idiots.

I'll be happy when Jess returns, but “New Girl” seems set up to do just fine through these episodes filmed while Deschanel was on maternity leave. We'll see what kind of dynamic Megan Fox is going to add, but the three guys – plus Cece doing a terrible job at trying to be Jess – seem more than enough to carry the show in the interim.

“No Girl” was, like a lot of latter-day “New Girl” episodes, more or less gibberish in terms of plot, but put together with such energy and so many good jokes that the nonsensical flimsiness of the various stories (Nick turning the loft into a boutique hotel, Cece helping Winston deal with his latest relationship problems) didn't much matter. Given that Nick is going to have to pay the $9000 for the Tokyo tickets, for instance, why aren't he and Schmidt still going to go on the trip? I have no idea, but that story gave us Fred Armisen dressed as Jess – and, in a scene reminiscent of the train monologue from the Taran Killam episode, read terrible erotica that went on forever – as well as a minute-long run of unexpected “Frasier” jokes, plus the little girl performing a monologue cobbled together from “Scent of a Woman,” “Rocky V,” and “Heat” (“She's got a GREAT ASS!”), and that was all I needed. Similarly, Winston crying over being dumped by Casey – on the heels of all three guys getting choked up at Nick's promise to go to Tokyo – was an example of the creative team understanding what their actors can do best, and putting them in position to do so, consistency and logic be damned. Virtually all of what comes out of Jake Johnson's mouth on the show these days is a non-sequitur – the scene where Nick and Kumiko discussed their sexual encounter and whether or not he's a prostitute made no more sense than anything else happening in the half-hour, but was too damn funny to matter.

My feelings may change by the time we finish this stretch of Jess-less episodes, particularly if Megan Fox turns out to be a net negative. But it's remarkable how much the series has changed over the years to a point where I'm not particularly worried about the temporary absence of the main character.

What did everybody else think?