Review: ‘New Girl’ kicks off a new season, Bollywood-style, with ‘Big Mama P’

A few thoughts on the “New Girl” premiere coming up just as soon as I have 99 problems, but, unlike Jay-Z, zero caveats…

Because of Zooey Deschanel's pregnancy, “New Girl” stayed in production after the end of last season to make a handful of additional episodes before she had to go on maternity leave. (After that, there will be a few episodes where Megan Fox, of all people, fills in while Jess has jury duty, and then Deschanel will be back full-time mid-way through the season.) It's a similar approach to what “Parks and Rec” did during one of Amy Poehler's pregnancies, and it brings with it some pluses and minuses – the most obvious of the latter being that these episodes were made at a time of year when the creative team for any network comedy tends to be completely fried from having just finished making 22 episodes of TV.

Even at its best, “New Girl” is a show that has focus problems, so it's not surprising that “Big Mama P” – which has to set up various arcs for the new season (Schmidt and Cece's wedding planning, Winston's frustration at being the Carport Hero) – feels particularly frazzled. (Next week's episode, which I've also seen, is much sharper all around.) Just lots of scenes where it didn't make sense why things were happening, or why characters were acting the way they were, yet buoyed by the usual sharp joke writing and the chemistry of the remaining castmembers. (Lamorne Morris' Coach impression was funny, too.) Nick's mistake with the woman at the airport was obviously evocative of his friendship with Tran, but Jake Johnson ignoring the language barrier is a fine renewable comic resource for the show.

A lot of “New Girl” episodes feel like Liz Meriwether or someone else on the writing staff had an idea for a big joke or comic setpiece, and then everyone worked backwards to set it up. And often that works out incredibly well for the show. Here, the Bollywood number was fun and energetic, but the episode built around it never entirely clicked.

Glad the show's back, though, and I'm curious to see how the Jess-less episodes play. Also, while I appreciate the desire to do an incredibly minimalist title sequence after the deserved bashing last year's revised opening credits took, why can't the show just go back to the original version, expanding and contracting it as needed based on episode length? (Other than leaving out Hannah Simone, I guess, since the desire to add her and Damon Wayans was the reason for the change last year.)

What did everybody else think?