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New Girl Watch: The New New Girl

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No offense to Zooey Deschanel—well, I guess I can’t stop her from taking offense—but the last couple of episodes have made me imagine what an alternate-reality New Girl would have been like that starred Lizzy Caplan instead. A little more snarky, maybe. A little less adorkable. Asnarkable?

We won’t get to see that show, and assuming Julia is just a way station en route to an eventual Nick-and-Jess pairing, we will only have Lizzy Caplan on New Girl for so long. (Seriously, though: someone give the woman a show!) In the meantime, though, “Jess and Julia” used her character and her contrast with Jess to address one of the show’s issues head-on: the Deschanel cute overload factor.

In a way, Julia’s run-ins with Jess—the tough girl and the sweet girl, the lawyer and the teacher—were like a direct response to the criticisms that Deschanel and her character (and her characters before New Girl) have taken. She’s too cute, too childish, an infantilized cartoon version of a woman. But rather than make Julia the bad person in the argument, the episode let her call out Jess in direct and hilarious fashion: “You never know, a judge might buy into this whole thing,” she said, considering helping Jess beat a traffic ticket. “Your whole thing, with cupcakes and braking for birds and ‘Bluebirds come and help me dress in the morning!’ … The big, beautiful eyes, like a scared baby–I bet that gets you out of all kinds of stuff!”

The episode gave Jess her defense as well—”I never said ‘blankie’! I don’t talk like Teddy Ruxpin!”—but without making Julia into a villain. Yes, she’s a different person from Jess, with a different style and priorities, but the show doesn’t make her incomplete or unhappy for it. The world needs people who can argue court cases, and people who can make hats out of ribbons.

Another move I enjoyed from “Jess and Julia” is that it gave Jess a second female friend to interact with at once, which does something to evolve her from simply being a kind of Snow White figure (with a single female friend, Cece, dropping by the dwarf homestead once in a while). For the past several episodes, I’d felt that New Girl was becoming more interesting for the male characters—especially Schmidt—than for Jess, but that may partly be because they have each other to play off of. Male-female dynamics aside, I think it’s good for Jess to be shown as having a life outside her roommates, rather than having simply sprung into existence when she moved into the apartment.

That said, the episode did deliver some strong Schmidt-based laughs with the subplot about The Mystery of the Damp Towel. Nick’s incredulity at the idea of washing a towel—”What am I going to do next, wash the shower?”—and Schmidt’s horror at realizing he’d shared an unhygenic bath accessory with him made for a brilliant payoff.

Now if we could only work on getting Lizzy Caplan her own damn show. TV needs more asnarkability!