Zooey Deschanel Is the New Girl

My thoughts on the state of the American woman while gazing upon the longest sushi bar in upfront history.

Zooey Deschanel in New Girl

Monday night, goaded by Dowd and further guided by— the trade rag’s report that “female-driven series” are dominating the fall line up —I went to Fox’s upfront party to gain further insight into the state of American womanhood. After 4 p.m.’s efficient “2011 Programming Presentation,” the network’s guests made their way from the New Beacon Theatre to a tent at Wollman Rink in Central Park, which proved as good a place as any to gather further data.

The Fox post-party is a perennial hoot for two reasons, the first being its garish display of grotesque abundance. (In Monday’s Wall Street Journal, Lauren A.E. Schuker reported that the party would feature the longest sushi bar in the network’s upfront history, “44 feet, which is 6 feet longer than last year.”) The other reason that the Fox party tends to go off is that the network puts its sliders-and-fries bar where its professed populism is. It’s not an exclusive affair, and the mailroom guys have a way of raising the level of the party through the simple matter of their effervescent attendance. Point is, the state of the American woman is strong. But also she has not yet necessarily learned how to walk in her Kardashian-ish new shoes, so watch out for her vodka-cranberry.

The American woman had sat through an efficient presentation by Fox’s entertainment president, Kevin Reilly, who was playing it low key and allowing his programming to blare for itself. One announcement involved dinosaurs—Terra Nova, a Spielberg-branded sci-fi drama. Another involved Dino—a Flintstones remake conceived by Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane. Imagine all the head trauma that a revamped Bamm-Bamm can inflict! In other animation news, Napoleon Dynamite will become a cartoon, redundantly. Alcatraz, produced by Lost’s J.J. Abrams, boasts excellent production and annoyance values. The X Factor, from American Idol’s Simon Cowell, will be like American Idol but different. If I understood the clip reel correctly, contestants will have the opportunity to travel the globe and visit Cowell at one of his vacation homes, where he will verbally abuse them from the comfort of a deck chair in his patio garden.

At the party, the American woman stood in line to have her picture taken with the stars of New Girl, a single-camera comedy starring Zooey Deschanel as Jess Day. * Per the PR, Jess is “an offbeat and adorable girl in her late 20s who, after a bad breakup, moves in with three single guys.” The author of New Girl is Liz Meriwether, a screaming success straight out of New Haven and a distinctive voice of her micro-generation, with Variety hailing her scripts for Fuckbuddies (released as the Portman-Kutcher vehicle No Strings Attached) and Sluts  and Sunday Styles celebrating her social life as the pipsqueak in Diablo Cody’s posse.

Watching clips of the sitcom, I grew tempted to pontificate that New Girl belongs to the same cultural moment that has brought us the “surprise hit” of Kristen Wiig’s Bridesmaids and also Bossypants, written by the extraordinarily talented, unquestionably overexposed Tina Fey. (A clip found Jess executing a goofy-cute hoot-hoot raise-the-roof gesture that Liz Lemon often memorably attempts.) American wits of a certain vintage—born in the decade of Title IX or thereabouts—share certain ideas about how to be funny and sexy at the same time and also about this century’s brave new worlds of love and friendship. Meanwhile, on New Girl and a half-dozen other comedies, the romantic muddles of mumblecore and the surface lifestyling of Sundance films seep naturally into sitcom structures.

So the American woman was waiting to have her picture taken with New Girl. At these parties, the stars work shifts offering guests photo ops. The American woman waited to have her official picture taken, and while she waited, her friends took cellphone pictures of her waiting, and these tableau in turn appeared in the midground of other women’s photos. Sometimes the American woman was dressed in a style she learned from seeing Zooey in movies or commercials for cotton or lovely musical performances or slobbering starlet profiles—bangin’ bangs, pleated skirt, thrift-shop purse.

Meanwhile, the guys working the party—the security staff and the bartenders—were saying in their beautiful Brooklynese that she was a real cutie-pie, yeah, but whozat girl on her right? That would be the promising Ms. Hannah Simone, who plays Jess’ childhood best friend, Cece: “She has the street smarts Jess lacks and spends a lot of time doling out no-nonsense relationship advice that only a professional model could give.” The American woman reached the front of the line and met the camera with a practiced grin.

Correction, May 18, 2011: This article originally misidentified the show New Girl as The New Girl. ( Return to the corrected sentence.)