It was November 2020. California was at the height of its third wave of COVID-19 cases, the holidays were fast approaching and I was looking for a new show to watch post-finals. Bored and apathetic, I scrolled through Netflix, not expecting anything to catch my interest. All of a sudden, I came across a show I had heard people talk about but had never seen myself: New Girl. One episode became two, two became three, three became six, and soon I was drawn into the Los Angeles world of Jessica Day and her group of quirky roommates.
First, for anyone who hasn’t seen it, let me give you a bit of background (no spoilers, I promise!). Zooey Deschanel stars as Jess Day, a schoolteacher who moves into a Los Angeles apartment known as “The Loft” with three single men: Nick, Schmidt, and Winston. Along with Jess’s best friend Cece, the four roommates journey through their early thirties together and try to figure out life, love and friendship.
As I continued to binge New Girl, I found myself invested on a level I’d never been before. Why was I so in love with this show after such a short time, and why couldn’t I pick a favorite character? Why did I care about these people so much and why did I feel such a personal connection with them? Was it because I idealized their group of friends, their living situation, their romantic relationships, the maskless, pre-pandemic SoCal they lived in? The answer, of course, is all of the above and more. I found myself living vicariously through Jess, Cece, Nick, Schmidt, and Winston as they went about their various escapades, living and laughing through a much simpler time in recent history. Watching the show gave me a dose of healthy escapism, but it also helped me understand what was missing in my own experience this year. As I continued to watch New Girl, I realized what it truly was I loved about this show so much:
These characters were living out the “college” experience I was so badly missing.
Although the characters are in their early thirties and view college through cringey flashbacks, their lives looked just like the college days that I thought I would have at the beginning of my freshman year: they have a fun group of roommates, crazy adventures, inside jokes and a sense of independence.
For a 20-year-old living at home after only three quarters of a year on campus, New Girl seemed like the ideal scenario. I watched not out of envy, but out of hope. I loved these characters and the plotline, and I hoped that one day their situation would be mine. Not exactly, of course — these characters are deeply flawed and got into all sorts of messes that caused my empathetic heart much pain. However, that’s part of the appeal. From Jess’s crafting hobbies to Cece’s headstrongness to Nick’s conspiracy theories to Schmidt’s vernacular to Winston’s love affair with cats, these characters’ flaws and relatability drew comparisons to my friends, my relationships and even myself.
I’ll admit, at times watching this show did cause some jealousy. “These should be my experiences!” “This is what my friends and I should be doing right now!” “I should be able to drive around and go to school and live in a dorm and have adventures!” But despite these inner pangs, this show provided me what I really needed during this pandemic — a place to escape to, a group of people to laugh and cry with, and a college future to hope for.
Like the characters themselves, the show has its flaws. Sometimes it’s cheesy to the point of being cringey, there’s a character I can’t stand in one of the later seasons, and the ending season was too rushed and needed to be extended out to a full season. However, on the whole it really is a sweet, hilarious, well-thought out show that brought a smile to my face every time I turned on an episode.
And let me tell you, after only a week or so of having finished it, I’m ready to start watching it all over again.