New Girl’s season finale airs tonight, which has prompted us to look back and reflect on the dawn of Jess Day. Was it really only eight short months ago that Zooey Deschanel’s theme song earwormed its way into our lives? What did we do before Schmidt? In going back over the show’s first season, a few things became clear: (1) The show has gotten much much better — and it started out pretty strong, so that’s saying something, (2) the more the show focuses on the ensemble as a whole rather than just Jess’s Etsy-made peccadilloes, the better everyone is, and (3) the show has used a lot of sitcom go-tos over the course of its first 23 episodes.
So we came up with a system. We’ve graded each episode on three scales of 1 to 10. For “Adorkability,” 1 is good and 10 is a cake pop playing a ukulele made of kittens — too much! For Schmidticisms, we’re including not just Schmidt, but the rest of the ensemble (of which Schmidt is the best part): How well did their stories work? How funny were they? Here, 1 is crummy and 10 is perfect. Finally, an overall score that looks at the episode as a whole; that score works the regular way, too, where 1 is bad and 10 is perfect.
A newly single Jess Day moves in with three dudes, and they all learn some charming lessons about standing up for themselves.
Adorkability: 10. Extremely high. Nuclear-threat level. So cute! So, so so so cute.
Schmidticisms: 4. More just generic douchiness than the Schmidt we’d come to love.
Overall: 9. It’s still a damn fine pilot, and it’s hard not to wonder what the show would have been like with Damon Wayans Jr. in the permanent cast.
The three dudes help weepy Jess retrieve her belongings from her ex-boyfriend’s house.
Adorkability: 9. Jess accidentally breaks a television! Jess makes jam! Jess owns multiple silly hats, which the dudes wear in a show of solidarity.
Schmidticisms: 5. Winston and Nick team up against Schmidt, who is still wearing a skull ring at this point. He’ll watch Curly Sue, though, so that’s something.
Overall: 5. Rocky, but the ensemble moments are nice — even the hat scene. Aww.
Jess pretends to be Nick’s girlfriend at a wedding to prevent him from backsliding (foreshadowing). The guys ask her to “suppress the Jess,” but they all wind up goofily dancing anyway.
Adorkability: 5. The fake teeth, the weird outfits — Jess exists in the real world, right?
Schmidticisms: 8. Turns out our man Schmidt likes a woman in a pants suit.
Overall: 7. Some very funny moments, but the “pretend-to-be-my-girlfriend” thing is pretty played out.
Jess accidentally sees Nick naked and tries to even the score.
Adorkability: 8. Jess can’t say penis. Instead she says “pee pee and bubbles” and a bunch of other supremely annoying things.
Schmidticisms: 5. Schmidt gives Winston a pop-culture crash course (funny) and obsesses over Nick’s penis (also funny); Nick gets weird with his naked dance (funny x 3).
Overall: 6. As clever as a “Show Me Mine, I’ll Show Your Yours”–themed half hour can be.
Cece stays at the loft, prompting Schmidt to just about lose his mind. Jess worries that she and Nick have flirtatious body language thanks to the way their feet point towards each other’s.
Adorkability: 3. Normal people get freaked out by intimacy, too! Completely legit.
Schmidticisms: 4. Some of the “sheepdogging” just seemed shady.
Overall: 6. A solid episode at the time, but it has since faded from memory.
Jess invites Paul (Justin Long) to a first-date Thanksgiving dinner. Cooking hijinks and aw
rd overheard sex talk ensue.
Adorkability: 6. Jess’s goofy sex-act speech is actually more funny than cutesy, and Justin Long’s intensely nerdy Paul makes Jess more normal by comparison.
Schmidticisms: 6. Minus one for “Dudesgiving,” but otherwise a solid showing from Kitchen-OCD Schmidt.
Overall: 7. An actually amusing Thanksgiving episode! We’ll take it.
New Girl takes on Glee when Jess tries to encourage her students in the “ensembell” bell choir.
Adorkability: 4. Jess’s enthusiasm for the bell choir is a little much, but the show tempers that sugariness with a really biting satire of its lead-in.
Schmidticisms: 8. We finally get to know Winston, and he turns out to be a bell prodigy.
Overall: 7. “Eye of the Tiger” has never sounded so good/bad.
Bad in Bed
Jess tries to spice up her sex life with Paul, while Schmidt runs a charm offensive on his all-female office.
Adorkability: 9. No to the dirty talk in that old-timey broadcaster voice. Just no.
Schmidticisms: 6. Sure, Schmidt chugs Pedialyte and runs game on co-workers — but this is winning, sneakily amusing. Nick and Winston are nonfactors.
Overall: 6. Sending Schmidt into the office wilds is a mistake. Don’t separate him from the gang! The gang needs him.
The gang goes to Schmidt’s office Christmas party, where he plays a shirtless “sexy” Santa, and Jess and Paul (Justin Long) hit the skids.
Adorkability: 6. It’s hard to say “I love you,” sure, but there are just too many contrivances on this episode.
Schmidticisms: 7. Schmidt, Winston, and Nick all had solid, individualized story lines and problems.
Overall: 7. It seemed like an 8 at the time, but now we know how much better the show gets.
“The Story of the 50”
Jess organizes a 29th birthday extravaganza for Schmidt, and Nick gets a (crazy) new girlfriend.
Adorkability: 2. The party-bus stuff is genuinely sweet, and Jess handles Schmidt’s drunken advances like any normal adult (face of horror, $50 douchebag fine. Reasonable).
Schmidticisms: 10. The doucheiness is off-the-charts here, but it’s hard not to love Schmidt or his Frankie Muniz rants at this point. Bonus: fat suit Schmidt, Nick and the bro juice, Winston pronouncing “charcuterie.”
Overall: 8. The show really finds its ensemble rhythm here — even with Lizzy Caplan added to the mix.
“Jess and Julia”
Nick’s girlfriend Julia (Lizzy Caplan) helps Jess deal with a traffic ticket, but the entire episode becomes a referendum on Zooey Deschanel’s persona, New Girl’s place in pop feminism, and the necessity of washing towels.
Adorkability: 1. The whole episode is about normalizing and understanding Jess’s “quirky” behavior.
Schmidticisms: 8. The episode focuses mostly on Jess and Julia, but Schmidt got to say “chut-a-ney” a bunch of times, and the towel stuff was just great.
Overall: 10. It’s very hard to pull off this kind of metacommentary without being hectoring or overly self-obsessed, but New Girl managed. And was still really, really funny.
Jess and Nick befriend their depressed landlord, but then he wants to be more than friends.
Adorkability: 8. Seventy-five percent of the episode revolves around Jess’s obliviousness when it comes to men and/or basic human nature.
Schmidticisms: 6. More weird Nick-dancing; Schmidt is packed off to the office again; Winston is mostly absent.
Overall: 6. Again, an absent Schmidt makes for a weaker episode — but the threesome-chicken scene is admittedly hilarious.
Jess and Schmidt try to hit the town looking for hot, hot Valentine’s love, but nothing quite goes right — except that Schmidt and Cece finally hook up.
Adorkability: 7. In what universe does Zooey Deschanel have a hard time getting laid?
Schmidticisms: 8. A Phantom Tollbooth joke? Has anything ever been more perfect?
Overall 5. Some fun moments, but too much of the episode is about other people. Ryan Kwanten is a fine guest-star love-interest or whatever, but it’s hard to care about his relationship with his ex when we have a whole apartment of dudes with girl problems who want to talk.
Jess confronts a school bully; Nick gets dumped; Schmidt and Cece continue to bone.
Adorkability: 5. Jess triumphs over a 12-year-old Mean Girl — with song.
Schmidticisms: 8. Nick’s depressive science-air monologue is a sign of amazing rants to come; Schmidt makes that diner speech; Winston gets distracted by a “crescent moon.” A-game from everyone
Overall: 7. The dawn of the Sad Nick Era!
Nick strains his back and discovers he might have cancer, so his pals rally around him to convince him to have the test.
Adorkability: 1. Jess’s twee-ness just seems regular at this point.
Schmidticisms: 10. Nick’s weird physical comedy, Winston’s attachment to his beat-up car, Schmidt’s Fredo kisses, and the group song — ensembles! They are great.
Overall: 10. Talk about finding a groove: New Girl really nail its style with “Injured,” emotionally true without being too poignant, silly while still being intimate.
Schmidt joins a drum circle, and apartment life crumbles without him.
Adorkability: 3. The life-coaching is reversed in this episode, which means Jess spends less time crafting and more time managing Schmidt’s breakdown. It works.
Schmidticisms: 7. Winston and Nick are off in the B-plot weeds for the first half, but Schmidt is being too funny to care. (The all-roommate intervention scene is nice, though.)
Overall: 7. Schmidt carries this one, but it’s okay, because he’s Schmidt.
“Fancyman (Part 1)”
Jess meets cute with her student’s dad (Dermot Mulroney, completely charming), a richy-rich guy she finds herself falling for. Not as hard as Nick falls for him, though.
Adorkability: 5. Characters like Jess are dangerously prone to Mary Sue-ness, a weird hyper-specialness where even her shortcomings or mistakes are Just Too Stinking Cute. In “Fancyman,” Jess’s clumsiness and accident-proneness are just a little too enchanting.
Schmidticisms: 8. Nick’s running commentary about how great Russell’s house smells are a particular treat.
Overall: 7. Rich people! They’re nothing like us.
“Fancyman Part 2”
Schmidt and Cece get discovered, while Jess freaks out because Russell won’t kiss her.
Adorkability: 4. To be fair, most everyone needs a little liquid courage to confront a new and intimidating girl/boyfriend about relationship issues.
Schmidticisms: 6. Martin Starr steals this episode as Nick’s predatory professor pal. Schmidt spends a good chunk of it in the back of Winston’s car, which is a waste. Eh to the Winston/Shelby B-plot (will be we ever care about them?).
Overall: 6. A little bit of the Glee problem here — too many guest stars, not enough focus on the main characters.
Jess finally finds out about Cece and Schmidt’s relationship, and is horrified when the guys all admit that they’ve “delighted” themselves to thoughts of her.
Adorkability: 7. Jess is an adult. Does the idea of masturbation really bother her that much?
Schmidticisms: 7. Winston’s admission that Jess had “raccoon hands” in his sex dream about her is easily the episode’s highlight.
Overall: 7. Pretty fun, but the “big reveal” thing was done better on Friends.
Jess asks Russell to hang out with her roommates. It’s True American time.
Adorkability: 2. These are totally normal relationship issues, and Jess only quirks out minorly (by quoting the Spice Girls — and even then, she’s aware of its ridiculousness).
Schmidticisms: 10. We’ll say it again: True American! And Winston’s B-plot finds a tie-in with some advice from Russell.
Overall: 9. The apartment scenes are as good as this show gets.
Russell’s daughter Sarah stays with Jess for the weekend and develops a massive crush on Nick, while Cece and Schmidt deal with a possible unplanned pregnancy.
Adorkability: 3. Jess gets thrown a little by Sarah’s frank sex questions, but anyone would be. (Even if they spend their days dressed up as “Mr. Monogamy” and encouraging students to watch Friday Night Lights as an alternative to intercourse.)
Schmidticisms: 8. All the joking about his and Cece’s “caramel miracle” is great, but Schmidt’s speech about how he’ll be there for her and how he’ll support her decisions about her life no matter what is actually the best version of that speech that we’ve ever heard on TV.
Overall: 8. “I just want to rub his face on my face!” is an incredibly accurate description of tweenage precocious lust.
Jess dumps Russell; Cece dumps Schmidt; Nick hooks up with Caroline.
Adorkability: 5. Only naïve, lollipops-and-world-peace Jess would think it’s a good idea to invite her boyfriend’s ex-wife to dinner. Also, that tap-dancing flashback.
Schmidticisms: 9. Schmidt gets a perfect Mick Mouse exchange; Nick gets a tomato rant and some butt-shaking. And Shelby’s presence at least becomes relevant, in that Winston can give (bad) relationship advice.
Overall: 9. “Mick. Mouse.” Too good.
Nick calls Caroline, Jess calls Paul, Schmidt nurses a broken wang, and Winston gets a giant, hideous earring.
Adorkability: 2. Backsliding happens.
Schmidticisms: 8. The broken penis thing has run its course, but Winston’s earring and the video from past Nick to Future Nick were real treats.
Overall: 7. We’d rather see everyone all together for more of the episode — especially since it ends with Nick’s decision to move out.