I’ve never been crazy about July 4, so when I spent the holiday weekend alone in my humid, un-air conditioned New York City apartment this summer, America’s birthday felt like less of a celebration and more like a hot, isolated nightmare. Most of my friends were out of town, so I turned to Netflix for entertainment and noticed that the first season of New Girl had recently become available. Having already binge-watched Mad Men, which is brilliant but not necessarily uplifting, I needed something cheerful and funny to watch, so I gave the hit Fox sitcom a shot.
Though I didn’t check out New Girl when it came out in 2011, I was immediately hooked during Fourth of July weekend. I knew the main character, Jessica Day had been blasted by critics for seeming childish and soft, but I liked her bright-eyed, engaging personality instantly, and she’s also balanced out by cynical yet loving roommate Nick Miller. The series made my otherwise depressing, overheated weekend bearable, and it did so much more than keep me company when no one else would. Here’s why New Girl changed my life for the better.
1. It made me leave journalism to become a screenwriter
After being dismissed from my online media job this summer, I decided to pursue my real dream: screenwriting. New Girl was so well-written, clever, fearless, positive, and engaging that I promised myself I’d move to Southern California in 2014 and (eventually) write for TV. Losing my job in late July allowed me to go after that sooner rather than later, but it took New Girl for me to see just how much better my life could be if I were part of a lively sitcom.
2. It got me to move to LA
NYC is plenty exciting and glamorous, but as a lifelong Californian, East Coast winters and I have never been friends. A lot of shows about young people take place in NYC, but New Girl exposes the slightly less chaotic, warmer Los Angeles. Tired of being shoved in NYC subway cars every day for more than two years straight, I enjoyed seeing Jess drive around LA, even after she had to force a homeless man to get off her car in one episode. Because I paid way too much for my tiny Harry Potter room on the Upper East Side, I also took a liking to the spacious loft where Jess, Schmidt, Winston and Nick reside. There’s no snowfall in LA, so Jess can dress like the free spirit that she is without having to worry about weather. After I decided to pursue screenwriting, a couple of friends said I was in a good city to explore the entertainment industry, but I knew LA would be better, if nothing else because New Girl is filmed there.
3. The show says it’s OK to mourn breakups
Breakups of any kind are tough, even if you aren’t officially dating the person with whom you end things. New Girl opens with Jessica Day searching for new digs after walking in on her boyfriend Spencer with another lady, and once Zooey Deschanel’s doe-eyed character settles in with Winston, Nick, and Schmidt, she sobs. A lot. When New Girl debuted two years ago, many bloggers took to the Internet to slam Jess for being weak, immature and goofy. Maybe she wasn’t in such a great place at the start of season one, but she certainly got on her feet and pranced around LA in high spirits soon afterward. She also represents a lot of women (and people) who find themselves crippled by heartbreak. Why does that have to be such a character flaw, and why must TV heroes and heroines be strong all the time? I’m not made of stone, and I definitely wouldn’t be my best self after splitting up with my beau of seven years, so it’s nice that Jess could give a voice to girls like me who can’t shrug off heartbreak overnight.
4. It kept me sane during the biggest FOMO summer of my life
NYC is pretty empty from June to August. Many flee to the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket for a respite from the blazing sun, suffocating subway platforms, and oppressive humidity. Others travel all over the country to attend major concerts or go on relaxing vacations. Before losing my job, I worked nonstop all summer and never had a chance to get out of the city, but when I returned to my walkup at the end of each day, there was always New Girl, which instantly transported me to LA to chillax with an awesome assortment of people. I lacked the time and money to leave NYC, but I could always count on Jessica Day and Nick Miller to make me laugh — and assure me it’s not the end of the world to get canned.
5. It doesn’t shame unemployed or underemployed 20-somethings
New York is all about results, and when you’re out of work in a town built on ambition, it’s easy to get down on yourself. Unemployment and underemployment aren’t so uncommon for Millennials though, and the characters on New Girl really speak true to that unfortunate reality. In the episode titled “Injured,” Nick won’t see a doctor because he has no insurance. After Jess is fired from her teaching job, she hangs out in the living room all day and becomes an expert on 80s sitcom impressions. She also struggles to pay household bills in the aftermath of her termination, causing a rift between her and high-earning professional Schmidt. New Girl makes these setbacks and roommate conflicts funny in its own brilliant way, and it also manages to make light of the jobless experience.
6. It made me want to stop dating overachievers and find my own Nick Miller
For the longest time, I only sought ambitious young men. After I moved from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side, I found myself mingling with a lot of guys on Wall Street, and while I appreciated being taken on proper dates and having my drinks paid for, I was bored.
After these interactions ended, I was relieved to come home to Nick Miller — a character who doesn’t wash his bath towel, keeps half-eaten pretzels in his bed, and refuses to buy a mobile device (until season three, when he’s seen with a flip phone). Jess says during one episode that she only goes for guys “who are afraid of success and think someone famous stole their idea,” and look how great she and Nick are now. There’s more to life than “dating up” and only desiring conventionally successful people. Nick may not have health insurance or an iPhone, but he does have heart, which is hard to find anywhere, even in sunny California.