New Girl showrunner Liz Meriwether has revealed how the sitcom is going to deal with star Zooey Deschanel’s pregnancy in its upcoming fifth season, as Deschanel will be absent from the season for four episodes. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Meriwether discussed the future of the series as it heads into its fifth year and whether the men of New Girl will be able to carry four episodes alone.
New Girl was originally developed as a vehicle for Deschanel, around whom the signature “adorkable” catchphrase was created. Deschanel had a career playing quirky guest roles in indie and big-budget movies, but New Girl was her chance to show off her commercial appeal as a lead as well as her skills as a comedienne. The show also introduced the world to the talents of comedians Max Greenfield and Jake Johnson, who are often the funniest part of the series. Meriwether now has to bank on them, as well as Hannah Simone and Lamorne Morris, to keep viewers watching while the actress that originally drew them in takes a hiatus.
The show’s crew has dealt with the pregnancy of its star by taking on an unconventional schedule that saw them shooting a few episodes of the next season while they were still in production on Season 4. In Season 5 there will be four total episodes without Deschanel’s character, Jess, with the first one being titled “No Girl,” Meriwether said. In the plot, Jess will be sequestered on a jury while the guys back home in the loft check in with her via news reports on the trial. They’ll see what’s going on with her in courtroom sketches of the jury shown on TV coverage of the case.
When asked if she is nervous about the prospect of doing four full episodes of the show without Deschanel, Meriwether says she’s excited about the opportunity to explore the stories of the other characters, an opportunity she probably wouldn’t have been able to pull off earlier on in the show’s history. “I think in the first or second season, it would have been hard, but now it feels like this creative opportunity to learn more about the other characters. And it’s a little bit of a challenge. People are going to be asking, ‘How are they going to pull this off?’ I’m kind of asking that question of myself,” Meriwether told THR.
The show’s fourth season has gotten some of its best reviews yet, and that creative high is important for the feat they’re about to attempt in making episodes minus Zooey. After a third season that received lukewarm reviews for its handling of the long-predicted romantic pairing between the main characters Jess and Nick, played by Deschanel and Johnson, respectively, the show swung back into stride in the fourth season. “[S]eason four (to date) has been New Girl’s new standard for funny,” said The AV Club. Planned guest stars for the fifth season include Taran Killam, Fred Armisen, and Steve Rannazzizi, Greenfield told US Weekly.
The highly praised chemistry between the male actors on the show as well as those guest stars should be plenty of reason for viewers to tune in minus Deschanel. “I directed the first episode without Zooey, that’s the last one we shot this year, and it’s really funny. It’s a guys’ episode. It’s an opportunity to stretch ourselves. … Or it will be a total disaster, and then she’ll come back,” Meriwether continued.
There will only be four episodes without Deschanel, but the show has been on the low side in the ratings in the past, so this is a big risk. People that are already fans of the series will likely be interested enough in the other characters to tune in even though Deschanel will be absent, but more casual viewers or people new to the show might not be.
Right now, the show is at a creative high and has had four years to establish the side characters with viewers, so now is as good a time as ever for the show to try and pull off a feat like making episodes without its movie-star lead. We’ll have to wait until the fall to see if New Girl fans and casual viewers can be convinced to stick with the show for a few episodes minus the titular girl.
Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS
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