"New Girl" begins its second season with an inordinate amount of weight on its slim shoulders, becoming the linchpin of Fox's Tuesday-night lineup, with a couple of new comedies around it.
Fox brings the show back with a pair of episodes, clearly seeing it as a better launching pad than "Raising Hope." The first, somewhat wryly titled "Re-Launch," is just OK; the second, "Katie," is riotously funny, among the best the series has done, delivering one clever moment after another.
For all the attention the show garnered when its first season began -- and the focus on Zooey Deschanel as the "adorkable" Jess -- the show actually foundered, then got stronger in the latter half (precisely, it's worth noting, when the ratings started to cool down).
This season begins with more of the fallout from Schmidt (Max Greenfield) -- he of the douchebag jar -- having begun sleeping with Jess' model friend Cece (Hannah Simone). Yet with most of the action set in a bar, it's kind of a snooze.
Hang in there, because the second episode has an online-dating mix-up, Schmidt hitting on the sister of his roommate Winston (Lamorne Morris), and bartender Nick (Jake Johnson) being counseled by a crazy old man who claims to be his alter ego from the future.
Frankly, "New Girl" is of questionable strength to prop up an entire night, placing considerable pressure on what's a pretty wispy concept. That said, maintaining the quality of that second half-hour -- or consistently coming close to it -- ought to establish the show's appointment-TV credentials. (It will help if Fox's new sitcoms, "The Mindy Project" and "Ben and Kate," get some traction, too.)
All the networks have been aggressive in terms of scheduling comedies this season, especially on Tuesday night. Ratings-wise, the result threatens to be a whole lot of mediocrity, and one suspects unscripted replacements are quietly waiting in the wings.
For now, though, "New Girl" appears to be picking up -- creatively, anyway -- where it left off.
Well done. As a reward, go ahead and take a couple of dollars out of the douchebag jar.