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Zooey is adorkable in Fox’s ‘New Girl’

Zooey Deschanel stars as an offbeat woman looking for love and living with three single guys in ‘‘New Girl.’’ Zooey Deschanel stars as an offbeat woman looking for love and living with three single guys in ‘‘New Girl.’’ (Isabella Vosmikova/FOX)
By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / September 20, 2011

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"New Girl’’ is Fox’s new Zooey Deschanel sitcom, in case you’ve been in a bunker, or reading books, or watching political debates, and somehow out of the range of network-promo target drones. “New Girl’’ is the Zooey Deschanel vehicle that is going to bring the “(500) Days of Summer’’ actress and She & Him singer to TV audiences in all her dorky, adorable, scatterbrained, indie-flavored glory.

And she probably will conquer you, as she has me, by just being so darn Zooey-ish, her innocent beauty hidden in a mess of brown hair, nerd glasses, and personality quirks, which include bursting into song whenever so inspired. Unless you’re adorka-phobic, and suffer from an acute terror of ultra-lovable individuals, you will fall for Deschanel mightily and shamelessly. Whether her character, Jess, is drowning her grief in a “Dirty Dancing’’ marathon, or doing a happy dance not knowing her panties are showing, or inventing a pathetic stripper persona for her boyfriend, she’s a sitcom lead unlike any other.

In the premiere, tonight at 9 on Channel 25, Jess catches her boyfriend with another woman, leaves him, and becomes the roommate of three guys. Schmidt (Max Greenfield) is a vain dude who’s always finding reasons to remove his shirt in front of women. Nick (Jake Johnson) is a hapless bartender who’s obsessed with his ex-girlfriend. And Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.) is a socially inept gym trainer. Each time one of them is particularly obnoxious, he must put a dollar in the apartment’s “Douchebag Jar,’’ and Schmidt appears to be out of the most bills. Why did they take in a female roommate? Jess’s best friend, CeCe (Hannah Simone), is a model with a social circle of other models.

The guys in “New Girl’’ create a warm ensemble around Deschanel - although Wayans will be replaced next week by Lamorne Morris, since Wayans is working on “Happy Endings’’ so the chemistry is in question until episode 2. But in the pilot, they’re all pitched at a compatible mid-level of sitcom kookiness and they blend together well. The guys are a typical trio of bros, modeled, as all bro packs are these days, after Judd Apatow movies. But by the end of the pilot, they’re finding compassion in their affection for Jess, and Jess is beginning to understand that most men aren’t like Patrick Swayze in “Dirty Dancing.’’

“New Girl,’’ created by “No Strings Attached’’ screenwriter Liz Meriwether, isn’t a ground-breaking comedy in any way, as it deals in the predictable gender differences we see in romantic movies and rom-coms on TV. The show is about people in their 20s and 30s on the verge of finding themselves, and it has no social satire in its DNA, like, say, “30 Rock.’’ If you go in expecting a revelation, you will most likely be disappointed. But go in to see a sturdily built sitcom structure in which four weird people form a quirky little relationship system, or go in to see Zooey, and you will enjoy.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.

NEW GIRL Starring: Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield, Damon Wayans Jr., Hannah Simone

On: Fox, Channel 25

Time: Tonight, 9-9:30