In terms of sitcoms that premiered in the 2010s, there is a case to be made that New Girl sits at the top. In a time when network sitcoms were, and are, losing relevance—especially amongst young people—the show managed to utilize its hoard of memorable characters and eccentric sense of humor to cultivate a massive audience, and become one of the modern-day greats in that dying genre. New Girl‘s popularity with younger generations is something I find to be fascinating. Because nowadays, it’s not like 16-25 year olds are patiently awaiting the arrival of the newest Fox sitcom. Despite that, New Girl has become one of the most relevant and beloved comedy shows of the last decade, most likely due to its popularity on streaming services like Netflix. While it may never reach the level of attention and fandom that shows like The Office, Parks and Recreation, or Modern Family have received this century, it definitely feels like New Girl is starting to get its just due when it comes to its place as one of the greatest sitcoms of the past 20 years.
Perhaps another reason the show’s popularity amongst younger fans is interesting to me is because, in many ways, New Girl feels like a throwback. The series feels like it has a lot more in common with sitcoms from previous generations rather than its contemporaries—not necessarily in content, but in form. It doesn’t contain high-concept comedy the way something like Rick & Morty does, nor did it revolutionize the genre in any way, like The Office did. Instead, it simply gave the audience a likable group of friends that we wanted to hangout with every week, much like shows in the ’80s and ’90s did. To me, that was—and continues to be—New Girl‘s biggest strength. From Season One to Season Seven, New Girl‘s number one asset was its characters, and the makers of the show knew that. There are not a lot of shows that utilized their main characters as effectively and efficiently as New Girl did over its seven year run. For fans of the series, characters like Nick Miller, Schmidt, and Winston Bishop have become iconic names in 21st century television lore. Truthfully, the sheer amount of comedy that this show was able to draw out of its characters is nothing short of astounding. It’s hard to make an audience continuously want to hangout with a group of people for seven full seasons, and 146 total episodes, but that is exactly what New Girl did. In fact, this is the fourth show I’ve done an “Every Season Ranked” blog for, and there is a case to be made that it’s the most consistent one so far. Sure, it had its peaks and valleys like all shows do, but the connection that its fans had to the characters made sure that it never dipped into, or even near, unwatchable territory.
So, now I’m going to rank New Girl‘s seven seasons the same way I ranked the seasons of The Office, Community, and Psych. I will list each season from worst to best, while giving my full thoughts on each individual season, and sharing my choice for what the best episode from each particular season was as well. Without further ado, let’s get started.
7. Season Seven
Like a lot of long-running sitcoms, New Girl‘s final season was its weakest. It was also the show’s shortest season by far, as—unlike the first six 20+ episode seasons—Season Seven only contained eight episodes. While that may have been a disappointment for some fans, any amount of episodes can actually be seen as a blessing—since the show was very close to not coming back for a seventh season at all. Luckily for fans, we got to see a resolution to these character’s stories. Unluckily for fans though, as I hinted at earlier, this season was fairly underwhelming. It didn’t reach the depths that something like The Office‘s final season did, but it certainly didn’t meet the level of quality that fans had come to expect over the first six seasons. The season picked up three years after the events of Season Six, and mainly focuses on Nick engaging to Jess, Cece and Schmidt struggling with parenthood, and Aly and Winston dealing with pregnancy. While there are some enjoyable, familiar moments and fun callbacks scattered throughout Season Seven, it kind-of feels like a different series than the show’s prime years. Perhaps it is due to the time jump, but something just feels off throughout the entirety of Season Seven. Moreover, for as great of a show as New Girl is, I don’t find the final episode to be all that memorable. I’m not too upset by this, nor do I consider it to be a harsh criticism because I know how difficult making a satisfying last episode can be—but I definitely wish the series had received a more substantial sendoff. All in all, New Girl‘s seventh season has some enjoyable moments, but struggles with a few issues that a lot of great shows find themselves dealing with toward the end of their run.
Best Episode of the Season: “Where the Road Goes” (Episode 4)
6. Season Six
New Girl‘s penultimate season comes in as the second to worst entry on my list. If Season Seven was where New Girl‘s quality really dipped, Season Six is when the cracks started to show. While I don’t consider this season to be bad at all, I don’t think there’s a fairly big difference in quality between this entry on my list and the next five. The main problem with this season is that the Nick-Reagan-Jess love triangle just simply drags on for too long. That storyline continues for so long in fact, that the audience was given enough time to wonder whether or not Nick and Jess should even end up together. By the time the two reunited in this season’s final episode, a lot of fans weren’t even that excited because they had felt like they made more sense apart than together. Another issue related to Season Six’s length is the fact that there are a lot of filler episodes in this season. Truthfully, even though Season Seven’s truncated run was seen as a disappointment by a lot of fans, I can’t help but think that Season Six would have been better off if it was only around 14 episodes, rather than 22. With all that being said, there is a lot to enjoy in New Girl‘s sixth season. Nelson Franklin returning for a multi-episode arc provided a lot of entertainment, and the main cast still felt as committed to their roles as ever. While there was a lot of frustrating surrounding the Nick and Jess’ storyline, it was nice to see progression in Cece and Schmidt’s marriage, as well as Aly and Winston’s relationship. Despite its flaws, I think there is a lot for fans to appreciate in Season Six of New Girl.
Best Episode of the Season: “Homecoming” (Episode 4)
5. Season Two
Now, let me first say that I understand that this entry can be seen as a controversial choice. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people had Season Two ranked as their first or second best New Girl season ever. Which is why I want to make it clear that this placement has much more to do with how highly I think of the next four seasons on my list, than it does with how I feel about Season Two. Now, let’s get into the specifics of Season Two. After the show’s first season, it was clear to audiences that New Girl was a special show. And Season Two did a great job of continuing a lot of the momentum that the show built in its first 24 episodes. Obviously, this season is where we see the storylines involving Nick and Jess, and Cece and Schmidt really progress to new levels. Furthermore, smaller storylines like Jess losing her job provide a lot of great entertainment and comedy as well. Two reasons this season ranks a little bit lower on my list than it might on some other’s, is because I think it contains less “classic” episodes than some other seasons do, and it’s clear that—in Season Two—the creative forces behind New Girl still didn’t really knew what to do with the Winston character. The latter is a problem that wasn’t totally fixed until Seasons Three and Four, and from that point on Winston became one of the best parts of the show. Honestly though, I still love Season Two of New Girl. It established a lot storylines and character traits that would help go on to make the show as great as it ultimately was.
Best Episode of the Season: “Cooler” (Episode 15)
4. Season Five
For a variety of reasons, Season Five of New Girl may just be its most interesting season. First, this was the season that had to follow Damon Wayans Jr.’s second departure from the show after returning a season and a half prior. Second, it had to find a way to continue Cece and Schmidt’s character arcs after the will they/won’t they aspect of their relationship ended. And the third, and perhaps most notable, reason this season was so interesting is because Zooey Deschanel missed six seasons due to maternity leave and was replaced by Megan Fox. When you take all those things into consideration, it’s shockingly impressive that Season Five of New Girl managed to be as great as it was. I honestly feel a lot of the credit for that has to go to the aforementioned Megan Fox. While Jess may not have been every fan’s favorite character on the show, Deschanel’s absence definitely created a hole that needed to be filled. You have to give credit to Fox for coming into a show that had a preexisting rhythm and chemistry and finding a way to fit in seamlessly, that is a difficult task for any actor to accomplish. I also think the writer’s did a phenomenal job of keeping the Cece and Schmidt characters relevant and entertaining after they got engaged. In terms of making up for Wayans Jr.’s absence, there is definitely a slightly different vibe to this show in the seasons without Coach. With that being said, since Wayans wasn’t there for the first two and a half seasons anyway, his end-of-Season-Four departure wasn’t that devastating for the quality of the show. Ultimately, there were a lot of reasons this season should not have worked, and although the first half may be more entertaining than the second half, Season Five is still a very enjoyable 22 episodes of television.
Best Episode of the Season: “Heat Wave” (Episode 9)
3. Season One
The season that started it all comes in at the number three spot on my list. Like a lot of shows, New Girl‘s first season wasn’t its best, but it certainly showed audiences how large its potential for greatness ultimately was. The pilot episode of New Girl is very interesting to watch now because obviously the Coach character would be replaced by Winston in the next episode, but also because it clearly shows that the original plan for this show was to focus on the quirkiness of Jess. Through further exploration of the other characters though, it must have become clear to the writers of this show that New Girl was always meant to be a true ensemble series. Although the characters in Season One—most notable Winston—act and behave slightly different than they do in the rest of the series, one simply can’t ignore the important seeds that were planted in the show’s opening season. As I mentioned in the opening of this blog, the most important aspect to New Girl‘s success are its characters. And since Season One is when we got introduced to those characters, it had to take up one of the top three spots on my list. Not every episode in Season One is perfect, nor is every character ultimately developed yet—but there is still a ridiculous amount of entertainment and comedy to be found in this season. Ultimately, this season proved to television watchers that New Girl wasn’t just going to be another typical network sitcom.
Best Episode of the Season: “Injured” (Episode 15)
2. Season Three
In my opinion, Season Three is when New Girl entered its prime. And although I think the show reached even higher heights in the next season, it was Season Three that announced to the world that this show was going to be beloved for a long time to come. Interestingly enough, there was a chance that this season could have actually turned out horrible. This is because the creative forces behind the show took a risk with coupling Nick and Jess up after just two seasons, and then having them breakup later in the season as well. It’s rare that a show is able to do that to two of its main characters and still keep fans engaged, interested, and happy—but New Girl pulled it off. Speaking of the creative forces behind the show though, Season Three is finally when the writers of this show figured out what to do with Winston. They adjusted that character in a way that allowed Lamorne Morris to shine brighter than he had in the first two seasons, and create one of the most memorable characters that would appear on television over the next four years. Obviously, Season Three also saw the return of Wayans Jr. return to the show for the first time since the pilot as well. As you’ll see with the number one entry on my list, I believe this show thrived the most when Deschanel, Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield, Hannah Simone, Morris, and Wayans Jr. were all members of the cast. This show just had a different energy when all six of those actors were interacting on screen together, an energy that couldn’t totally be replicated when one or more them was off the show. All in all, Season Three of New Girl is some of the funniest sitcom television to air in this century.
Best Episode of the Season: “Sister” (Episode 16)
1. Season Four
That’s right, Season Four is the greatest season in New Girl‘s history. This season just had it all to be honest. All six actors I mentioned in the previous entry were regular cast members for the entirety of this season, it contains a handful of classic episodes, as well as some of the most hilarious, heartfelt, and memorable storylines that the show ever had. As I hinted at earlier, this being the only season in which Wayans Jr. appears for every episode gives Season Four a major leg up over the other six seasons. His inclusion in the cast brings a level of energy and fun to the series that takes it to another level. He is the type of actor who is not only capable of giving great comedic performances, but of elevating the performances of everyone around him as well. Moreover, as I’ve mentioned multiple times throughout this blog already, New Girl‘s characters are what made this show as special as it was—and I’d argue that every single main character is at their comedic peak in Season Four. Nick, Schmidt, Jess, Cece, Winston, and Coach are all at their best in this season. Some characters were a little underdeveloped early on, and some characters became caricatures of themselves in later seasons—but everyone was nearly perfect in Season Four. This season also does a great job with romantic storylines, which were always important to the success of New Girl. There is a case to be made that, in Season Four, both Nick and Jess dated the characters that they should’ve actually ended up with. For Nick, that was Kai—and for Jess, that was Ryan. This season obviously did a great job of progressing the Cece and Schmidt relationship as well. The last thing I want to say about this season is that my pick for best episode may very well be one of the funniest and most absurd 22 minutes of television I have ever seen. And it’s episodes like that, that make Season Four of New Girl the show’s peak.
Best Episode of the Season: “Background Check” (Episode 6)