The Significance of Found Family in ‘New Girl’

New Girl

Let’s talk about sitcoms. Sitcoms are truly the backbone of my love for the entertainment industry. From Full House to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, to even more recent hits like Modern Family, Parks & Rec, and Abbott Elementary, television fuels me. These programs provide hours of entertainment, life lessons, laughs, and most importantly – create bonds between its audience and characters. After spending so much time watching seemingly normal people go through the motions of seemingly normal life, it’s not difficult to see yourself in them. Mold parts of your own personality after them. This phenomenon never felt more real than in watching this quirky thirty-minute FOX series called New Girl.

Starring an impeccably cast ensemble, New Girl tells the story of a freshly heartbroken schoolteacher in Los Angeles who discovers a beautiful loft and a new group of best friends on Craigslist. Led by Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield, Hannah Simone, Lamorne Morris, and Damon Wayans Jr., New Girl not only follows the tale of a silly educator but the friends she makes along the way, too.

Zooey Deschanel as Jess Day, Jake Johnson as Nick Miller, Max Greenfield as Schmidt, Lamorne Morris as Winston Bishop, Damon Wayans Jr. as Coach, and Hannah Simone as Cece in New Girl (COURTESY: FOX)

That is the key component to this series being so beloved, making the aforementioned actors forever tied to the characters they portrayed (three of them even embarking on a podcast journey through the series titled Welcome To Our Show). The relationships forged through 7 seasons of silly adventures and goofy mishaps turn a ragtag group of 30-somethings from all walks of life, pursuing different goals in love, in life, and work into a found family so charming, the series remains a rewatchable comfort show I keep circling back to.

While the series begins with Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel) moving in with three young men – strangers she met online through a Craigslist ad, it quickly expands on the relationship of these men and how they all came to live in this prime piece of real estate in downtown L.A. Nick Miller (Jake Johnson), a bartender with a bit of a drinking problem and an inability to ask for help, is immediately established as the glue that holds the entire dynamic together. His childhood best friend Winston Bishop (Lamorne Morris) and his college roommate Schmidt (Max Greenfield) both consider Nick their best friend and they would both be fully correct. Through a variety of turbulence, from career changes to breakups, Nick remains a loyal and fierce friend to his buddies. And in return, they remain fiercely loyal to him. However. Winston is a mess on his own, wandering through life in a variety of directions in search of a purpose. We see Winnie The Bish as a C-league basketball player, an assistant at a sports radio station, a nanny, and eventually a police officer. At the end of the day, Winston is by far the most comfortable in his own skin and offers the unique brand of humor that makes him an immediate fan favorite. On the other hand, while Schmidt deals with a bout with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and a wee bit of mommy (and daddy) issues, his purpose is clear: success by any means necessary.

Right off the bat, it’s apparent these three men, through short-hand, inside jokes, and the camaraderie found within their shared living space, have found their home within each other, even if they remain unable to convey that emotion right at the beginning (they’ll get there!). The wholesome evenings spent watching sports or failing to pick up women at the bar keep the laughs coming and keep them together along the way. In my opinion, what makes this friendship so vital to each of the main male characters is their proximity to each other regarding their own actual family.

Zooey Deschanel as Jess Day, Jake Johnson as Nick Miller, Max Greenfield as Schmidt, Lamorne Morris as Winston Bishop, Damon Wayans Jr. as Coach, and Hannah Simone as Cece in New Girl (COURTESY: FOX)

Winston and Nick grew up in Chicago, while Schmidt hails from Long Island. On the West Coast, the only family they have is their tight-knit group of friends. Holidays, celebrations, triumphs, and losses are shared between these three individuals in this loft, and they treat each other as brothers. Additionally, while he appeared in the pilot episode before disappearing and reappearing in season three, Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.) is the fourth piece to this puzzle of best friends who probably have the most hilarious group chat ever. They know things about each other that nobody else knows and they share honest and thoughtful advice on all things career and dating-related. In one of the most memorable moments on the show, they find themselves teaching each other ways to share their hidden shame in not knowing how to perform mundane tasks such as laundry and end up teaching each other the purest form of love.

Very few people have the honor and privilege of being a part of somebody else’s pathway to adulthood whether it be a case of convenience or camaraderie. The gang in New Girl all share that honor. Moreover, they all offer fresh and unique perspectives and outlooks on life that provide invaluable insights into their pals’ choices, relationships, and lifestyles.

They need each other more than they even realize – and create a bond anyone with these kinds of friendships can relate to, no matter what sort of outlandish and goofy shenanigans they’re getting into. Towards the end of season 4 when Coach decides to leave the loft to follow his girlfriend to New York, there are no hard feelings. These are people who choose to stick around in your life despite the distance in between or the amount of time spent between conversations, and nothing can break that bond.

By the time Jess enters this dynamic, she is an outsider. However, through sheer charm, gumption, and sincerity, she assimilates easily into the group dynamic. But she’s lived her own life before entering this loft alongside her lifelong best friend Cece Parikh (Hannah Simone). They both move from Portland to L.A. – with very different ambitions. Jess is a teacher and Cece is a model, and their lives are inextricably intertwined due to the fellowship they share.

Zooey Deschanel as Jess Day, Jake Johnson as Nick Miller, Max Greenfield as Schmidt, Lamorne Morris as Winston Bishop, Damon Wayans Jr. as Coach, and Hannah Simone as Cece in New Gir (COURTESY: FOX)

When Jess has a bad day, Cece is there. Cece goes through a bad breakup with a questionable suitor, and Jess has her home open wide for her pal. They are sisters through and through. Their loyalty and generosity towards each other is never called into question. The best thing about the found family trope is that they are not contained in an exclusive club. Cece falls in love with Schmidt and forms a bond close enough with Winston that he is chosen as a Bridesman and a Groomsman at their inevitable wedding.

There are several episodes of New Girl where Cece and Jess have hilarious callbacks to the teenage hijinks they found themselves in, or share a common memory or feelings towards a person due to their long-standing sisterhood. There’s even a case where Cece finds Jess in a bathroom and joins her in solidarity on the floor without even needing to discuss why she’s there. They speak a language of their own and that is a love shared between these various, elongated relationships on both ends of the New Girl spectrum. And when these forces of friendship merge, it displays one of the finest examples of the found family trope I’ve ever seen.

With New Girl being a comedy, once these two separate groups of friends come together under the same roof, hilarity ensues. Not only does New Girl feature some of the most satisfying running gags, Family Guy-esque cutscenes, one-liners, and the greatest drinking game ever devised (True American), but it also shows just how connected a large group of loyal besties can be. If Jess finds herself off learning how to use a dating app with Schmidt, Nick is off reading his latest zombie novel to Winston. When Coach and Cece are having brunch, Nick and Schmidt are attempting to build a small business.

Zooey Deschanel as Jess Day, Jake Johnson as Nick Miller, Max Greenfield as Schmidt, Lamorne Morris as Winston Bishop, Damon Wayans Jr. as Coach, and Hannah Simone as Cece in New Girl (COURTESY: FOX)

When the series goes through a time-jump between seasons 6 and 7, Schmidt and Cece have a house and a child, Coach travels across the country to attend a funeral for Winston’s cat, Winston seeks guidance from Jess on how to propose to his longtime girlfriend, and Nick is personally offended by Schmidt’s decision to grow a mustache without consulting him first. They lean on each other in the most heartfelt and intimate ways.

Nick and Jess are one of the most beloved romantic relationships on TV, Winston and Cece’s famous “Mess-Arounds” display a fabulous example of pure unadulterated friendship, Schmidt and Nick have shown an entire generation that it’s okay to love your best friend wholly and fully without fail, and Coach sheds his wall of toxic masculinity to share his feelings and embrace vulnerability. The series highlights one progressing due to the environment in which they reside and the people with which they share it.

From funerals to weddings to camping trips to baby showers and more, New Girl depicts a completely pure and wholesome form of friendship and familial bonds. While the group was originally formed out of convenience, they grew together out of necessity. And luckily, viewers get to enjoy the ride.

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