'New Girl,' with Zooey Deschanel

Zooey Deschanel, a cast member in the television

Zooey Deschanel, a cast member in the television series "New Girl," poses at the 7th Annual FOX Fall Eco-Casino Party in Culver City, Calif. (Sept. 12, 2011) (Credit: AP)

THE SHOW  "New Girl"

WHEN | WHERE Tonight at 9 on Fox/5

REASON TO WATCH Zooey Deschanel

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Jess (Deschanel) is a goofy sweet-natured innocent who doesn't realize her live-in boyfriend has been cheating on her. After she does -- let's just say the discovery is awkward -- then it's time to find a new apartment.

She answers an ad posted by roomies Nick (Jake Johnson), Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.), who take Jess in, while providing heartfelt male advice on how to get a nice man. Problem is, they have relationship problems of their own.

MY SAY Back during the press tour, some critics burbled helplessly over this show and since then, it has indeed landed on many fall season top-10 lists. Deschanel . . . That hair . . . Those eyes . . . That voice -- which breaks periodically into short bursts of song:

It all proved simply too irresistible, and suddenly, this became a de facto must-watch of the fall season. That said, please forgive me for not quite feeling the love. Deschanel is a gifted, appealing actress, but a little bit of Jess goes a long way.

The klutzy dork role feels strangely like both a regression from and distillate of her better-known parts, like Summer in "(500) Days of Summer" or Kit in "Failure to Launch." But those had some bite and edge; Jess has absolutely none.

Meanwhile, Wayans, who has a couple of amusing scenes, had to leave the series when ABC unexpectedly picked up "Happy Endings" -- which, coincidentally, bears some similarity in tone to "New Girl."

BOTTOM LINE If you love Zooey Deschanel, this one's for you. If not, a pass.

GRADE B-

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