The TV.com Debate: Is New Girl Breezy and Fun or Cloying and Tedious?

THE DEBATERS: Price Peterson & Lily Sparks

PRICE: The best thing about comedy's subjectivity is we now have a lot of comedy options on TV. Depending on your sense of humor, you can laugh along with a live audience at a buffoonish husband's ne'er-do-well ways, or you can giggle in solitude at esoteric late-night cartoons. Unfortunately, if your tastes are even remotely discerning you'll have a tougher time finding the right comedy for you, and that's especially the case among the new fall offerings. That's why I welcome with open arms Fox's weird, offbeat, and unexpectedly touching New Girl. Personally, I'm amazed something like this can be on network television, and it's exciting to live in a world where it might even be a hit.

But it's hard to discuss New Girl without somehow commenting on Zooey Deschanel's appeal (or annoyance factor), and that's by design: This show simply would not work without the singular charisma of an attractive lead. High-fashion accessory lines, indie music side projects, and Death Cab-fronting husbands have rendered Deschanel a sort of hipster icon, but those things don't diminish the fact that there's really nobody else like her—from her deadpan delivery to unpredictable career choices. The fact that she's as discussed as she is—not to mention that she gets the backlash she's currently receiving—is testament to her essential appeal.

New Girl's first episode didn't have higher aspirations than simply setting up a dynamic between a strange woman and the three dudes who are frazzled and captivated by her. Her "quirky" mannerisms run contra to her movie star looks, but I think the weirdness serves to humanize her. And while she did jump around a living room naked in the opening scene, New Girl took pains to not objectify her. Jess is awkward and human (while easy on the eyes, sure) but also relatable. Add to that some truly interesting dialogue and great jokes and New Girl has all I need to tune in at least another week.

LILY: Comedy's a big, wide world, and many varieties of it exist on TV, but free time is a small, precious commodity that can only be used on a few choice offerings. While I have no doubt New Girl will be a hit (Zooey!!! Hot guys! Wish fulfillment!) I have no intention of wasting my precious viewing time on a lazily written half-hour of Zooey Deschanel essentially making faces in her bathroom mirror.

Speaking of Zooey, let's get back to Zooey. Mmm, the eyes, the bangs, the jazzy contralto—I know her character has a name, but let's face it: It doesn't matter. In every movie I've seen with Zooey Deschanel, she has played this specific, free-spirited indie-girl type. With tremendous success! In fact, the widespread imitation of this character onscreen over the last decade has set the progression of female characters back by, like, 85 billion light years. Remember when women had a shot at being proxies for the audience rather than being depicted as objects or appendages to a male narrator? Bury my heart at (500) Days of Summer. New Girl's Jess is exactly Zooey Deschanel's archetype indie girl, plucked from an unbearably twee screenplay, ramped up to FULL WHIMSICAL OUTPUT, and plopped back down into an apartment with three "regular" guys. KEEPOW! "The script writes itself!" is what I assume the producers said, because I don't know whether a script was actually written or whether Zooey was simply given a large glass of merlot and put in front of a camera. Is she supposed to be a profound alcoholic? Will that be a major reveal later? Because I have never fallen over trying to put on shoes while sober.

PRICE: Fine, you don't find Zooey Deschanel as charming as I do, but I have to disagree with you on a number of counts. First off, did you see The Good Girl? Zooey Deschanel was awesome in that! And it was not like anything else she's done since. Secondly, since when do women in comedy have to be audience proxies? The men certainly don't. If anything, the most common way women are even allowed to participate in comedy is as nagging wives or sexy, dim-witted girlfriends. So here we have a character who's clever, has a good sense of humor, and is kind of mentally in her own world, and it's somehow setting women back? Like Parks & Recreation's Leslie Knope or even Strangers With Candy's Jerri Blank—I guess my favorite female characters tend to be utter weirdos—Jess seems to have her own agenda in life, and it's refreshing to see the dudes of the show playing second banana to her for a change. I'll admit I'm a bit concerned about the "guys are like this, but girls are like this"-type humor, but I found the jokes insightful enough to get a pass.

LILY: The dynamic between a strange woman and three men living together, as a premise, is woefully weak, if not embarrassingly anachronistic. In an age where most colleges have co-ed dorms, is it really that unthinkable for a woman to live with male roommates? Hell, I lived with three guys I met off Craigslist in an apartment, and at no point did I hog the communal TV for a week while scream-sobbing on the couch. That's just being a terrible roommate, no matter what your gender is. Not that Jess is completely to blame; the guys are even more puzzling. They are in their mid-thirties but are completely, absolutely befuddled by females. Did they grow up together at an all boy's school in Testosterone, Mansylvania? How do these bozos make it through the day? Although one of them can't talk to women without shrieking, magically they lock eyes and decide to ditch their party and seek out Girl They've Known For A Week and serenade her at a restaurant, just in time for the close of the third act. Obviously, guys make these kinds of intuitive, thoughtful gestures all the time. Classic Guy! Or the opposite, because this behavior—the weird shunning and the weirder serenading—does not resemble the actions of any of the men I have ever known or heard of. Real human behavior is interesting and funny enough without turning people into characters as broad as cereal-box mascots. It's an achievement to create real, three dimensional characters and make them funny, but it's been done, so there is no going back. Network TV has gone too far making interesting, three-dimensional character-driven comedies (Parks and Rec, The Office, Modern Family) to reheat Three's Company and call it a day. The light bulb has been switched on, so don't try to sell me some candles.

PRICE: Well I guess I disagree that good comedies must somehow reflect reality. Relatable situations or emotions, sure, but the point is to laugh at absurd things (like Jess' marathon viewing of Dirty Dancing). If I had to frequently stop myself and say, "Wait a minute, this isn't funny because it's unacceptable behavior," then I probably wouldn't be able to watch much TV (or read, for that matter). Because it's a pilot, the dudes have about one personality trait each, but in this case I thought they were chosen judiciously (like the douche roommate who thinks he's buff). Maybe you found it implausible that they'd show concern for a girl they barely met, but I found it heartwarming. Their surprise restaurant serenade was a small, dumb idea that had a big, charming effect. But then again I'm a sucker for comedies where people attempt to help each other.

Ultimately, though, I think the ads for New Girl have done it a huge disservice. Nevermind the insufferable "adorkable" terminology or those obnoxious, canary yellow billboards—just simply advertising the show as a Zooey Deschanel quirkfest detracts from what a slight, breezy, and deceptively simple little lark it is. I really enjoyed this pilot both times I watched it, and I can imagine myself tearing through the future DVD set in an afternoon. You know, a bright, breezy, "quirky" afternoon. (Ugh, that word.)

LILY: I have now watched this pilot four times, trying to find something interesting about this character, and all I see is a gorgeous lady who regularly does face modeling for Rimmel being sold to us as “awkward” because she squinches up her nose and burps out little musical phrases. To return to one of your earlier points, there is no comparison here to Amy Sedaris' Jerri Blank, because Amy transformed her very cute self to play an old, repulsive-looking character and proved she cared more about making something funny and original than finding her light on camera. Jess is GORGEOUS. She even had a standalone moment where she walked into the room in a cute dress and everybody GASPED! Leslie Knope is extremely competent at her job, which makes her neuroticism and insecurities that much more endearing. Jess isn't a weirdo, she's Zooey Deschanel being cute, like a Meg Ryan 2K11. I don't think Zooey Deschanel took the role to hone her comic timing, and the show barely qualifies as a comedy. It's an excuse to spend time with someone charming and famous, both for the viewers and the people making it, and I found that ultimately boring.


YOUR TURN: What did you think of New Girl?

Comments (57)
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we are watching science fiction series where people fly or become invisible, we are watching cop procedurals or action series where the team ALWAYS win and catch the bad guy and happen to be always on time, lucky, whatsoever (like where 4 bad guys attack one good guy, but they all wait for their turn, like it always happen in real life) and still demand reality from a comedy.. for God's sake, please come to yourselves.. these shows are good, nice, funny because they are not THAT realistic.. it would not be funny if all the guys were douchebags and drooling over jess, or if she secretly and silently wept in her room after a terrible break-up.. that would be our own lives, which we definitely do not need to be reminded of over and over again on TV, let alone spend a precious half hour watching it.. and by the way people can be sober and fall down while wearing heeled shoes.. especially when they are as reluctant as jess to wear them and go out.. and no, co-ed dorms are not as common as you think.. sorry Lily but your arguments are quite nonsense, especially the parts where you compare yourself to the character.. what gave you the idea that your personality and experience can set a standard for realistic vs unrealistic things happen on tv?
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I liked this show a lot. Zooey is great and I love Damon Wayans Jr!
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i'm not sure how i feel...i really like zooey alot. i am not a sit com fan so it says alot for me to even care. raising hope and this one are the only ones i even know a little about...i watch ncis la at this time but i record it,so i will prob watch. i really like zooey. i am more apt to get my mom's copy of all in the family on dvd and watch that for great sit coms that are no more.
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In a word, Awful. The entire new season is a disaster of epic proportions, so far.
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This show is waaay funnier then the pathetic unwatched 30rock.
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This was a poor version of the much better "My Boys" on TBS. As much as I like Zooey, I was hoping for something much better...
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I actually liked it a lot more than I thought I would. I have to say though that I like Zooey in general and the main reason why I like this show is because of her. So I guess if you don't like her or find her annoying, then you'll obviously won't like the show at all because the guys aren't that awesome that they can make the show work on their own. But I definitely enjoyed watching it and will tune in next week.
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I vote for annoying. And not just Zoey, but all the supposed men in this show as well. Not funny - they make me cringe. And change the channel.
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"They are in their mid-thirties but are completely, absolutely befuddled by females."

Lily, I'm in my mid-thirties and I'm completely befuddled by females. Also, I did not grow up in an all-boys school and my testosterone level is quite low. So, okay, I'm actually still in my twenties, but my point still stands. Wait, what was my point. Um... uh... blah, I can't even talk to women online. Uh, do you like shopping?
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Only Free Agents have something to survive this fall,all the other comedies are

awfully lame
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Well, that sucks for you then. Free Agents is on pace to be canceled early.
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Another new "comedy" this fall i just didn't like. It certainly wasn't funny and any show that makes me roll my eyes several times, just isn't for me. Should be mentioned i have no idea who Zooey is. And i do get the feeling from this article and comments, you really have to know who she is to enjoy the show.



Anyway i'm starting to fear that TV.coms claim of a crappy fall comedy season really is true, as i have yet to find a new one i like.
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I watched it and im still undecided if i just think Jess is annoying or quirky.. And of the three guys only Damon Wayans was a tiny bit funny. Will try a few episode tho. Hope it will get better.
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Don't get attached to Damon. He is being replaced and moving on to another show.
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I hope Damon Wayans gets a chance to shine in this, also if you've seen the movie Ceremony, Jake Johnson is absolute comic gold. Hopefully these two get more to do in the series than the 3 men and a little lady shtick.
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My Boys!! That's what it reminds of! A weirder, less funny version of 'My Boys'. And guess what, 'My Boys' was on TBS and it still got cancelled. Maybe SMG and Zooey could do sort of an odd couple show... SMG will kick ass and Zooey will be weird and clumsy and continue to redefine herself as the Chuck Norris of female comedy.
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I'm still undecided. I have to say though, Lilly, your choice of comedies to compare this to, "interesting, three-dimensional character-driven comedies (Parks and Rec, The Office, Modern Family)" is a little unfair as this show isn't supposed to be a docu-comedy, which those three shows are. Better comparisons would have been Friends With Benefits and/or The Big Bang Theory (now one of the best on TV). The New Girl isn't as good as most of the returning (quirky?) sit-coms but it is better than most of the new ones. I just hope that she dials it back a bit and the guys grow some balls, otherwise this will get very tired, very quickly.
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it was decent, wil give it the benefit of the doubt and then see what happens
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A pilot is always a pilot. The plot is usually lacking since the 20 minutes goes into introducing the characters. So I wouldn't judge the show yet. Damon Wayans is doing the disappearing act in favour of some other guy and that will too change the dynamics of the show. And whatever you feel about typecasting Zooey, I still enjoyed her performance immensely. I'm definitely not getting tired of her cuteness. Future episodes will tell what they do with the acting resources given.
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I liked it but I will have to see more. It definitely wasn't laugh out loud funny but it was enjoyable.



Can someone clarify/give insight? Are they setting up the roomate (the one who was dumped by his girlfriend) as Zooey's love interest? I thought I detected the vibe a bit but it was quite subtle. If not, will she have an overlying love interest? Or will it just be about her shenanigans dating around?
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"just simply advertising the show as a Zooey Deschanel quirkfest detracts from what a slight, breezy, and deceptively simple little lark it is"

You said it yourself Price, slight, breezy, simple little lark. How much cotton candy can you take??? This show is just that, all sugar and no substance. Put it on off,off,off off-broadway, call it "All Zooey Deschanel All The Time" !! At least that way the people that want the feast can pay the price both at the theater and the dentist!!
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I agree with poibnts on both sides. Sure it may very well be an excuse to make a Zooey Deschanel show and market her off. But I still found the show overall charming and funny. Althought the Boys do this and Girls do taht kidna thing is a bit dumb.
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I hated it. I hated the main character, when are people gonna get over the indie chick crap.
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Funny how i can see the points of both sides of the debate. Personally, i think that while Zooey is not the greatest or the most versatile actress working today, she does portray the quirky charming type very well, and that appeals to some people. It's like discussing genres, they all have their place and target demographic. Same with New Girl, there will always be fans of the whimisical who like her work, no reason to call for cancellation just because you're not one of them. Also, i have to say, if i'd wanted to watch reality replicated on tv, i wouldn't be watcing comedies. Their relation to each other is so exaggerated that it's hardly real.
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Sure, Zooey is really charming and sweet but this 'comedy' is somehow annoying... judging for the pilot obviously. But it seems like it will stay the same for the rest of the season.
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Comedies rooted in reality have too many constrictions. Some of the best comedies are the most absurd off the wall concoctions. The Mighty Boosh, Louie and Wilfred are some of my favorite shows and none of them have any basis in realism or actuality. But I digress, I think New Girl is new and inventive and as an avid television watcher, I've seen guys be the stupid socially inept ones, it's refreshing to see how a gender switch on that stereotype would work. Plus, I think Zoey Deschanel is pivotal to making that part of the show work.
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OMG....I watched the pilot episode on iTunes a few days ago, and I will not be wasting my time watching this show on TV. I would have to beat that girl to death with a shovel if I was around her for more than 15 minutes.
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This chick is rapidly becoming overrated. The adorable thing has lost its novelty. Shes just getting plain weird. Alison Brie on the other hand...
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Allison Brie IN my other hand... AMIRITE GUYS?
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Uh-oh, looks like we need another staffwide seminar, Tim.
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I'd say plenty of unrealistic things happen in The Office, Parks and Rec, and Modern Family. A comedy itself is very unrealistic. All we would have is dramadies if everyone went for realism.
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I loved it. As much as I love Parks and Recreation and The Office, 'cheers!' to a show that doesn't have an audience clapping in the background that's also not treated like they know the cameras are there, and makes me laugh. Zooey is awesome :)
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I really liked, to say the truth, after reading all of your posts about the new season all summer, I had pretty low expectations, so I was pleasantly surprised :)
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You can't judge whole-heartedly after the pilot! It was pretty good, made me laugh a couple of times, but still nothing to get overly excited about.
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it was the pilot, it has some rough edges but i think it's a good show
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You know those things that is so gay, so even a gay want to use the word "gay". This is one of those things. Seriously if there is any justice on TV, which there is not, this show will already be cancelled.
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Oh, come on, Lily, you're just jealous of Zooey Deschanel's great looks and unabashed success in life!
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As a woman can I safely say for other women that we find it annoying when YOU say that we're jealous of another woman because of her looks? I think she explained pretty clearly why she doesn't like the show. Wasn't bashing Zoe zoe, just the show. Which is understandable because it sucks. I'll come back and post a picture of George Clooney and accuse you of hating him because his dick is bigger. Good day!
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Actually, lala... I'm a girl... hahaha! And I meant Lily no harm by the comment, I was just teasing! But please feel free to post George Clooney's photo! Good day to you too!
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You took the words right out of my mouth lalaforever. I think anyone would admire Zooey's looks & success, but its not fair to her that the show is depending solely on her star quality for its merit. Good writing + substantial premise + an appealing actress= a great show, and so far they only have one part of that equation.
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Thanks, been wondering whether I want to bother saying something very similar. I honestly thought that ridiculous notion died sometime in the 20th century... or is still being shoved in our faces only by teenagers who get their "knowledge" about women from stupid TV shows and porn.
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My entire household loves this show, but that might just be because we find it extremely relatable. We recently had a girl go through a break up and move in with us (3 guys). When this came out, we were amazed that there was now a TV show ABOUT OUR LIVES.
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Yeah but did you ever serenade her in restaurant? Seriously.
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I thought it was cute... it doesn't have to be realistic but it was nice. The point of television isn't to give us reality; we get enough of that. The point of television and books and the works is to remove us from reality.
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I loved it! its great to see a female character thats witty, cute, silly... she had me with her Lord references and the theme songs about herself :)
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Just like with the movies: People tend to overthink logic and plot. The show had some great jokes and laughs, that's what it needs to have. All is good. Who cares about how much sense it makes?
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I also loved it. It's the only pilot that I've saved on my DVR this season so that I can watch it again. I don't think I've ever seen Zooey in anything other than Bones and I only knew of her existence because of her relation to Emily, so I had no prior endearment to her. I can now see what all the fuss is about. This is just how I like my comedies. Funny and sentimental.
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I enjoyed it. And while it may not have been typical male behavior, it was typical male insecurities. Men worry alot about how to talk to women, if they are as buff as they wish they were and they even suffer from obsessive heartbreak. In a way, the guys are as deliberatly messed as Zooey is, we just notice Zooey because she's hot and the primary character so alot of time is spent on her weirdness. The weirdness spread out across three guys is compacted into on girl, which is why she seems so over the top. But it's also why she's interesting. On the whole, I think this show may be the secret fantasy of men: a hot chick who they can be friends with who will eventually get them and explain to them the world of women. None of us big stong men want to admit it, but women are vastly confusing and this show seems to capitalise on that. Though it seems like the show is from Zooey's point of view, I would argue that we are really watching it from the point of view of the three guys observing Zooey. We, as viewers, are the fourth room mate, rolling our eyes with the boys, but secretly feeling bat for Zooey and ultimatly feeling good about ourselves when we blow off the model party to make out strange new roomate feel better about herself. Would we do this in real life? maybe, probably not. 'Cause men are scum, er I mean hung up on mega-tons of sociological baggage. But deep down in the pit of the various architypes we all are, most men want to be nice and helpful and see Zooey be happy. We just also want the hot chick too...the real world ending of that movie might be that the guys feel alittle bad about it but go to the Model Party anyway and Zooey gets drunk and goes home alone and is sad. But who the hell watches TV for reality? Even reality show people don't want to see real reality.
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i laughed a few times...but in general i was more annoyed and uncomfortable throughout most of the pilot. if i'm to continue watching, the singing has got to stop.
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Yep.
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Too soon to tell. Will watch a couple more episodes to see how it goes.
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I liked it. It's quirky and unusual. Plus it has Zooey :o)
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show was terrible in every way
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i liked it a lot. i'll watch anything with Zooey. it might can get annoying but let's get real, all shows have that quality



lots of funny lines, the LOTR reference was especially funny
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I liked it a lot. I can't wait for the second episode! This made me laugh the loudest:



"I like your glasses."

"They help me see."
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I LOVED IT :)
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I agree with Tim! Zooey = hot. Jess = bunny boiling lunatic.
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