Writing Within The Lines

Noreene profiles “New Girl” show-runner Liz Meriwether:

“Some of the beauty of writing for network is that there are so many things you can’t do, but that sort of pushes you to do things you didn’t even think you could do to get around that,” says Meriwether. “I do miss going there, I really do, and I hope—I want—in the future to write something that gets a little bit dirtier and goes there a little more. But it has been a really good exercise for me in learning not to rely on that, in learning, like: OK, so we can’t show boobs, we can’t say the word ‘dick,’ we can’t just say the most shocking thing. We have to come up with a way around it.”

One way around the obstacles was to anchor the show in a character who is a bit of a prude. Jess’s girlishness was something critics initially found off-putting about the show, but Meriwether wasn’t creating a symbol, after all. She was looking for things she found funny, then finding means for getting them across. And so there was a whole episode in the first season during which Jess is afraid to say “penis.” As Meriwether delights in recounting, in that context, standards and practices allowed five instances of the word. This year, she and her writers tried to get seven penises into an episode; that was too much.

During a debate over network TV, Willa Paskin compares “New Girl” to “Girls”: 

Why is “New Girl” downgraded so drastically because you’ve seen something like it before? I get that originality counts, but I think this is part of the strain of Book Report-ism that has crept into TV-watching (in the corner of the universe that writes about “Girls” on the internet a ton, where I live). We watch TV for pleasure! There is no shame in that! If “New Girl” makes one laugh and smile a ton, if it is super-super enjoyable and pleasant, that is awesome, period. If its version of self-asphyxiation sex did not launch a million blog posts and New York Times op-eds, that’s fine. It has a different set of intentions than “Girls,” among them trying to make millions of people laugh. Which is crazy hard to do! Originality is important, but I think the fixation on it obscures the way that even the very best, most original things riff on what came before—the way that “The Wire” functioned as a genre cop show, where the gang got back together at the start of each season; the way that “Mad Men” works as a melodrama; the way that “30 Rock”’s workplace is structured almost exactly like “Mary Tyler Moore”—and backseats pleasure like it’s something lesser than, instead of being the whole point. TV is not homework, and that is one of the very best things about it.