The hit comedy series New Girl aired on Fox for seven seasons from 2011 to 2018 and starred Zooey Deschanel as the quirky schoolteacher Jessica Day. Created by Elizabeth Merriweather, the show was praised by fans and critics alike for its fair share of humorous quotes and heartfelt moments. The story begins with Jess leaving her long-term boyfriend for cheating on her and moving into a loft with three guys who don’t really know what to make of her.
The cast includes Nick Miller (Jake Johnson), the grumpy and lovable bartender, Schmidt (Max Greenfield), a painstakingly precise man who works at a marketing firm, and Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.), the sports-loving personal trainer who takes great pride in his masculinity. Wayans Jr. was replaced after the pilot episode by Winston (Lamorne Morris), a former basketball player, and the cast is rounded out with Jess’ best friend, the gorgeous model Cece (Hannah Simone).
New Girl was one of Fox’s most popular comedies, and in honor of the many fond memories it has given us over the years, here are 10 of the most unforgettable episodes in the series.
In many ways, the second episode of season one feels like the true beginning of the series. It marks the introduction of Winston, and though he hadn’t fully become the oddball of the group just yet, there was instant chemistry between the core four who remained together for the majority of the series. Jess goes back to retrieve her things from her ex-boyfriend’s place and unleashes holy hell when she sees that he didn’t water the plants. Seeing her new roommates and Cece come together to support her shows the love they have for each other even early on.
9. “First Date”
The Jess-Nick romance took a certifiable step forward in the 21st episode of the second season when the two went on their first date. From the beginning, their “will-they-won’t-they” relationship teased fans with near-misses and quiet pining, so watching them make the transition from friends to lovers felt right. In their usual fashion, it was awkward and clumsy as the two tried to figure out how this new normal would work. Jess goes to her best friend Cece for advice, while Nick goes to his silent bench friend Tran for his non-advice. Their relationship would endure many ups and downs over the course of the series, but there’s something innocently sweet about this beginning.
Episode 14 of the second season is like an origin story. One of the best running jokes is Nick’s passion for writing, which culminates in the creation of his novel, The Pepperwood Chronicles. In season two, episode nine, “Eggs,” Nick starts writing Z is for Zombie, but it needs a lot of work. Winston calls it the worst thing he’s ever read in his life. There are many misspellings in it as well as a word search among other daring choices. In “Pepperwood” a few episodes later, Nick goes undercover as Julius Pepperwood (with a thick Chicago accent) to protect Jess from a student he finds suspicious. Eventually, Nick’s literary tastes evolve and he creates The Pepperwood Chronicles, which actually got published. It’s about a hard-boiled Chicago cop-turned-New Orleans detective who fights the alligator within himself. It sounds like a bestseller to us.
In episode six of season two, Nick is nervous about his college crush coming to town, but the best part is how much he hates haunted houses. Jess happens to be working at a haunted house and it makes for the perfect setup to terrify the living daylights out of Nick. There are great character moments in this episode, which finds the entire cast dressing up for Halloween. Winston is a police officer, Nick wears bee antennas and a shirt that says “Arthur” for Bea Arthur, and Schmidt and Cece look like a married couple because he wore a suit and she wore a white dress, which upsets Cece because she’s seeing another man. The best part comes when Nick learns that Jess’ boyfriend is talking to other women and he has to brave the Land of Fright to tell her what his intentions are. Inside, he gets scared by a clown who continuously yells in his face, accidentally hits Jess out of fear, and gets jumped by a Frankenstein and a ghost. As hilarious as this is, his intentions show how much he cares about protecting Jess’ feelings.
In this episode, Nick has to deal with the passing of his father, who he had a complicated relationship with in episode 20 of season two. It’s a deeper peek into Nick as he processes his grief, and the comedy in this episode feels therapeutic in a way, counterbalancing the heaviness of the plot. Jess has to do a eulogy for the man, which turns into an Elvis impersonation (swaying hips and all) and a rendition of, “In the Ghetto.” Weirdly, that’s what seems to bring everyone together, as those who have gathered sing along with her to honor the man who has passed.
In a surprising turn of events, Damon Wayans Jr. returned to New Girl in episode seven of season three, and the new dynamic worked extremely well. Coach’s machismo added something unique to the cast and created more comedic combinations for them to play off of. The inside jokes were brilliant as well, with Coach not remembering Jess at all. They included a scene where they had celebrated Seal Team Six’s Osama Bin Laden operation, but he thought he was alone at that moment. Jess had to start from square one with him and it called back to the early growing pains of Jess trying to win over the guys.
4. “Landing Gear”
It finally happened. Schmidt and Cece got married in the season finale of season five. Aside from Nick and Jessica’s love journey, fans were eagerly waiting for the show’s other couple to put their issues aside and get it together. Schmidt, who normally thinks of himself first, flies to Portland to convince Cece’s mom to come to their wedding. He knows that it will make his soon-to-be bride happy and it’s a testament to how much he cares for her. Nick (the notoriously bad liar) had to keep it a secret from Cece, and watching Jess try to school him in the art of secrecy was hilarious to watch. The episode was also at a point where both Jess and Nick were single and there was renewed hope that their relationship would be rekindled.
3. “Background Check”
Episode six of season four shows the cast’s comedy chops like no other episode. Winston’s academy background check was that day and it’s up to his roommates to make sure it goes well. Jess had to first convince the other guys to stay and help after they wanted to abandon their friend for a day of outlet shopping. The big problem is that Jess has a bag of meth in her closet, and they have to figure out what to do with it. Everyone freaks out as they hide this from Winston, and in a panicked state, Jess throws the meth at Schmidt and it flies everywhere. The facade just gets worse and worse. Jess stuffs them in her bra, Coach finds a random person to pose as Winston’s mentee from the Boys and Girls Club, and Nick cannot stop sweating from the high stakes. Pure comedy gold.
2. “A Chill Day In”
Episode 18 of season five shows Jess and Cece as a strong comedic duo. The guys leave the apartment and the women plan a day of getting high and watching Anne of Green Gables. Jess only partakes in this activity once every year, and to commemorate it, she sings, “Return of High Jess” in the style of Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack.” When Cece receives a breadmaker from Schmidt’s mom, she takes it as an affront to her homemaking skills and they break it. Shortly thereafter, Schmidt calls Cece, excited about the breadmaker and the women immediately regret their decision. They tried to return it to the store and when that fails, they try to get a new one (without paying the high price tag) with half-baked schemes that make for comical results.
New Girl did something that sets it apart from every other sitcom: it had an episode featuring Prince playing ping-pong. In episode 14 of season three, Jess and Cece get an invitation to go to Prince’s house for a party, and the gang can’t believe it. It’s also the episode where Nick tells Jess that he loves her and…Jess responds with finger guns. When Prince appears, he gives relationship advice to Jess as only he could. He has pancakes made for her, gives her a mantra to repeat, and plays ping-pong with her. Jess even gets to perform with Prince on stage, and by the end of the episode, Jess and Nick are in a better place. The episode has everything.
New Girl is currently available to stream on Netflix.