In a TV environment where a post-cancellation move to Yahoo Screen is treated like a victory for what was once a line-up-leading network sitcom (see you soon, Community!), shows that stay on the schedule for more than a year are increasingly rare. But two are returning to Fox tonight: New Girl for the premiere of its fourth season, and The Mindy Project for its third. If you’ve never watched either — possibly because they seemed like they were too girly? Which…I mean, one does have Girl right there in its title — here’s why the time is right for you to check them out.
1) They’ve had time to refine the formula.
The first season of New Girl was somewhat rough going for a viewer who appreciates, let’s say, consistency: Jess (Zooey Deschanel) went from sexually timid weirdo to aggressively announcing her intention to seek “some strange” just a few episodes later. Since then, we’ve seen her progress in her career and maintain a long-term relationship, both of which have helped turn her into a clearly defined character rather than a bucket of quirks.
The Mindy Project has also gotten past some early hiccups: It’s been a long while since the midwives upstairs from our heroine’s OB/GYN practice have been portrayed as New Age charlatans; the titular Mindy (Mindy Kaling) is generally helpful to her patients rather than making offensive cracks about, for instance, immigrants’ ability to pay their medical bills; and the show’s overstuffed cast has lost an extraneous member since the S2 finale.
2) These season premieres are almost like series resets.
Don’t worry about having missed the (combined) five previous seasons: We’re starting fresh! New Girl broke up Jess and Nick (Jay Johnson) toward the end of its last season, so now they’re both single and looking for new prospects. Schmidt (Max Greenfield) had given up on his ex, Jess’s friend Cece (Hannah Simone), when she took up with a new dude, but (spoiler alert) Cece and her much-younger Australian boyfriend have broken up too. Other than that Winston (Lamorne Morris) is now in the police academy, everything is more or less back to being exactly how it was when the series started.
The Mindy Project has also embarked on a new phase, changing into a show with a couple at its center instead of a single woman. After a hard-fought courtship with an extremely satisfying You’ve Got Mail ending, Mindy and Danny (Chris Messina) are dating — publicly this time, unlike when they initially got together around the middle of the show’s most recent season. Fortunately for the viewer, Mindy is still basically a nut, but now episodes can revolve around how that nuttiness plays out when she’s seeing someone who’s been calling her out on her crap the entire time he’s known her.
3) If the cast doesn’t do it for you, the guest stars might.
The season premiere of New Girl, set at the last wedding the gang has to attend for the summer, features Veep’s Reid Scott (as the Best Man) and Jessica Biel (as Jess’s rival for his attention); The Mindy Project introduces It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s Rob McElhenney as ex-con Lou, cousin to Ike Barinholtz’s Morgan, in what I therefore hope is a recurring dirtbag performance. We’re also promised roles this season on Mindy from Fargo star Allison Tolman, Reno 911! alumna Niecy Nash, and Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes; New Girl will welcome Childrens Hospital’s Erinn Hayes.
4) They’re not Utopia.
One of the shows Fox most wants you to get excited about is Utopia, its Survivor-meets-Big Brother reality show (minus the part where there’s actually a cash prize or a goal of any kind) supposedly about a bunch of people trying to build an ideal society. So far, though, it’s mostly been about sociopaths picking fights with each other. Deliver a strong message to the network that people who should probably be in full-time in-patient treatment for their rage issues are less appealing to the viewer than are arch single ladies and their goofy friends. If nothing else, the New Girl/Mindy Project power hour is worth watching this week so that you can find out why Danny has a thong with “Diamond” on the crotch and learn how to use “Biden” as a verb.