New Girl and the great will they/won’t they sitcoms

Hit new US show mixes laughs with a compelling romance between Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake M Johnson)

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It’s a very bright, funny, addictive sitcom but New Girl has something else: it’s got the kind of will they/won’t they relationship that has marked some of the greatest comedies. Watch it now and if you can say afterwards that you don’t want Jess and Nick to get together, you have a heart of stone.

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They’re not after each other. This is not a romcom, it’s not about either of them pursuing the other. Jess (Zooey Deschanel) is sharing an apartment with three men and the show is regularly about the boyfriends and girlfriends they each bring home. But you know that Jess and flatmate Nick (Jake M Johnson) should be together and, moreover, you want them to be.

If you have time and nerve, search YouTube for Nick and Jess clips: you will find myriad fan videos taking excerpts from the show and putting them to music. Generally slushy music.

In Britain we have had Tim and Dawn in The Office, Miranda and Gary in Miranda, the varied relationships in Coupling, the jilted Penny and her rogue ex-fiancé Vincent in Just Good Friends.

But maybe because US sitcoms aim to keep these will they/won’t they pairings going for years, when they get it right, they are the best.

Watch the finest moments from four of the best.

New Girl (2012-)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3OJaUs3VDU

Nick tries to get chirpy Jess to show her real anger at her ex-boyfriend in this clip from an early episode.

It’s very new and the Nick and Jess scenes have been kept low-key so far. But watch for a forthcoming episode called Injured. We’ll say no more: you should enjoy this as it comes, not have spoilers.

Frasier (1993-2004)

This time the will they/won’t they story that kept us hooked for years was whether Niles Crane (David Hyde Pierce) would ever confess his love for Daphne Moon (Jane Leeves). Unbelievably, they managed to keep that going – and keep it funny – for almost seven complete seasons. It was around episode number 165 that it all started to come out and that season concluded with one of the best episodes of the whole show.

Season eight was pretty good, too, managing to buck the trend of shows falling apart once the couple gets together. But while Frasier did pick up again for its last year, there was a fallow period and it started when Niles and Daphne got together.

But that was OK: we yearned for them to. This clip is of the stars and the show’s creators talking about how they stumbled onto this relationship but if you can find it, look out and treasure episodes such as Moon Dance.

Cheers (1982-1993)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LICj7mfmI3k

Frasier was a spin-off from Cheers and, in fact, the character of Dr Frasier Crane was created to get in the way of the show’s big will they/won’t they couple, Sam and Diane. In this case, Sam (Ted Danson) mostly pursued Diane (Shelley Long) but couldn’t understand why he was attracted and Diane resisted but sometimes wondered why she was even contemplating being with him.

With them both pulled in opposite directions like this, the tension was delicious: will they, won’t they, should they, could they. It could have kept going for ever. Brilliantly, this couple got together by the second season and the show still kept the tension. They broke up again, they got ever closer, ever further apart. It was entirely compelling and all done with brilliant verbal humour and physical comedy.

Friends (1994-2004)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9w7aD8wxQc

Sitcoms obviously amuse us but sometimes they can also tease and tantalise, especially in romances. But maybe only Friends has made us genuinely gasp. Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel’s (Jennifer Aniston) story ran for the entire decade of the show but four years in, Ross was getting married to Emily (Helen Baxendale) and we did not see this coming:

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We’re right at the start with New Girl’s romance and it’s too soon to know if we’ll get gasps, belly laughs or tension. But the show is already getting viewers hooked.