Like approximately 46% of New Girl fans, I first found the show on Netflix, likely by browsing through the platform after a night out, looking for something short and sweet and light and funny. In many ways, it's the perfect kind of Netflix show, just the type of thing I think of when I think of the perfect kind of Netflix show: there is an overarching plot to keep you invested, but it's loose and freewheeling and tangential enough for you to jump in anywhere and not be disoriented or bored. It is, as Alan Sepinwall notes in one of many tributes to the series this week, an all-time "hangout show." The greatest success of Liz Merriweather's sitcom, which has run for seven seasons, is creating characters you just want to sort of be around, whether it's the goofy-lovable quasi-drunk nonsense-genius Nick (Jake Johnson), the comically anal-retentive Schmidt (Max Greenfield), the increasingly idiosyncratic prankster, Winston (Lamorne Morris), the always-game Cece (Hannah Simone) or Zooey Deschanel's ever-adorkable Jess (for whom that word might forever be synonymous). Such is the easygoing nature of this show, its writing and its cast that even the untouchably gorgeous Megan Fox, who aptly replaced Deschanel as the new "new girl" for a season or so while Deschanel was on maternity leave, became a down-to-earth roommate, open to a weirdly not-unbelievable romantic relationship with Nick.
New Girl ends tonight with a one-hour season finale, revolving, in Shakespearean fashion, around the wedding of Nick and Jess. From what I've seen of the final season, it's been a bit all over the place. After flash-forwarding a few years, it finds Cece and Schmidt living out in the suburbs, a child in tow. Jess and Nick are still together, having just returned from a tour for Nick's outrageously silly, yet seriously well-received book (what I would give for a satirical show about Nick, the great American novelist). Winston, meanwhile, is living with his pregnant wife and fellow cop, Aly (Nasim Pedrad). Now that the group no longer lives together at the loft, the series doesn't really have a raison d'etre; so much of the drama came from being roommates—including the ultimate will-they-won't-they between Jess and Nick—that without it the show is kind of at a loss on what to do with its characters. Given it's set in LA, just getting them together in the same room requires some extra narrative legwork.
Which is fine. The short eight-episode season has been more of a commemorative victory lap than anything else. And it's given fans, and writers, ample time to say goodbye—and to consider its legacy. As Jesse David Fox puts it over at Vulture, "New Girl was built to be a post-post-9/11 show, not a post-11/9 one." It allowed people to, in the words of producer Brett Baer, "feel again"—to laugh at low-stakes jokes, more in the mold of traditional sitcoms, stripped of the cynicism and satire that shrouded so much post-9/11 art. In today's political moment, that feels nice, if not a bit quaint. Escapism isn't what it used to be, not when what we're trying to escape is this omniscient, this insidious, this much on-Twitter.
But New Girl will live on through Netflix. And that's where its real legacy will lie. I am not the first to compare New Girl to Friends (Merriweather herself has discussed the parallels). Friends is probably the best pure hangout show of all-time; its premise basically laid it out as such. But unlike Seinfeld, which might be its greatest rival, Friends had season-long (and series-long) plot lines. The Ross-Rachel will-they-won't-they is not dissimilar to the Nick-Jess will-they-won't-they; nor is the eventual coupling up of Chandler and Monica so different from that of Schmidt and Cece (although, one might say there's been a reversal: Schmidt, as a fastidious, now-fit overweight adolescent, is much more of a Monica). Winston functioned much the same way Phoebe did—they both even had a strange fascination with cats—despite being, I think, even stranger than his eccentric forbearer.
Of course, Friends has found a new audience, and an old audience again, via Netflix, where it has basically become synonymous with "staying in on a Saturday night instead of going to that frat mixer." It is the ultimate comfort food for college students and post-grads everywhere, a bastion of entertainment self-care; it's a show that was made for bingeing in an era where bingeing didn't yet exist. Likewise for New Girl: it's not hard to imagine all those hordes of obsessive one-before-bed Friends viewers turning their bloodshot gaze over to the shenanigans at the famed LA loft in the laptop-illuminated dark of their dorm rooms, hungry for equally tasty empty calories. Years from now, it's not hard to imagine Gen-Z viewers doing that, either, reviving New Girl the same way Gen-Y revived Friends—as a meme-worthy pop totem of the not-so-distant past. So for those saddened by the finale of New Girl, don't be. It'll be back in the cultural conversation faster than you can say "so nectar."