New Girl | Premieres: Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 9 p.m. on Fox Stars: Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield, Lamorne Morris What to expect: Jess (Deschanel) and Nick…
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New Girl returns with a new season tonight in which — oddly — everything and nothing has changed.

The big changes: Nick and Jess will be a couple this season, a move that’s met with mixed reactions from others in the loft. The big non-changes? We’re in for fun adventures, great guest stars and general hilarity. For the details, courtesy of star Zooey Deschanel and exec producer Liz Meriwether, read on…

+ Jess and Nick’s challenges as a couple will take center stage, at least in the beginning of the season.

“It’s just added a lot of great things for Zooey and Jake [Johnson] to play, and the way it changes the dynamic in the loft has been really funny,” says Meriwether of making Jess and Nick a couple. “We’ve gotten a lot of great comedy out of the struggle of having a couple as roommates, which has been really funny to write to.”

Their first struggle? In the premiere, we see Nick and Jess make the impulsive decision to head south of the border together “in the excitement of getting together,” but soon “some shenanigans ensue and they need some rescuing,” Meriwether says.

Their friends may be able to help them out in Mexico, but when it comes to their relationship, Deschanel says they’re on their own and will have to be up for the task. “I think both of them are just on the edge of breaking up the relationship by being mature. But I think that’s what’s exciting; it’s like watching a tightrope walker.”

+ Schimidt makes a decision in the premiere

Cece (Hannah Simone) or Elizabeth (Merritt Wever)? That’s the choice in front of Schmidt (Max Greenfield) as the new season begins, and the premiere will see him make a choice, says Meriwether. “I think he has a real dilemma in front of him in the premiere, and hopefully the audience will go with us for the choice he makes. I don’t know; we’ll see,” she says. But will his pick be a surprise? “I think it is,” Meriwether says. “I think it’ll be a little bit a surprise.” For the record, Simone isn’t going anywhere, and Nurse Jackie‘s Wever is set to appear in three episodes. (Should we read into that?)

+ Speaking of Schmidt…

He’s not happy with Nick and Jess being in a couple. “There’ll be battles with Schmidt a good part of the year,” says Meriwether. “He’s actively trying to break them up, so they have to contend with that.”

+ Prepare for the return of Coach!

Yes, Damon Wayans Jr. is currently set to return in the seventh episode of the new season as Coach, a character last seen in the pilot. (Back in the first season, Wayans’ Happy Endings was renewed, preventing him from continuing on New Girl.) And Meriwether couldn’t be more thrilled. Someone who won’t be so happy? Winston (Lamorne Morris). “What I think is fun is that he’s this Alpha male character. [Other than him there] are three weirdo guy characters, and he’s going to bring this very male, confident energy to the group. How that challenges all three of the guys will be fun to watch, especially when Winston is very insecure about him coming back,” teases Meriwether.

+ Speaking of Winston…

“I think we’re having fun with Winston and him trying to find love in all the wrong places,” says Meriwether. But the difference this season is “he’s trying to embrace his weirdness and not try to be anything for any girl. What I’m trying to say is that he’s letting his freak flag fly, I guess,” says Meriwether with a laugh. “He’s learning how to be a little true to himself with women and not get so nervous about being cool. He’s still on that journey.”

+Bonus scooplets…

– Relationship issues will come their way, but Jess will also have some work problems to deal with — namely her struggle trying to fit in with her co-workers, played by Angela Kinsey and Dreama Walker. “Jess was a nerd in high school and Nick was kind of cool, so he’s offering his advice on how to be cool,” previews Deschanel.

– Jess is getting a sister! But just don’t look for Deschanel’s real-life sister Emily Deschanel to take the part. “That would be funny, but I don’t think we’re going to be able to,” says Meriwether. “I would love to have her on the show in another way at some point — just probably ”

– The loft has a new furry friend! No, none of the guys are getting a goatee … we’re talking about a cat. “Winston steals his ex-girlfriend’s cat, and the loft has a cat now named Ferguson,” says animal lover Deschanel. “It’s a really, really cute cat.”

Episode Recaps

New Girl

Zooey Deschanel plays lovable Jess, who is plodding through life with a good group of friends.

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