Cinematography is one of the primary ways that an idea or feeling is expressed in a video without the use of dialogue or music. The angle of the camera, the length of the scene before a cut, the lighting, positioning of actors, colour scheme, and even additional filler footage are all used to set the stage and set the mood in a TV show. And New Girl uses all of these to their full extent, specifically with shots to contrasting the different characters and create comedic effect.
Examining the episode “Cece Crashes” (Se1Ep5), the cinematography is used to describe different characters and their personalities. For example, cutting to several short shots of Nick, the show’s Everyman, alone on the couch sarcastically commenting on how he wanted to be alone on Friday, and alternating this with shots of his friends and Cece dancing to LMFAO’s “I’m Sexy and I Know It,” demonstrating his relatable normality as he just wants to relax after a long week and his weird friends are bothering him (I’m writing this despite usually being the weird friend). This is also used with Jess in the opening of the episode when she’s at a nightclub, alternating short shots of Jess awkwardly dancing her way through club-goers and Cece in a row with her current fling, showing her awkwardness, or with Schmidt on the roof alone waiting for Cece (who forgot about him), sunburnt, and hiding from a cat in a bird’s nest, because… Schmidt.
Another way that these short shots are used is for comedic or dramatic effect. This is best used at the way beginning of the episode after Schmidt is “Sheepdogging” Cece to his room. After a series of very confusing shots that build up the awkwardness that New Girl thrives off of, it breaks the slight tension with a short shot of just Cece falling into Schmidt’s bed as Schmidt says “Goodnight, Cece,” to continue this awkwardness by bragging to the other guys that he now has to sleep on the uncomfortable couch. This is also seen relieving the awkward tension between Schmidt and Cece again when she has just woken up and he is blacking out because he is hanging on a pull-up bar doing crunches, and Cece pushes him out of the way and runs off and we’re left with Schmidt asking for a coffee while comedically blacking out as his attempt at getting attention has failed.
These short shots of the characters reactions and actions through the shenanigans of New Girl demonstrate their individual personalities and quirks in a way that cannot just be done through dialogue or acting. By contrasting things like the awkward dancing with Cece and the normal calmness of Nick, or seeing Cece simply fall into bed alone, New Girl is using cinematography to display the comedic aspects of the show and its characters.