TV Time: New Girl 3.14

Hello, fellow Roomfriends! I hope you all had a nice Super Bowl Sunday (especially all of you who are Seahawks fans—Go Hawks!), and I especially hope you all tuned in for FOX’s post-Super Bowl comedy showcase last night.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my New Girl reviewing format lately, and I decided to add a new section to my weekly list of talking points—Question of the Week. Many times this season, I’ve been left with a question about a character’s motivations or why an episode had the tone it did—or even bigger questions about where New Girl is going as a show. I hope this allows me to still keep these posts a fun, quick breakdown of each episode while voicing any pressing concerns/questions I have as they come to me. Feel free to ask your own questions, too!

Title Prince

Two-Sentence Summary The guys attempt to crash a party at Prince’s mansion after Jess and Cece get an invitation. At the party, the host himself helps Jess work through her anxieties following Nick’s unplanned, first “I love you.”

Favorite Line “Hey, guys, how are we going to transport all this cargo? Oh, great, we have Nick’s pants—we’re saved.” (Schmidt)

Episode M.V.P. “Prince” was a fun ensemble piece that introduced each of New Girl’s characters to a wide, post-Super Bowl audience by showcasing what they do best. Max Greenfield pronounced things strangely and swerved between d-bag tendencies, awkwardness, and sincerity with the dexterity only he possesses. (Schmidt in Prince’s tree was a personal favorite moment of mine.) Jake Johnson screamed like a little girl, gave audiences a taste of drunk Nick, and disarmed us all with the way he looked at Jess like she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. (Seriously, Jake Johnson, you need to stop having such a perfectly expressive face. It’s not helping me set realistic standards for the male gender.) Hannah Simone was the queen of reaction shots (and ping-pong, apparently). Zooey Deschanel had some fun moment of physical comedy and got to show off her great comedic timing opposite one of music’s biggest stars (the whole pancake scene was just zany, fun TV gold). And even Prince himself was a fantastic treat for viewers—not taking himself too seriously and proving himself more than capable of holding his own with such a talented comedic cast.

But the true stars of this episode were a little duo I like to cal Fire and Ice. Lamorne Morris and Damon Wayans Jr. proved just how great they could be as a comedic duo in “Birthday,” and I hope their continued pairing off in this episode is a sign of things to come. These two actors have very complimentary comedic energies, and putting them together seems to finally have given both of these characters something both fun and productive to do on the show. From the “warm water!” unveiling of Fire and Ice to their interrupted flirting session with supermodels, these two were a dream team. If I were a first-time viewer, I would want to tune in again just to see what antics Winston and Coach would be taking part in next, because whatever it is, it’s sure to be hilarious.

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TV Time: New Girl 3.13

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Title Birthday

Two-Sentence Summary Jess’s high expectations for her birthday lead Nick to plan the ultimate surprise evening for her, but first he has to get through the morning and afternoon without any birthday plans. Coach and Winston work through their competitiveness in their efforts to make the birthday surprise run smoothly, and Schmidt helps Cece with her bartending skills.

Favorite Line “A lot people never graduated high school: Einstein, Bill Gates, Anne Frank…I’m going to take back that last one.” (Schmidt)

My Thoughts Earlier this year, I tweaked my New Girl reviewing format because my dislike of “The Box” called for more space than my usual style allowed. This week, I’m tweaking the format again, but for the opposite reason—“Birthday” was so good that it can’t be confined by my more limited New Girl review setup.

Instead, here are 10 reasons why “Birthday” was the best episode of New Girl’s third season (so far).

1.) It balanced the characters’ more broadly comedic aspects with grounded emotions.
The worst episodes of New Girl reduce its characters to caricatures. Yes, their more over-the-top traits are parts of their personalities, but they’re much more than those things, too. What “Birthday” did so well was it gave us just enough of each character’s quirks to make us laugh while also reminding us that, at their best, these characters should be written to feel relatable. So while Jess’s sobbing over Nick not making plans for her birthday may have been a tad bit ridiculous, it was a comedic look at people (myself included) who still care a lot about their birthdays even as adults. There’s a difference between over-the-top and out-of-character, and this episode did an excellent job of remembering that.

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TV Time: New Girl 3.12

I apologize for being a little late posting this—darn you, “real job,” for keeping me from talking about New Girl‘s best episode of the season

Title Basketball

Two-Sentence Summary Jess tries to befriend Coach by feigning interest in the Detroit Pistons, much to the dismay of Bulls-fan Nick. Meanwhile, Schmidt faces new competition at work and Winston entertains the possibility of a new career path.

Favorite Line “Once your screen breaks, your information is in the twitterverse, man. And it’s all out there for everyone to see. All these little monkey elves, man—all these kids.” (Nick)

Episode M.V.P. “Basketball” felt like a Season Two episode of New Girl, and I mean that in the best possible way. It was genuinely funny, surprisingly sexy, and capitalized on the chemistry between Zooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson better than any other episode so far this season. And, just like in Season Two’s best episodes, “Basketball” knew exactly what to do with Nick. This was Johnson’s best episode of Season Three. He was equal parts gumpy old man (with his disposable camera full of sexy pictures and paranoia about cell phones) and devoted boyfriend (his conversation with Coach about being friends with Jess showed a fantastic understanding of her). He was also equal parts hilariously awkward (his seduction techniques that did nothing but turn him on and waste a bottle of water) and improbably hot (another wonderful reminder of Nick Miller’s expert kissing skills, complete with picking Jess up). Johnson had the episode’s funniest lines (his cell phone rant), but he also carried a lot of the episode’s heart, too. He made me believe how much the Bulls meant to Nick when he told Jess about sharing the passion for that team with his dad. For much of Season Three, I’ve been waiting for this balance between Nick’s more broadly comedic aspects and his role as a genuine romantic lead, and I think it was finally achieved in this episode.

Favorite Scene There were more strong choices for the best scene of the episode than in any other episode so far this season: Nick’s rant against technology (kudos to the editing team for brilliantly cutting from Schmidt talking about old people to Nick sitting down at the table), Nick’s first seduction attempt (Why does he think squats are sexy?), Nick and Jess’s excellent final kiss (which reignited their Season Two passion spectacularly), and Coach bearing his soul to Jess while she was in bed with Nick.

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TV Time: New Girl 3.11

Title Clavado En Un Bar

Two-Sentence Summary At the bar, Jess asks the guys and Cece for advice about keeping her job as a teacher at a struggling school or taking a new job at a museum. This prompts each of Jess’s roommates to share their stories about how they ended up in their current professions.

Favorite Line “This moment is so chill and lacking drama that I want to call it Tim Duncan.” (Nick)

Episode M.V.P. Each actor in New Girl’s ensemble had at least one moment to shine in this week’s episode. And I do mean each actor—even Hannah Simone had some great lines about Cece’s struggling career as a model (who is now relegated to playing the desperate party in a phone sex ad). Fat Schmidt made a triumphant return to our TV screens, but my favorite Max Greenfield moment of the night was Schmidt once again messing up a pop culture reference (like he did previously with Indiana Jones) when he referred to the “late, great Sir Billy Joel” and then proceeded to misquote “Only the Good Die Young” (“The good, they do die young.”). Damon Wayans Jr. cracked me up when he yelled at Jess’s potential new boss for calling her too early. Jake Johnson reminded me once again that no one can do surprising sincerity like he can—it’s not often that you think of a bartender as a job people really choose, but I completely bought that Nick genuinely finds joy in that job after seeing it through Johnson’s eyes this week. And Zooey Deschanel very convincingly played the panic inherent in making a major life decision with no clear-cut right answer.

All of the ensemble turned in great performances, but Lamorne Morris proved once again that no one can get me laughing while watching New Girl like he can. Winston’s dawning realization that he’s never made a real decision in his life was hilarious. And once he made the decision to quit his job, Morris was at his offbeat best in describing how “things got racial” and he couldn’t go back. Winston has become one of those characters where I laugh every time he opens his mouth, and so much of that comes from Morris’s offhand delivery of the show’s strangest lines.

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TV Time: New Girl 3.10

I apologize for how late this post is, but I hope all of you had a very happy Thanksgiving (hopefully without any cases of Legionnaire’s Disease)! 

Title Thanksgiving III

Two-Sentence Summary Worried that his relationship with Jess is making him less of a man, Nick drags the gang to the woods for a hunting/fishing/camping Thanksgiving. Tensions run high between Schmidt and Coach when Jess asks Cece to join them.

Favorite Line “Goodness gracious—what are you, a sorcerer?” (Schmidt, after watching Coach make a fire)

Episode M.V.P. “Thanksgiving III” wasn’t New Girl at its best, but it was still fairly enjoyable. Lamorne Morris had some great moments, especially when Winston vented about never being able to do what he wants to do. (Can we please see that pottery seminar someday?) But I still feel myself trying and failing to become emotionally invested in anything involving Coach. Sure, Damon Wayans Jr. makes me laugh, but that’s about it. And for as sweet as Nick and Jess were at the end of the episode, I’m getting kind of tired of the “Nick thinks Jess is changing him and overreacts, but then he realizes he has a great thing with Jess” stories. Don’t get me wrong; Jake Johnson is the master of comedic overreaction, and he’s also the master of the heartfelt moments these episodes often provide at their conclusion. But I feel like the same story keeps being told when it comes to episodes centering on Nick and Jess’s relationship, and it’s forcing him and Zooey Deschanel to simply play the same facets of these characters over and over again.

Thankfully, this episode had a big saving grace in a ridiculous hat, and his name was Max Greenfield. He made me laugh with typically excellent line delivery (his pronunciation of “goodness gracious!” was a personal favorite of mine) and great physical comedy (the entire bit with the trap and the subsequent shoulder injury was fantastic). I also liked that Schmidt was willing to put his friendship with Coach (and his desire for Cece to be happy) above his own self-pity. Greenfield once again balanced the hilarity and sincerity in Schmidt’s character with aplomb.

Favorite Scene Clearly, I have a type when it comes to favorite New Girl moments. If a scene features the whole cast coming together for a moment of genuine friendship and warmth, it’s probably going to be my favorite scene in a given episode. Therefore, it should surprise no one that I had a soft spot for the end of this episode. Did I love the storyline that brought them all to the urgent care center? No. Did I need another scene of Nick telling Jess he’s sorry and Jess telling him she wants him exactly as he is? Not really. But I can’t lie; Deschanel and Johnson can still make me melt with even the smallest gestures—like Nick touching Jess’s cheek. The moment that sold this ending for me, though, was when the whole group came into the room to have their very own vending-machine Thanksgiving. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a moment of real kindness and love between these characters. And that’s what matters. I felt that these people were truly thankful for each other in this scene, and that was enough for me.

A New Girl GIF* For My New Girl Feelings

winston i can't do this

 

I don’t know how many more episodes of the same Nick/Jess story I can take, but I’m willing to keep going along for the ride as long as Deschanel and Johnson can still make me weak in the knees like a grief-stricken Winston.

*I have no talent for GIF-making. Thankfully, I am highly skilled at searching Tumblr for the best GIFs. I take no credit for this beauty.

 

TV Time: New Girl 3.09

Title Longest Night Ever

Two-Sentence Summary When Cece and Coach decide to go on a date, Jess is left to take care of Schmidt. Meanwhile, Winston and Nick attempt to find Furguson after Nick left the loft window open, and their travels put Winston a little closer to getting back in the dating game.

Favorite Line “She’s on a flip phone, Jess, which means she’s either poor or a time traveler.” (Schmidt)

Episode M.V.P. “Longest Night Ever” was a strange episode, and sometimes that was good, and sometimes it wasn’t. I didn’t love the Coach/Cece storyline. I thought it happened way too fast, and it could have built over the course of a few episodes instead of just one. I just can’t get a handle on where they’re going with Coach’s character yet, so I don’t think it’s time for that big of a storyline for him yet. I also kind of hated that I felt bad for Schmidt in this situation; he’s the one who screwed up, and yet I was sad for him that Cece was moving on with Coach. But I suppose that’s what happens when Max Greenfield turns on the vulnerability I love so much in his work as Schmidt. That last scene with him and Jess in the car was very realistically sad.

The best (and probably strangest) storyline in the episode belonged to Nick and Winston and both Jake Johnson and Lamorne Morris made every awkwardly hilarious moment work perfectly. New Girl plays very real awkwardness for laughs better than perhaps any other show on TV right now, and all of those scenes in Bertie’s apartment showed that perfectly. Both actors had perfect reactions to the odd things happening around them, but I also genuinely believed that Nick could see Winston’s happiness at hitting it off with a woman and wanted his friend to be happy. The only way all that weirdness could work was if both actors completely committed to it, and they definitely did.

Favorite Scene It was strange, it was awkward, and it was uncomfortable, but I loved Winston and Bertie’s weird flirting (especially the bologna conversation). The things that turn these characters on are often so strange, but that’s what makes them feel like weird, quirky people instead of boring TV characters. This flirtation could have gone horribly wrong, but instead it was so wrong it was right.

I have to give an honorable mention to Jess hitting Schmidt with her car because for some reason, I will always find people getting hit by cars hilarious (when it’s played for humor—not in real life of course!). What can I say—I’m a sucker for physical comedy.

A New Girl GIF* For My New Girl Feelings

nick wide eyes

 

A lot of weird stuff happened in this episode. Sometimes it was funny; sometimes it missed the mark. But it was definitely like nothing else I’m going to see on TV this week.

*I have no talent for GIF-making. Thankfully, I am highly skilled at searching Tumblr for the best GIFs. I take no credit for this beauty.

TV Time: New Girl 3.08

Title Menus

Two-Sentence Summary Feeling unsuccessful after her principal shuts down her idea of a field trip to the beach, Jess focuses her energy on taking down a Chinese restaurant that keeps besieging the loft with its wasteful menus. Meanwhile, Coach acts as Nick’s trainer, and Schmidt tries to figure out his new place in his friends’ worlds now that he’s moved out.

Favorite Lines
Coach: You’ll be able to see your abs.
Nick: I thought God just didn’t give me those.

Episode M.V.P. “Menus” was a great showcase for all of New Girl’s characters in different ways, and each actor had at least one (sometimes several) great moments. Lamorne Morris could have been used more (but when can’t you say that?), but I did love his moments of physical comedy. I thought this episode did a much better job than last week’s of making Coach feel more like “Pilot-era Coach,” and Damon Wayans Jr. played off all of his scene partners with ease as if he’d never been gone (the dumpling fight with Nick was especially hilarious). Max Greenfield’s quirky line delivery made me cry with laughter again, as Schmidt pronounced Chinese as “Chin-ese,” and I loved the way he shooed the kids away from Winston at the end only to start throwing sand on him, too. And Jake Johnson was used perfectly in this episode, with less yelling and annoying immaturity but more fantastic one-liners and one of the funniest motivational speeches I’ve ever heard (the karate kick part killed me).

Although all of the men of New Girl were great in “Menus,” I really loved what Zooey Deschanel did with Jess’s arc in this episode. I like when Jess gets to show her passionate side, and I love it even more when it revolves around her work as a teacher. Nick is right; Jess Day is a doer, and it’s one of the things I’ve always liked about her character. Deschanel made me believe in Jess’s convictions, and she even made me root for her in the ridiculous Chinese-restaurant plot. The scene where she was being complimented by the restaurant owner was the funniest scene in the episode. Jess’s inability to take a compliment from a man (who’s not Nick) any way but awkwardly is one of my favorite personality quirks of hers, and it’s something I hope stays with her character for as long as this show is on the air.

Favorite Scene There’s just something about a great New Girl ending that fills my heart with joy. Watching all of the characters come together at the beach to celebrate Jess’s victory was sweet without being too sappy. Deschanel and Johnson had a very real and warm chemistry in their interactions in this scene, and it reminded me that both of these characters can influence each other in really positive ways: Nick’s faith in Jess makes her believe in herself, and Jess helps Nick be his best self, too. The scene was funny enough to keep it from feeling overly sentimental (Nick running was a great sight gag), but it still packed a nice emotional punch from seeing all of these friends uniting over something good in a way that felt real and very true to who they are as characters.

A New Girl GIF* For My New Girl Feelings

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Just like Jess, this week’s New Girl was characteristically strange, quirky, funny, and somehow genuinely cute all at the same time.

*I have no talent for GIF-making. Thankfully, I am highly skilled at searching Tumblr for the best GIFs. I take no credit for this beauty.

TV Time: New Girl 3.07

Title Coach

Two-Sentence Summary The return of Coach leads Nick, Schmidt, and Winston to a Tuesday night at a strip club, a drunken showdown with a police officer, and a few realizations about growing up. One of those realizations involves Nick finally beginning to call Jess his girlfriend after an attempt to make him jealous goes awry.

Favorite Lines
Schmidt: Let me tell you something—when I’m done with you, you’re face is going to look all melted like the president at the end of Raiders [of the Lost Ark].
Nick: He wasn’t a president! You saw a different movie than everybody else in the world!

Episode M.V.P. In a season that has struggled sometimes to find strong comedic moments for all of its characters on a consistent basis, I was incredibly impressed with the way “Coach” gave every main character (and two additional characters) at least one scene that had me laughing out loud. The eponymous lost roommate was different than I remembered (Coach was intense in the pilot, but he didn’t seem as immature as this episode made him out to be—then again, New Girl often shows the ways breakups change people, and Coach was dealing with a major breakup here.), but he still made me laugh thanks to Damon Wayans Jr.’s line delivery (“Notorious N.A.G.”) and perfectly hilarious execution of an emotional breakdown in a strip club. Lamorne Morris also killed me with Winston’s storyline (in the A-plot, nonetheless!); the spending of the bunny money was a great running joke throughout the episode. And Max Greenfield absolutely aced his drunk fighting with Nick. I’m also pretty sure I cried from laughing so hard at his completely incorrect interpretation of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I was so happy they went back to that later in the episode. (See my favorite lines.)

Jess and Cece also had plenty to do in this episode, which was nice to see. Cece’s complete failure to keep Nick out of Jess’s room at the end was awesome, and I will always love the way Zooey Deschanel plays drunk Jess. Her rambling is never funnier or more oddly adorable (see the moment she tries to re-enact Nick’s “Put on pants?” note to himself). But of course, their storyline was made even more wonderful by the presence of Taye Diggs. I love that the writers/director knew what a good thing they had on their hands and ran with it. From his pronunciation of “Brazil” to his leg extension in bed, Diggs completely committed to this ridiculous part, and we all reaped the benefits. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who was like Jess throughout “Coach,” dissolving into a giggling mess every time Diggs was onscreen.

But even the presence of Taye Diggs couldn’t keep me from seeing just how excellent Jake Johnson was in “Coach.” This episode featured all of the best sides of Nick Miller: flustered Nick (the scene with him talking to Jess and Coach about the strip club), angry-at-Schmidt Nick (again, see my favorite lines), panicked Nick (“Serpentine!”), drunk Nick (that scene in the cab was great work from all four guys), romantic Nick (“I believe you.”), and perfect-kisser Nick. Johnson transitioned in between each of these facets of his character with ease, with humor, and with sincerity. He was funny, weird, and heartwarming—and that’s exactly how I like my Nick Miller.

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TV Time: New Girl 3.06

After last week’s less-than-stellar episode forced me to alter my reviewing format, I am happy to say that this week things are looking like they should again—both here and in the world of New Girl.

Title Keaton

Two-Sentence Summary As Halloween approaches, Schmidt continues to spiral deeper and deeper into depression, and Nick and Winston believe the only way to help him is to pretend to be Michael Keaton, whom Schmidt thinks is his advice-giving pen pal. What began as a move born out of desperation by Schmidt’s mother after his parents’ divorce and continued in college with Nick taking over as Keaton ends with Schmidt finally discovering the truth before moving out of the loft.

Favorite Lines
Nick: You don’t need Keaton; you have me.
Schmidt: What is this, the end of a high school football movie?

(A special honorable mention has to be given to the pure ridiculous perfection of the email address keatonpotatoes@aol.com.)

Episode M.V.P. I was glad to see that last week’s poor characterizations seemed to be an anomaly, as the main characters were back to the versions we all know and love in “Keaton.” Zooey Deschanel’s Batman voice was hilarious, but even that couldn’t hold a candle to her flawless “Batmanmobile” scene, which I could have watched for at least another minute; her commitment to saying “Batmanmobile” as sincerely as possible was just so good. Max Greenfield was allowed once again to show Schmidt’s vulnerabilities underneath his douchebag façade; I always love the glimpses we get of the “fat Schmidt” still hiding underneath “thin Schmidt’s” muscles. (Although the way he ate that mayo and cheese will forever haunt my dreams.) And after a surprisingly damaging episode for his character in “The Box,” Jake Johnson was back to balancing the silly and sincere sides of Nick Miller that continue to make him such a compelling character.

In terms of pure humor, though, no one in this episode delivered like Lamorne Morris. First of all, I would like to take a moment to celebrate the fact that Winston was successfully integrated into a main storyline and was actually treated like he has some history with Nick and Schmidt! His jokes were even better than usual this week because they had relevance to the plot; his lack of knowledge about The Truman Show had me laughing until I was in tears more than once. And I’m still smiling thinking about his David Letterman costume. The scene where he mistakenly thinks someone is telling him he looks like Letterman was absolutely perfect. For the first time this season, Winston got to be something more than the crazy roommate who occasionally has good ideas but is usually separate from the rest of the characters; he felt like a part of this entire group of friends again, and that was why this episode worked so well.

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TV Time: New Girl 3.05

Title The Box

Two-Sentence Summary After Nick inherits a large amount of money from his deceased father, Jess tries to convince him to use it to pay the pile of bills sitting in a box in his room, which doesn’t go over well with bank-hating, tax-evading Nick, who also refuses to pay Winston back the money he loaned him a long time ago. Meanwhile, Schmidt’s crisis of conscience only worsens after he saves an injured bike messenger from choking to death.

Favorite Line “I performed Heimlich’s maneuver on him.” (Schmidt)

My Thoughts I know this is a little different from my usual New Girl reviewing setup, but I think this broader format will help me share my thoughts a little better than what I’d normally use for a post about this show.

I didn’t like “The Box.” I didn’t like it at all. Don’t get me wrong; I laughed really hard at some points: Winston—who would have been Episode M.V.P. had I used my usual format—wishing for more candelabras; Schmidt sprinting down the street; Schmidt yelling “YOLO!” and singing Hebrew songs; Jess’s night peanuts; “Bobby’s pins;” and the return of Outside Dave. And the scene with Winston telling Schmidt that good people sometimes do bad things did manage to find the balance between sweet, honest, and funny in a way that has come to define my love for this show.

However, the bright spots in this episode (and they did exist) couldn’t make up for its glaring problems with characterization, tone, and continuity. Writer Rob Rossell didn’t seem to have a handle on who these characters really are beyond their more cartoonish qualities, especially when it came to Nick. His script lacked the depth and nuance that a writer like J. J. Philbin brings to her episodes, and, instead, it felt like an exercise in pushing the characters to their worst possible extremes.

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