Welcome to the first installment of a recurring feature in which I’ll be accepting viewing or reading suggestions from MCC readers and sharing my results, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer. Rather than dive face-first toward the bottom of the barrel, I’m leading off with a softball pitch of a show, as suggested by the curator and creator of Enchanted Seashells, a tugboat captain’s wife who’s also an accomplished artist in the medium of seashells. Check out her blog for some pretty inspired creations!
Today’s subject: the Fox sitcom New Girl, now in its second season. Instead of researching at length and arming myself with knowledge of characters and situations in advance, I followed in the footsteps of our primitive ancestors and sat through a random episode with as little forethought as possible. In the old days of comic books, there was a saying that would translate into the TV world as, “Every episode is someone’s first.” Theoretically, if a TV show would like to attract new viewers and see ratings rise over the years, instead of dropping steadily from episode one to episode the last, then it would be in the showrunners’ best interest to ensure that every episode is a satisfying dosage for any viewer, whether new or returning.
To simplify the process, I tried the most recent episode available on Fox.com, entitled “Katie”. If any factual errors appear below, it’s because I relied only on my own knowledge and whatever was presented to me within the episode itself.
What I knew beforehand: Based on last year’s commercials, the series appears to be about a girl like Zooey Deschanel, who just happens to be played by Zooey Deschanel, whom life requires to live with at least three guys in the same apartment, like a reverse Three’s Company with bonus roommate(s). I’ve seen Deschanel in a few movies, of which Elf and (500) Days of Summer were the greatest. I also own a copy of A Very She and Him Christmas that she recorded with her friend M. Ward, whoever that is. All I know is I liked her songs better than his. I think of it as Elf: the Soundtrack Part II, except with Buddy the Elf replaced by any sensitive guy from the nearest Starbucks.
I also recognized one of her roommates as Deputy Leo from the late, lamented, mostly recommendable Veronica Mars. In addition, I read somewhere that the word “adorkable” had to be invented because of this show.
Why I hadn’t tried it before: The phrase “live-action Fox sitcom” hasn’t instilled any intellectual curiosity in me in years. There may be good ones today, but I stopped sampling them long ago.
How it all went down: Jess (Deschanel) is a recently unemployed ditz who has the appetites of a younger Blanche Devereaux and the mentality of a younger Rose Nylund, by which I mean she’s prone to non sequitur overuse and moral lapses. Her roommates are Schmidt (Deputy Leo), a self-styled, short-sighted stud; black roommate Winston (like the Ghostbuster), who seems normal except for his sad attempt at a mustache; and Nick, who owns a bar and mostly seems okay. All of them regard Jess as a pitiable basket case. The evidence against this verdict is scant. I’m also unclear on how she’s “new”.
(COURTESY SPOILER ALERT for next paragraphs, for any regular New Girl fans who might be two weeks behind on their DVR backlog.)
Jess wants Nick to hook her up with a cute guy named Andy. Nick misunderstands and instead gives her number to the guy who was standing next to Andy at the time, an undersmart guy named Bearclaw who’s lonely, overweight, and proud of his lower-back tattoo. At the same time as that mismatch, Jess also finagles her way into a one-night stand with a stranger named Sam who thinks she’s a girl named Katie that he met through a dating site called CupidMatch. Because of Nick’s error, she later has to weasel out of a failed date with Bearclaw. In her second attempt to hook up with Sam, she ends up cornered in the men’s room of Nick’s bar with Sam, Andy, Bearclaw, and Nick all confronting her at the same time, after she’s been mostly undressed by Sam. This is less sympathetic and much harder to watch than the time Marcia Brady scheduled two dates for the same night. The resolution is that Andy and Bearclaw mutually reject her, while Sam confesses he’s also a big fat liar and wants to become friends-with-benefits. Jess says yes and they both live sexy and shallow ever after.
Subplot A: Schmidt decides to hit on Winston’s sister Alicia, to the disgust of Winston, Winston’s girlfriend, and Alicia. Schmidt tries acting black and challenging her at basketball. Things end poorly for Schmidt.
Subplot B: a crazy old coot tries to convince Nick that he’s actually Nick’s future self. He has a jacket just like Nick’s and possesses knowledge of Nick as accurate as any given horoscope. It almost works, but his vague advice to Nick kind of provides a slightly sweet post-humiliation tonic for Jess later.
Judge’s summation: I liked the five-second theme song, and the ironic use of Public Enemy’s theme from He Got Game. Future Nick was amusing. Through the episode, I officially laughed twice: once at Schmidt’s brisk comeuppance over the closing credits; and again at Schmidt when he sagely warns Jess about the perils of pretending to be someone you’re not as part of the playa’s game: “Maybe you should watch a cautionary tale I like to call The Nutty Professor.” Among the guest stars, I barely recognized Winston’s basketball-player girlfriend as Anna Maria Horsford, formerly the deacon’s daughter Thelma from TV’s Amen. Wow, has it been a while.
Otherwise, my hunch was on target: this is reverse Three’s Company with bonus roommate. Schmidt is like Jack Tripper’s Lothario-ish pal Larry, except not as hairy but more amusing. Apart from gender ratio, I sense three key differences:
1. None of them has to pretend to be gay in order to appease a conservative landlord, assuming their warehouse apartment even has a landlord and isn’t merely an abandoned warehouse where they’re just squatting.
2. Chrissy Snow is the main character instead of Jack Tripper. This is a strategic error.
3. Three’s Company was generally funnier than this episode was. Maybe this was an off-night?