‘New Girl’ – ‘Fancyman, Part 1’: Rich man, poor man

A review of tonight’s “New Girl” – perhaps the best episode the show has done to date – coming up just as soon as I blame my period…

Again, “Fancyman Part 1” is the strongest episode they’ve given us since the pilot, and maybe the best one they’ve done so far – and that’s even with a Winston subplot that was middling at best (and carried by Schmidt). So what elevated this one above previous installments? Let’s break it down:

1. The answer is simple: volume. Like the ABC show that currently employs Coach, this one was just packed with jokes – and, specifically, jokes that kept on landing and landing and landing.  It felt like every scene (particularly in the Jess/Nick end of things) carried through its various story objectives while still throwing in an array of gags that made me keep reaching for the remote, either to go freeze-frame a good visual gag (Jess’ list of Alternatives to Intercourse included “Write a convict” and “Watch ‘Friday Night Lights'”) or to rewind and catch one joke I missed while laughing at another. Jess’ monologue about the ragtag group of kids she’d bring together (“a Jewish kid with a keyboard, a little slut who can dance, and one fatso…”) was just one of many of those.

2. Nick and Jess were both dialed in perfectly. Over the last handful of episodes, the show pushed Nick’s Grumpy Young Man affectations so far that he started to become unpleasant. There’s “make your heroine’s potential love interest her temperamental opposite so there will be conflict whenever we push the button that,” and then there’s “make one of your leads someone no one would ever want to spend time with ever ever ever.” But “Fancyman” had fun with his dour Occupy My Apartment persona, first as he was pumping Jess up to hate Russell, and especially once he fell in love with Russell and all the trappings of his wealth. As the outtakes at the end of the tag(*) suggested, I would have been happy to watch Jake Johnson improvise “President Miller” phone calls for a very long time.

(*) Now FOX is starting to do the same irritating timeslot games that NBC does with its Thursday sitcoms. I don’t record “Breaking In,” and didn’t get around to watching “New Girl” until close to midnight, and the recording cut off with close to two minutes of show remaining. Had to wait until morning to watch the rest On Demand. Grrr. (When ABC does the same thing, they at least acknowledge it in their listings so a recording will go until, say, 10:02.) Time to start padding that recording…  

Similarly, Jess was balanced just right: quirky and over-enthusiastic and clumsy (both socially and physically) but not an oblivious magical creature from the Land of the Fae. So long as the writers keep her a believable human, they can wring lots of laughs out of her arming a bidet, falling into a Koi pond, or launching into a British accent and then immediately swallowing it upon recognizing it wasn’t being well-received. Fine, fine work from Zooey Deschanel tonight.

3. Schmidt was on fire. The Winston subplot brought back both his competitive streak and his part-time nanny gig from the office party episode, both of which were welcome from both a continuity standpoint and from a “we are slowly figuring out a personality for this guy” standpoint. That said, pretty much every laugh in that story came courtesy of Schmidt, who was nearly at maximum douche, but in such an enthusiastic, self-aware way (note that he keeps stuffing the jar with bills when no one is around) that it kept being funny. His running monologue while Winston and Shelby were making out was a particular delight. (“You want me to put on some Jodeci?”)

4. Because… Dermot Mulroney… was good? Very good? If you’re a regular Firewall & Iceberg Podcast listener, then you know Dan and I have said many, many, many unkind things about Mr. Mulroney in the past, primarily in regards to his inexplicable casting in the unsold “Rockford Files” remake from a couple of years ago. Simply put, while I wouldn’t call Mulroney terrible, he’s never someone I’ve felt has added anything to anything he’s been in. My belief was that you don’t cast Dermot Mulroney because he’s going to be great; you cast him because he’s available (or possibly because you’ve confused him with Dylan McDermott).

But darn it if he wasn’t both charming and funny as the coolest rich guy ever. He was relaxed (which was a nice contrast to both Jess and Nick) without seeming bland, able to banter well with the regular cast, and believable as someone both Jess and Nick would develop a massive crush on. I remember watching “My Best Friend’s Wedding” many many moons ago and wondering why on Earth Cameron Diaz and Julia Roberts were fighting over him, and yet here I completely bought him as someone about whom Nick would say “He smells like strong coffee and going to see a man about a horse.”

Very, very good stuff – and that’s not even mentioning Cece calling out Jess for her terrible taste in men (though that scene conveniently ignored Justin Long) – and I’m now very eager to see Part 2.

Dammit, “New Girl.” You’ve made me excited to see something because of Dermot Mulroney. What’s your encore: making me belatedly see the genius of “The Killing”?

What did everybody else think?