Tonight’s New Girl was the end of season six. It could also be the end of the series, since Fox has yet to cut a renewal deal with its sister studio. As a result, New Girl showrunners Dave Finkel and Brett Baer had to put together an episode that would satisfy the hang-out comedy’s fans if it was the last one ever, but that would offer up enough story possibilities in the event they come back for more.
(Spoilers coming.) This was a big maturing year for the show’s characters. Schmidt and Cece bought a house, moved out of the loft, and found out in the finale that Cece is pregnant. Winston and Aly got engaged, and Winston reached out to his long-absent father. Schmidt’s first name was finally revealed to also be Winston, which is why everyone calls him Schmidt. Nick’s Pepperwood Chronicles novel turned out to be an unexpected hit among the Young Adult crowd, and Jess finally got promoted to principal. And after outside relationships with Reagan and Robbie didn’t work out, Nick and Jess finally reunited as a couple — after a callback to the Dirty Dancing singalong Nick led in the pilot to cheer up a heartbroken Jess — in what may be the series’ final moments.
Late last week, I spoke with Finkel and Baer about where the show stands, what they wanted to be sure to do before it was all over, why Jess and Nick — a coupling whom fans have tended to enjoy more in theory than in the times the show has actually put them together — would be different in season seven, and a lot more, coming up just as soon as we schedule a no-pants dinner…
What would you say at this point are your odds of coming back for another season?
Dave Finkel: I’d say they’re looking pretty good. We’ve been hearing things here and there and nothing official yet, but it seems like there’s a good chance at least of a short order, but nothing firm.
Brett Baer: All the scuttlebutt is pretty positive. I think it’s just the business stuff that is being worked out and that’s what we’re hoping for.
You didn’t have any guarantee you were coming back, so this could wind up being the series finale. What did you want to make sure that you had in it?
Baer: I think for us its really important that we give the audience a very satisfactory conclusion to the series if in fact it was going to be the ending, and we wanted to make sure that there was some resolution of sorts on the Nick and Jess front that would at least give us an opportunity to give the audience a little bit of what we think they want and then, at the same time, also provide for us a launching point for a possible seventh season. So we didn’t want to shut the doors completely. I think we’ll have to be creative about that to keep the engine of the show going, but I think besides that, we just wanted to see all these characters reach the whole kind of arc.
Finkel: It’s the same thing we experienced on United States of Tara where we just didn’t know, but we knew we owed a finale of some sort — whether it was the series finale or the season finale — and we knew we wanted to make it something big. We went into it with the same sort of thing we did on Tara, which is just sort of, “Let’s put a bunch of balls in the air and then if we come back, we’ve got a lot of stuff to play with still”, but we wanted it to feel satisfying.
There were points earlier in the season where it felt to me as if you guys knew this was going to be the last year. Schmidt and Cece move out of the loft. The Thanksgiving episode is literally called “Last Thanksgiving.” How much was the question of finality hanging over what you were doing over the course of the whole year?
Finkel: I don’t think we went into it feeling like this is the end, I suppose it’s always been in the back of our heads that it could be, but I don’t think we entered into it with that in mind. We knew that we needed to progress them, that it was silly that this married couple was still living in this loft. We had to graduate them and let them live their adult lives in a way that made sense for adult humans. Having them have their own place after they got married seemed like the next logical trajectory for them. We really did enter into it as, “Let’s make it feel organic, do the way people actually behave.” It would be bizarre to keep them in the loft for that much longer.
How did the storytelling of the show change, though? You once had Schmidt live down the hall for a little bit, but now you have two of your main characters living elsewhere entirely. Were there advantages to that, or was it more of a headache to figure out, “Now that these guys are going to be over at Schmidt and Cece’s house”?
Baer: I think it’s always a risk when you play with the pieces on a sitcom and make larger-scale changes like that. I think one of the things that we did well and I think it helped us make the transition, not only as writing staff, but hopefully for the audience as well, was the slow development of the construction of the house gave us time to build that set, to see how to use it. It gave us a reason to go over there, to bring the friends over to check on the progress. Then, I think it organically became a place on the show where it made sense for those people to be going over there to hang out with their friends, now that they live in that new space. We actually found it, ultimately, to be a nice way to mix up the pieces and it actually, I think, helped storytelling.