‘New Girl’ – ‘Thanksgiving’: New guy

Senior Television Writer
11.16.11 35 Comments

A review of last night’s “New Girl” coming up just as soon as I put the turkey on permanent press…

While most of this season’s new comedies seem to have largely settled on their identities by now (even “Last Man Standing” gave in and turned into “Home Improvement 2.0”), “New Girl” is in this interesting position where it’s still evolving. It’s still trying to figure out exactly what level of quirk and naivete works for Jess, still working out exactly how douchey and/or self-aware Schmidt is, still trying to give Winston any kind of discernible characterization other than “not Coach.” Nick is more or less a constant, and Cece got successfully brought into the fold with last week’s episode, but the other three are in flux.

The show still hasn’t been successful on the Winston front, but I liked what “Thanksgiving” did with Jess and Schmidt, even if it wasn’t always consistent with how they’ve been portrayed in previous episodes. Jess goes from the woman who can’t say “penis” without giggling to someone who can rattle off a long monologue about all the dirty things she wants to do to Paul – and even though she’s clearly making most of it up as she goes, she still seems confident and unafraid in discussing sex. She seems, in other words, like an eccentric woman, and not a repressed arrested development case the way she has in some other episodes.

I don’t know how long I want Justin Long to stick around as Paul, as the idea of Jess interacting with her male doppleganger could get old very quickly. Here, though, it was amusing to see Nick react to a great big ball of Jess-style behavior coming from someone who doesn’t look like Zooey Deschanel; from an attractive woman, he finds it charming, but from another dude, it’s incredibly irritating. I’m not particularly interested in the Unresolved Sexual Tension the show wants to beat us over the head with – the chemistry between Deschanel and Jake Johnson isn’t all that special, and the show feels more fun when it’s just Jess hanging with the guys as friends – but this was at least a good example of the stock plot where one half of the pre-destined couple takes an instant dislike to the other half’s new date.

And I don’t know that this Schmidt quite tracks with the 17 other Schmidts we’ve gotten to see so far, but that’s okay, because this one was funny. The writers are clearly throwing a lot of ideas onto Max Greenfield’s bare chest to see what sticks, and hopefully by the time we get to the second half of the season, they and we will know exactly who he is and why we’re supposed to laugh at or with him. This happens a lot on sitcoms – just look at the first few “Cheers” episodes with Kirstie Alley as compared to how Rebecca evolved once the writers realized how much funnier Alley was at playing a neurotic mess than she was as an ice queen – and this is the time where you can mess around, especially when the ratings are still strong (even with the post-hiatus dip) and when you have this great performance at the center of the show.

What did everybody else think?

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