Review: ‘New Girl’ – ‘Coach’

A review of tonight’s “New Girl” coming up just as soon as I throw pizza at seagulls…

In the larger world of “New Girl,” “Coach” was most notable for the eponymous return of Damon Wayans Jr., who made a strong impression in the pilot episode before he had to return to his home planet of “Happy Endings.” When I heard Wayans was coming back for a bit, I was curious about a bunch of things: 1)Would there be any tension with Winston, whose return from Latvia forced him out of the loft? 2)Related to that, would having another jock-adjacent character force the writers to give Winston something to do other than being an insane person? 3)Given that Coach was, like the other guys, a fairly one-note (if funny) character in the pilot, how would he fit into a series where Nick and Schmidt have had two-plus seasons of shadings added?

The answers, as it turned out, were 1)No, Coach did not seem troubled about getting bounced from the loft, and the only roommate he had an issue with was Jess, in that he had no memory of the two weeks they both lived there; 2)Yes, Coach did mock Winston repeatedly until Winston finally remembered that, oh, yeah, he was a good enough athlete to play basketball professionally (albeit in Latvia); and 3)Coach didn’t spend as much time yelling as in the pilot, but he was definitely a much broader character than the two guys with whom he initially appeared, and at least for this episode less funny than the guy he replaced.

But we’ll get back to Coach in a moment, because much as I enjoy Damon Wayans the younger, I have to first sing the praises of the episode’s best guest star: Taye Diggs.(*)

(*) He’s Taye Diggs!

Diggs’ career first took off when he was in professionally handsome mode in “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” and though he’s done more multi-faceted roles over the years (including a long stint on “Private Practice”), those projects usually acknowledge at some point what he looks like and how the ladies respond to that. His appearance here as Artie the dreamy coffee shop owner was a spot-on, hilarious parody of his innate Taye Diggs-iness, with Diggs dropping his voice just a half-octave lower, being receptive to every mood and need of Jess’s, and then taking it too far by climbing into her bed naked and demonstrating his flexibility (and also moving his leg like a horse’s, a horrifying, hilarious image). You can’t have Diggs lampooning himself like this all the time, which is why I would hesitate before demanding an Artie spin-off, but that subplot was a delight, and was the best “New Girl” use of a guest star since the show made me begrudgingly come to like Dermot Mulroney. (It was also a funny Jess story, as she kept telling Cece all the strange things she found attractive about Artie, like his phone number: “It has, like, a lot of fours in it, you know what I mean?”)

But getting back to Coach’s return, it was a big, sloppy story about a big, sloppy night for the guys. Some of the jokes worked very well, like Winston trying to spend all the Bunny Money (loved that the pants he bought Nick were tear-away) or Nick and Schmidt being incredibly drunk and hostile with one another (great work from Jake Johnson and Max Greenfield here), or even Schmidt’s weird interpretation of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” (Though it was both a rehash of Winston’s “Truman Show” confusion last week and pretty much every joke about Barney discussing ’80s movies on “How I Met Your Mother.”) But the parts built around Coach and how the guys acted around him didn’t really mesh, in part because of how thin Coach himself felt compared to the others. (Hopefully, he gets more fleshed-out while he sticks around.)

And I’m still not sure the show has figured out exactly what it’s doing with Nick and Jess as a couple. It’s fine to have them question their compatibility, especially early on in the relationship – conflict can fuel comedy, after all – but I came into this season looking forward to what the show did with these two, and at the moment it feels like they should probably break up for their own good (or, at least, for Jess’s own good). There’s usually a grand gesture and reconciliation at the end of the episode – here with them dumping an unconscious and naked Artie in the elevator after Nick has finally called Jess his girlfriend – but it’s been fairly awkward so far.

What did everybody else think?

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