A show’s longevity can often be a testament to the respect for the fan base. Writers with their ear to the ground earn the privilege of long careers for being flexible, maintaining the ebb and flow between art and viewer. Nowadays, audience feedback has exponentially increased with the advent of blogs and message boards. Opinions don’t go unexpressed by the internet generation. Trends are cooked up in mere minutes and memes become notorious within just a few clicks.
So it should come as no shock that the folks at “New Girl” are privy to the cyber-rage being leveled at their leading lady. To be frank, Zooey Deschanel has done nothing to directly warrant the diss-heavy rhetoric of these incensed commentators, but the persona she embodies ruffles some feathers. She’s the eternal optimist. She’s the girl who bakes cookies and cupcakes “just ’cause.” As she confesses in tonight’s episode, “she’s probably touched glitter in the last 24 hours.” It’s sickening just how cheerful she can be and that provokes intense hatred among cynics and pragmatists the world over.
Tonight, creator Elizabeth Meriwether and writer Luvh Rahke fired back. Meta-commentary, or the act of referencing a show’s flaws/quirks/distinct qualities within the show itself, has become an integral evolution of the sitcom, especially with the new advent of the the single-camera comedy. When you can poke fun at yourself, you earn not only the respect of your detractors, but you embolden your apologists. Lizzy Caplan, introduced last week as Nick’s “we don’t like labels, but we have sex” partner, Julia, served as the mouthpiece for those disgusted by Jess’ sunny disposition. Eager to have another female in the apartment, Jess tries to befriend Julia. She asks the competent lawyer for her counsel in appealing a traffic violation. When they sit down to discuss the parameters of the incident, Julia draws first blood.
Jess recalls the incident, stating that the violation occurred when she stopped in the middle of the road to rescue an injured bird. In disbelief, Julia remarks to Jess that her “whole thing” might just help in court. Here’s a Girl-speak refresher course for you: “whole thing” is code for a defect in another’s girl personality, potentially a front for a more preferable personality type. She also adds that the big eyes resemble a “scared baby.” In laymen’s terms she passive-agressively told Jess, she thinks she’s weird. To combat her guilt, after she read Jess’ pained expression, Julia then confides in her, asking if she can share about Nick’s activity with other girls. When Jess takes the high road, deciding to not violate her trust with Nick, it begins a tale as old as time. The Girly Girl vs. The Smart Girl. Ring the bell.
Now, I too have been critical of Jess, but I never directed that frustration at Ms. Deschanel. Her charm, and magnetic screen presence should make other envious, and her sense of humor is unique and she owns it. My problem is as written she often acts so naive, she should be dead. But as this episode suggests, I believe her behavior is a lifestyle, a decision to embrace the loveliness in the mundane, to elevate the pretty to a level of equal importance with the substantial. This can be an interesting route to go comedically, because you can play with how her world affects her perception, and how she reconciles the inevitable conflicts that call her idealism into question.
Along with these ambitious efforts, there was also some silliness spread amongst out male trio. Nick was essentially entangled in the Jess/Julia standoff, but he had the privilege of backing off and letting it play out. However, he encountered some struggles of his own when Jess in a moment of atypical spite, deliberately told Nick that Julia inquired about his recent sexual activities. When he confronts Julia, they both try to maintain leverage, each one-upping the other’s claims of copious amounts of sex. By episode’s end, both have conceded they wish to be exclusive, dissolving their facades. Nick delivered many of his patented “trying too hard” non sequiturs, but he drew the most fervor from Schmidt when he admitted to using his towel unintentionally. Though he doesn’t understand the outrage. “Oh come on, I don’t wash towels, the towel washes me!” “You guys don’t share underpants either? That’s what roommates do!”
Schmidt, still my vote for new comedy MVP, launched a crusade on dampness. His theory is that with more girls in the apartment, his towel has gotten damper, and his fortress of cleanliness had been disturbed. At first, I was weary of this plot. I love me some Schmidt getting flustered, but I didn’t want this minute conflict to diminish the progress made two weeks ago where Schmidt opened up about what he really wants. Alas, my faith was rewarded, and we get a stellar scene where Schmidt in attempting to traverse the living area, sans towel, slips, exposing himself: his junk and his true feelings. In a fit of consternation, Schmidt voices his unmet expectations about living with Jess. He thought he would be having way more sex! Ha! Oh, New Girl, just when I thought Schmidt was going to level with us again, he rips a page out of Douchebag 101. I think the balance between these neurotic, douchey, and more vulnerable characteristics are superb, and should be all means be encouraged in the weeks to come.
Even Winston, gets a spotlight. I still feel as though we know far too little of who Winston is outside of a man without a country. That country used to be Latvia, where he was a humongous star with several endorsements. But now, not only is he jobless, but he must confront his insecurities. Without the glamour of his pro ball career, he has no game with the ladies. In an attempt to relive his glory days, he calls up Shelby, former booty call. In a bit of comic genius, it’s slowly revealed to us that Winston has broken all the cardinal rules of dating. First, he met up with her at HER OWN RESTAURANT, he made her get her own drink (water), and he talked about himself the whole time. Mad rusty. Shutting out any advice from Schmidt, Jess serves him some humble pie. She demands he listen to her, that he swallow his pride and realize he has no game, and admit that he was an idiot for using her before. The apprentice then shines by insisting Shelby tell him all that he has missed, and he fully claims responsibility for being a jerk in the past. The humility angle works and he scores a second date. His victory dance is so disturbing (and hilarious)that it almost alarmed her to point where she thought he might be having a seizure, but baby steps. That goes for the series too. It’s proceeding cautiously with Winston, unsure of what his identity can be apart from how he relates to his buddies and who he once was, but by humbling him, they have opened the door for post-Latvia Winston.
So who come out victorious in the showdown of frills vs. wit? Surprisingly, the winner wore a ribbon hat. Reluctantly fulfilling her obligation, Julia showed up to represent Jess, but it was during the post-trial recess where Jess began her defense. Once Julia made a smarmy remark about her “bird defense” Jess pulled no punches. Self-assured, she takes pride in her propensity for cuteness, but strikes the final blow, announcing that she hates what her pantsuit represets, Julia’s feelings of superiority. She can be just as smart, and tough and strong. If Meriwether backs up Jess’ swagger in the episodes to come, then I believe we can look forward to a whole new reservoir for material.
The only worry moving forward might be that they won’t find a better anti-Jess than Lizzy Caplan’s Julia. Of course she is Nick’s squeeze for now, but when they inevitably break up (Nick’s nowhere near secure enough in himself to have a big boy relationship) we’ll lose the springboard for many great contentions. Even when they resolve their tensions in the end, and Jess invites her to crochet, Julia becomes incensed about her imprecision with the craft. Jess’ response: “If you are making a hat for a baby, you are done!” Where else can you find that kind of chemsitry? Let’s hope the well doesn’t go dry any time soon, because top-form New Girl is a thing of equal parts beauty and whimsy. For showcasing all the roommates, approaching the ambition task of meta-humor with grace and executing with tremendous payoff for Jess the character, and maintaining a level of pound-for-pound, joke-for-joke excellence, the fresh and ever-evolving “New Girl” has nearly established itself as a prizefighter in comedy circles with the back-to-back A-.
L.O.L.Ls: Laugh Out Loud Lines:
– “He doesn’t believe in mail, which has to do with his views on government spending.”
– “I’m gonna smack that lawyer learning right out of her mouth.”
– “I’ll be putting my dehumidifier and my towel in my room, where nothing gets wet.”
– “Did you just hear the words ‘lesbian community’ and come rushing out of your room?”
– “I’m like a mailman. Except instead of mail, it’s hot sex I deliver.” Wow, two mail jokes!
– ” If I acted like you at work, my students would turn in weird, really dark dioramas.”
– “I’m about to pay this $500 fine and my checks have baby farm animals on them, bitch.”
– “As a lesbian gynecologist, perhaps we should sit down and talk about our OSI….oh, our shared interests.”