Around the Water Cooler: “New Girl” – The Season 3 Finale and Mini Season Recap (MAJOR SPOILERS)

THE SPECS:

Who: “New Girl” aired on network TV, specifically on FOX, Tuesdays at 9:00 PM during the 2013-2014 season.  It has been renewed for season four.

What: “New Girl,” a situation comedy about goofy but lovable teacher (some have described her as ‘adorkable’) Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel), who, after finding out that her boyfriend cheated on her, answers a Craig’s List ad and ends up living in a loft with three others guys, including metrosexual, yuppie womanizer Schmidt (Max Greenfield); grumpy but down-to-earth bartender Nick (Jake Johnson); and eccentric but loyal radio producer Winston (Lamorne Morris).  Also interwoven into this mix is Jess’ childhood friend CeCe (Hannah Simone), a deadpan model who has more street smarts than Jess but tends to make poorer choices, such as becoming involved with Schmidt (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here: http://www.aceshowbiz.com/tv/new_girl/summary.html).

When: The Season 3 finale aired on Tuesday, May 6, 2014, on FOX at 9:00 PM.

Where: The show is set in Los Angeles, California, primarily in the loft itself.

Why: I caught up with this show on Netflix instant.  I had some interest in it when it was first advertised because I love Zooey Deschanel, but for some reason, I wasn’t able to catch it when it was on.  So many people, both trusted friends and critics alike, have said it was funny; once it became available on Netflix, I binge watched both seasons.  It is now one of my favorite sitcoms ever…for now. It is, in fact, quite hilarious, and I laugh out loud at least once per episode I see.

How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)

My, my, my…our lofty loft residents have participated in – or flat out instigated – a ton of ridiculous situations this year and have straddled the pendulum as it swung from one end of the relationship spectrum to the other in the short space of 23 episodes.  Sadly, however, season three has been, overall, less hilarious than the first two season. Oh, don’t get me wrong. New Girl is still funny and more so than most other situation comedies currently on the air. This viewer laughs at least once or twice every episode, and usually at Coach or Nick, since they seem prone to the most outlandish or demonstrative behavior.  For some reason, however, the show got a little weird, a little sad, and a little off track this year.  Like Winston. Winston seems to perpetually be a little off track (and sad and weird).  Poor Winston.

I digress.  In some ways, it feels as if the writers were caught in a tailspin, having caved to the chemistry between Nick and Jess so early on in the storytelling process.  It’s almost as if they did not know where to go next once they forced these two square pegs together, which worked to some point, given that our characters are the sort of lovable goofballs that spend most of their lives lost in the ozone.  Yet, there were clear points when the writing felt forced and, therefore, so did the laughs.  After all, it’s not implausible that one female would be living with four dudes.  What is implausible is that she would continue to live with these dudes when one of them is her ex-boyfriend without even making an attempt at moving out.  Why can’t she go live with CeCe, for example?  Well, we wouldn’t have a show, of course, but the strain on realism undercut the credibility of this already quirky and sometimes incredible comedy.

Allow this viewer to cover some of the highlights (and low-lights) of the season by character.

First, let’s start with the triumphant return of Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.), who began with the show and appeared in its pilot before being, more or less, replaced by Winston after Wayans Jr’s other show, Happy Endings, was picked up to series.  Given the cancellation of the latter program, however, Coach is back to stay – in fact, Wayans Jr. has been promoted to series regular for season four – but his reintegration into the loft was a bit tricky and, dare I say, bumpy.  He found it difficult to relate to the awkward and yet insistent Jess; he momentarily hooked up with CeCe, though without any real chemistry and, therefore, success; he took over Schmidt’s room when Schmidt declared his independence and moved into the loft down the hall; and he continued to uphold what was, apparently, a historic and traditional competitive element between him and Winston.  When Coach struck out with CeCe, he more or less became Winston’s sidekick, or, more aptly, Winston became his sidekick.  What is certain is that Coach didn’t seem to have much of a dynamic with Nick this year, so maybe that’s saying something.

In other news, Jess got Coach a job as a gym teacher at her new school.  We are also learned that Coach is afraid of boats, and water, and boats on the water, and that he loves the ladies, but he also loves the children. Not in the creepy way – he just really enjoys teaching, just like Jess, who volunteered to be vice principal of her school, working for Curtis Armstrong’s weak willed principal.

About Winston: he had a rough year.  Between becoming scarily attached to his cat Mr. Ferguson, which he more or less usurped from a lady that dumped him, and dating some scary, often old, women, Winston struggled to make sense of his career.  His latest pursuit centered on joining the police academy, except that he failed the entrance test and alienated the sponsoring officer, as he often alienates other human beings. Nick and Coach eventually helped him to pass, but it was a rough road to hoe, and Winston was plagued by self-doubt.  In addition, he and Coach liked to use Schmidt’s new loft as a meeting pad for sexy dates.  Until it became weird, and Schmidt moved back into the loft proper.

Schmidt, meantime, blew it with both CeCe and Elizabeth in the beginning of the season, as they found out about each other.  He spent the entire year pining after CeCe, even as she started seeing other men.  He tried to see other women, including Jess’ sister Abby (Linda Cardellini, Freaks and Geeks), but, ultimately, his loyalties remained attached to CeCe.  In the season finale, when Jess and Nick dragged the others along to a cruise they bought when they were still together, Schmidt planned to give CeCe a class ring he custom ordered after tutoring her to help her earn her GED, in the hopes that she might get back together with him, but for the fact that Winston tickled Schmidt, and the latter tossed the ring overboard.  Schmidt never gave CeCe the ring, but a news photo taken of the group after they had been locked in their room for three days, stranded aboard the cruise ship, showed CeCe focused on Schmidt and not the camera, checking him out.

CeCe, after all, tried and possibly failed to get over Schmidt by dating Coach and a bunch of other guys that crossed her path.  Her current boyfriend, Buster, is aged 20, so she’s been teased for robbing the cradle, even though Buster is a sophisticated 20 with an adorable Aussie accent and a myriad of amazing talents. CeCe also faced the fact that her modeling career was stalling, as she is getting older and also growing tired of the never-ending demands instigated by the profession.  CeCe, in the end, decided to get her GED, as she never graduated from high school due to her job, and Schmidt helped to tutor her.  She also got a job bar-tending with Nick, though it’s safe to say she doesn’t have the knack for it.

Then, there’s the adorkable twosome Nick and Jess.  When the season began, Nick and Jess gave into their passion and escaped to Mexico in a fit of reckless abandon.  They spent a large part of the season navigating their particular idiosyncrasies, given that Nick is essentially suffering from Peter Pan syndrome coupled with lazy slob mentality, while Jess maintains her champion awkward streak with all men.  At first, they ran hot and fiery, which left Schmidt threatened over Jess’ intrusion into time with his best friend Nick and sent Winston into a state of ongoing analysis over the dynamic of the loft.

Yet, try as they might, and despite their deep feelings for each other, Nick and Jess couldn’t make it work. Two nails sealed the coffin shut.  The first was the arrival of Jess’ sister Abby, whose free spirited demeanor first disrupted the delicate balance of the lofty friends’ vibe by engaging in a bold, sexy escapade with Schmidt but also caused Nick and Jess to fight profusely over how to deal with Abby’s antics, some of which affected them, mainly due to Abby’s uncanny talent for pointing out what she saw as flaws in their relationship.  The second centered on when Nick and Jess decided to “move in” together by sharing a bedroom.  When they began sleeping with each other daily, they soon realized that they were too different and wanted different things, including the old chestnut of Jess wanting to know if there was a future to their relationship, and Nick resisting, as he does with all things, the idea of putting any sort of definition on that future. In the end, Nick and Jess called it a day, less than a season after they hooked up, and the loft was faced with the ensuing awkwardness that their breakup spawned, culminating in the aforementioned cruise. For now, thanks to an overly honest intervention spurred on by CeCe, Winston, Coach, and Schmidt, Nick and Jess have decided to remain friends, though the dalliance created by the the Romance package aboard the cruise had them flirting with the idea of hooking up again.

After everyone arrived home, Schmidt offered to put bunk beds in his room, Nick’s old room (after he moved back into the loft).  Nick and Jess were still sharing a room, despite their breakup.  Jess wholeheartedly agreed to this plan, and at the end of the season, Nick decided to move in with Schmidt (“just like college”), while Schmidt and CeCe’s feelings for each other still smoldered. What will happen next year, now that Jess and Nick have experienced the rapid progression of friends to lovers to awkward friends again?  Speaking of Friends, as in the other television show about friends sharing living spaces in their twenties and thirties, have Nick and Jess become the new Ross and Rachel?  Are they on a break?  Or, are they over for good?

And for the love of God: SOMEONE FIND WINSTON A LADY FRIEND.  Poor Winston is evolving from weird to creepy – which pretty much means he’s devolving.  Someone help him.  He’s painful to watch, and he’s an attractive guy with lofty ambitions.  Maybe Coach will settle his more competitive urges and help a brother out.

In sum, season three suffered from a lethargy created by the vacuum of Nick and Jess’ relationship, but now that it’s apparently over for the time being, will the friends be able to resume their wily and wacky interpersonal dynamics depicted in the time before Nick and Jess crossed that boundary into lovers and couple-hood?  Will the show be able to find the same sense of freshness and hilarity that characterized the first two seasons?  Hopefully, it will and will have to, or the show’s potential lifespan might shorten considerably.  Don’t lose viewers, New Girl.  It’s not your time yet.

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

Old Questions

1) How is the whole dynamic between Nick and Jess going to play out?

Answer: They dated.  They shared a bedroom.  They broke up.  To be fair, they fought quite a bit, because Nick’s world view is a bit skewed, and Jess finds it difficult to relate to the male gender.

2) Will Schmidt escape with his life after failing to make a choice between CeCe and Elizabeth?  Should he and CeCe really end up together?

Answer: He escaped with his life but lost both women in the process.  As to the latter question, the answer is probably yes, because these two clearly care for each other. Schmidt still has a bunch of growing up to do, though.  Maybe not as much as Nick, but a bunch.  And CeCe must finally zone in on what she wants for herself.

3) For the love of God, really, Winston needs a woman.

Answer: Word.  Fix it, writers.  Cut the guy some slack.

New Questions

1) How will the loft survive in the post Nick/Jess coupling era?

2) Will CeCe and Schmidt reconnect?

3) Will Coach find a lady friend?

4) SOMEONE HELP WINSTON.

PARTING SHOTS

New Girl remains a refreshingly contemporary and relevant situation comedy that finds a few atypical character archetypes and mixes them together into a wildly flavorful (and crunchy) salad of laughs. Unfortunately, the lettuce wilted a bit in season three, as the story toyed with coupling Jess and Nick for such an ultimately short-lived and unsatisfying period.  The writers and executive producers have the uphill task of keeping the show fresh in season four, now that the landscape has definitely changed, as they warned that it would.  In fact, some subtle signs of staleness and boredom from repetitive and routine storytelling are already creeping in; the mission of these writers is to give this talented cast of performers and the characters they portray something more intelligent to do in the coming season, or New Girl will be guilty of, more or less, airing the same episode every week, mired in its own admittedly quirky formula, unable to attain the energy it sustained in the beginning seasons, which propelled it to be the successful sitcom that it is.

LOOKING AHEAD:

New Girl was renewed for season 4 and is set to premiere on FOX on Tuesday, September 16, 2014.  Until then!

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One comment

  1. kyliekeelee · July 27, 2014

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