On this week’s episode of New Girl, Nick (Jake M. Johnson) is still deeply into his ex-girl Caroline (Mary Elizabeth Ellis). So, when Nick, Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Winston (Lamorne Morris) are invited to the wedding of some old college friends, a wedding Nick is sure Caroline will also be attending, he enlists Jess (Zooey Deschanel) to be his fake girlfriend.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself ‘only three episodes in and already New Girl is resorting to Three’s Company plots?’ Well, first of all, that’s some very clever thinking on your part; second, yes the fake girlfriend bit is very old school sitcom but like the romantic comedy, there is little new under the sitcom sun.
Retreading old plots is something that most sitcoms will do from time to time. The key is how the old school plot plays with the new characters and story. In the case of the fake girlfriend in New Girl, it works because Zooey Deschanel makes it work.
“We’re not trying to be mean, we just don’t want you to be yourself; in any way.”
The guys are worried, and rightfully so, that Jess is going to embarrass them with her idea of having a good time; which includes novelty hillbilly teeth and a variation of the chicken dance, minus the claps but with a peck because it’s more realistic.
After promising to ‘Supress the Jess,’ the gang arrives at the wedding and indeed Caroline is there. Jess, as it turns out, is a terrific fake girlfriend, hanging all over Nick, insulting Caroline by pretending not to know her name and leaving when asked so Nick can have some time alone with his ex.
Actually, we will soon learn that the last part is a very bad thing. Nick and Caroline’s break up was exceptionally hard on Nick and when Caroline breaks Nick’s heart again, things get ugly.
Schmidt, of course, is at the wedding only for the opportunity to hook up. His dream is to get some alone time with this college crush (Katie Cassidy), who only ever knew him as ‘Fat Schmidt.’ Schmidt’s alternative hook up is Gretchen (Natasha Lyonne), who he has hooked up with at numerous weddings in the past, only after striking out everywhere else.
Winston meanwhile, hopes that being an usher in the wedding and staying busy will keep him from having to answer dumb questions about work and his basketball career overseas. Unfortunately for Winston, Jess and the guys made him late to the wedding and another usher, a little boy named Jimmy (Armaan Juneja), has usurped him.
Schmidt’s is the stronger of the two subplots as Lyonne’s subtlety sells the freaky nature of her hook ups with Schmidt. The closing visual of Schmidt naked, tied to his bed with Gretchen showing him slides from her recent vacation was funny in a wonderfully odd way and was far funnier than Winston’s awkward grinding dance off with the kid.
If you couldn’t guess early on that Nick’s sort of reunion with Caroline would end badly then you need to work on your Sitcom 101. Yes, the plot was rehashed and yes it was predictable. That said, Nick’s drunken takeover of the photo booth, his bitter video message to the bride and groom and his eventual final conversation with Caroline all played for laughs and deepened our connection to Nick as a character.
Eventually, the Caroline plot becomes a referendum on Jess and her place in the group. Nick finally letting go of Caroline and opening himself up to Jess in all her quirky glory is necessary for the show to move forward. And move forward the show did with a very funny close to the wedding involving a slow motion chicken dance, minus the claps, and Phil Collins’ “Groovy Kind of Love.”
New Girl has improved in each of its first three episodes. Zooey Deschanel has brought a very original spirit to Jess who reminds me more of a movie character than a stock sitcom heroine. Deschanel is unlike any other actress on TV at the moment and Jess is unlike any other TV character. It’s going to be fun to watch her keep up this very original character, even as she is worked into classic sitcom plots.