The title’s problematic. You wouldn’t think so, but it seems like the internet as a collective brainless mass is having real problems working out if the title of this week’s New Girl is supposed to be “Basketball” or “Basketsball”. AV Club have the episode listed as “Basketsball” on their Twitter feed, then “Basketball” on the actual review header. Even the official Fox website – the actual website of the actual network that broadcasts the actual show on actual televisions – calls this episode “Basketsball” in the little streaming video box, and “Basketball” in the episode synopsis listing. Of course, anyone who has actually taken the time to sit down and watch the episode knows that “Basketsball” is actually a perfect name for the episode, because it shows Jess’ overall cluelessness about the sport of basketball alongside her willingness to go to pretty extreme lengths to make a friend. She’ll sit and watch a sport about which she knows literally nothing – not even the proper pronunciation of the name – just to make a friend. That friend being Coach, and that’s why I’ve opted for “Basketsball” in the title of this review.
That is how Jess makes friends. She identifies a pressure point, and pushes them on it in a pleasing way until she weedles her way into their affections. This, combined with a generally likeable demeanour, is friendship dynamite and has worked with everyone in the apartment so far – she humorously boils down each person’s pressure point into a quickfire list of “Nick – food. Schmidt – clothes. Winston – onesie pyjamas” – and Coach is to be her next victim. While I haven’t been his biggest fan in the past, I’m really warming to Coach now that he’s dropped his attitude. He’s a lot more likeable; a lot more New Girl.
It’s not that I have a problem with douchey characters, I just think that it only works when they have secret insecurities. Schmidt’s a douche, but he’s so laden with doubt that it ultimately becomes endearing. When Coach was acting out, it was pressure from above – someone successful, good looking, and confident being a douche isn’t funny, it’s just douchey. It’s not New Girl. Now that he’s a normal guy, just out of a bad break-up, plunging himself into watching sports and in the first steps of a blossoming relationship with Cece, he’s New Girl.
Jess, feigning an interest in basketball just to make friends with him, is so obviously perfect that it speaks of the quality of writing on show here – that the characters are so well drawn at this point that they come up with episodes you’d never expect, but just feel right. Of course, Coach isn’t that interested in being friends with Jess. And of course, this drives her crazy. To make up for it, she fakes supporting a basketball team to a ridiculous degree. Of course, that angers Nick, as he just happens to support the rival Bulls to Coach’s beloved Pistons. And of course, that drives a wedge between Nick and Jess because he can’t deal with her wearing a Pistons jersey to bed with him, so ingrained is that rivalry. It’s vintage New Girl, and it works.