Pushing New Girl to a post-Superbowl slot is effectively giving the show its highest profile shot in years, so it makes sense that Elizabeth Meriwether and her crew would see fit to deploy a superstar cameo in such a way. The fact that Prince gets stuck into the meat and potatoes of the episode is commendable, but this is one of the weakest outings of the show to date.
I think the correct way to take “Prince” is to treat the episode as an exception due to elevated circumstances. I know that it’s canon, and the events of this episode aren’t a dream or flight of fancy, but the only way to make peace with the episode is by remembering that Prince requested a cameo in the show – apparently, it’s one of his favorite shows – and when the Superbowl’s a-coming, you don’t turn down Prince. The ad breaks for this episode alone probably paid for next season, so in financial terms, and from a production standpoint, this episode is a highlight. Creatively, it isn’t.
That said, “Prince” made me feel very conflicted. I’m a really big Prince fan – not the new stuff so much, but classic Prince is so strong that I’ll forgive his later crimes – and I’m also a really big New Girl fan, so surely Prince featuring in an episode of New Girl should be an orgasm of great television, right? Wrong.
Unfortunately, it comes off as the equivalent of bacon ice cream – two ingredients that are fantastic when kept separate, but vomit-inducing when placed together. I’m just not a big fan of the celebrity cameo when it presents the star as an angelic being, as New Girl does. One of the best things about Seinfeld was the totally bizarre celebrity cameos from people who weren’t worried about their image – Bette Midler, Derek Jeter coming immediately to mind – and if New Girl had been able to do that with Prince, I think not only would it make the show more credible, but it would also do a lot of good for Prince, who doesn’t exactly have an easy-going reputation at the moment. This hagiographic representation of Prince though as an otherworldly Christ-figure doesn’t do anyone any favors, and watching it makes you feel kind of grubby in the process.
The central conceit of this episode is that as Jess and Cece are crossing the road, they’re almost run over by a Hummer/Range Rover-type thing. The driver happens to be Prince’s assistant, and by way of apology the girls are invited to a party that Prince is holding that night at his house. Of course they’re excited, because Prince is Prince, and apparently the entire gang have been Prince fans all along. I know that for Americans approaching middle age a love of Prince isn’t that odd, but when have you ever been part of a group of, say, over five people and every man-jack of them likes Prince? The Purple One is a divisive figure, no matter how great his early work may be, so that detail doesn’t quite ring true. That’s unimportant, however, as it provides the groundwork for this episode’s central narrative purpose – get the gang to Prince’s house. Trouble is, the guys aren’t invited – what to do?