If it weren’t for a combination of professional obligation and morbid curiosity, I would have stopped watching New Girl a while ago. Probably a long while. If I had somehow managed to make it to the current fifth season, I probably would have pulled the plug after the season’s premiere. If you’ve forgotten, that was the episode that put Jess in a wheelchair, seemingly for the sole purpose of hiding Zooey Deschanel’s pregnancy.
If even that didn’t fully kill my investment in the show, the season’s third episode, “Jury Duty” (which I still maintain has been the low point of the entire series) would have done it for sure. If there was any doubt that I should have walked away, the following week gave us “No Girl,” the first episode without Deschanel as she’s off on maternity leave. That episode, in case you’ve forgotten or have wisely walked away from the show forever, was mostly about Nick trying not to sleep with a beautiful, very young Japanese woman, and Fred Armisen doing that creepy interloper character Fred Armisen does in things.
All of this is to say that New Girl has turned into a very bad show. I know some of you already thought it was a very bad show. Some of you think it’s always been and probably still is fine. Personally, I thought it was a terrible that got great, and is now just complete drivel. So when I sat down to watch this week’s episode, “Bob & Carol & Nick & Schmidt” (which also happens to be Jake Johnson’s directorial debut), perhaps my reaction to it was based solely on my slaughtered expectations. And it is definitely too early to say definitively that this is the start of a trend, but this episode was distinctively not terrible.
“Bob & Carol & Nick & Schmidt” cannot possibly live up to its title’s inspiration, 1969’s Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, about two couples with hazy boundaries. But there’s something that this episode has going for it that has been lacking for a while: a sense of actual friendship. As Schmidt tries to coach Nick through the process of donating sperm to his cousin (Bill Burr) and cousin’s wife (Lennon Parham, another in a list of guest stars far too good for this season), the two actually connect in a way that’s been missing for I don’t know how long. Both characters have still devolved past the point of actual human, into straight caricature, but there was a tenderness here that was refreshing.
This closeness may also be due to the fact that, with Jess and Coach both gone from the show now, the cast is down to four core characters. This is few enough that (as we’ve seen in the last two episodes) it can be detrimental if a strong story isn’t in place, as the episodes become dragged-out hijinks dumpster fires. But it also has the potential to return to a focus on actual relationships.
Similarly, this season gives us the return of Winston and Cece, best friends forever. I still haven’t recovered from my rage over the weird trajectory of Cece’s placement in the show. In the early seasons, she and Jess had one of the strongest female friendships on television. When Cece and Schmidt’s relationship got complicated, Cece disappeared. Then she came back, but she and Jess almost never talked to each other, EVEN WHEN THEY WERE IN THE SAME SCENE. So while I think that’s a garbage way to nuke a friendship, I do enjoy what she and Winston have going on.
I still and will probably always think television will need more female friendships. But friendships between any characters, with people who genuinely get each other, and make each other feel better and stronger (especially when one of those characters is Winnie the Bish) are always nice to watch.
Again, I have no idea if this episode was a blip. I don’t know if when Megan Fox joins the show next week, if that will finally bring it all to rock bottom, or if that’s going to be a crazy enough jolt to implode the show into something new. Whatever happens, this was a pretty decent week for weirdo friendships.