I like New Girl. I really do. I find Zooey funny for the most part, and Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield, and Lamorne Morris usually don’t fail to get me laughing. Throw in Damon Wayans Jr. and a revolving door of guest stars, and you have what should be a consistently funny show. Truly, it has been for three seasons. But I fear for this fourth and future seasons.
Last night, Jess and the gang hit a wedding, trying to bring back some new friends as summer winds down. Jess goes for a highly eligible charmer, only to have Jessica Biel make things difficult with her beauty and overall impressiveness. Schmidt and Nick find themselves tackling the dilemma of how friends may or may not partake in group sex, Coach felt the effects of playerdom, and Winston continued to be delightfully weird. The jokes were still there at times — Schmidt pleading for reassurance: “How do I look…good Jewish or bad Jewish?” — but overall no one seemed to be having the sort of fun characteristic of the first few dozen episodes.
I want this season to flourish. I hope the writers find a spark and the characters a new way to come to life, but it seems as if the show has exited its prime. Maybe Zooey used up enough adorkability for one show, and maybe Nick Miller is ready to grow up; maybe Schmidt and Cece just have too much chemistry to keep dancing around each other, and maybe Winston has become too weird (one can only hope not). Alas, the season is only one episode old, but the jokes and conflicts have been around far longer. I root hard for Jess and Nick and for Schmidt and Cece, but it’s hard to do so over and over again. I think Let’s Be Cops stands out as a landmark for New Girl: when two of your stars turn their roles into a less than mediocre summer throwaway, what’s left for them do? What’s stopping them from coasting on the show itself? We’ve seen Nick and Jess end up together and fall apart, yet they seem to start this fourth season right back where they began. Ditto for Schmidt and Cece.
Bringing in Jessica Biel or Josh Gad or Taylor Swift or any other big name will catch my eye, but the show needs more to keep my interest, and the interest of all its viewers, I imagine. Greenfield and Zooey deserved their past Golden Globe and Emmy nominations, but now what? Is there any room left for them to grow — to be louder and weirder and quirkier? The show made waves at first with its quirk, starting with the zaniness of its titular star, but that leaves little room for expansion. More quirk brings you far too close to the line of “too weird,” and reigning in the quirk brings monotony, a supposed sitcom following people learning to be normal. So you can’t really blame them for their current state of stagnancy.
As a human being, I hope for the best for Jess and Nick and the crew, but as a viewer I wish they hadn’t addressed so many issues so early on. They seem to be figuring it out, and that doesn’t bode well for their comedy. Jessica Biel may make for a good commercial, but — again — now what? We know Jess is awkward but cute, capable of greater things when pushed on by her goofy pals. We know Nick has a heart of gold and Schmidt a mind of Cece. Someday they all have to move on and out of the apartment that facilitated their craziness together in the first place. We always knew that deep down. I simply fear the day is coming sooner than we’d all like.