Review: 'New Girl' - 'Backslide': Nick, of time
A review of tonight's "New Girl" coming up just as soon as I'm a grown man who dresses like an unsponsored professional skateboarder...
"Backslide" continued the overall surge the show has been on ever since the Fancyman two-parter, but it also did a few things I wasn't wild about, so let's start there.
First, while I'm glad the show revisited the Jess/Paul relationship — and acknowledged in her conversation with Cece that Jess has broken up with her two good boyfriends for very sketchy reasons — the "proposal inspired by cheating" trope is never a good idea, whether it's in drama ("Smash" tried a variant of it last night) or in a comedy like this. Even by the broad reality of this show, and even with Paul acknowledging that the timing was beyond horrible, I just couldn't focus on any of the jokes (like Jess having to reluctantly propose on Paul's behalf when he lost his voice) because it made no sense that Asian Jess would, under any circumstances, say yes right then and there.
Second, as happened in the episode that introduced us to both "sex-cretary" and "manbulance" in the same half-hour, the constant discussion of backsliding felt like it was the show trying to make a catchphrase happen. Even "Seinfeld" was guilty of this, from time to time (the episode where Jerry is horrified that Elaine "faked it" comes to mind), but it's something any comedy needs to be very careful about.
Third, while I loved all the individual jokes about Winston's earring (all of which were so bunched together in the race to be this review's intro line that I had to put them all aside and go with the skateboarder gag), both the style of them and the piling-on nature of them really felt like they belonged on the show that currently employs Coach.(*) Funny is funny, and "Happy Endings" shouldn't have a monopoly on a universal concept like insult humor among friends/roommates, but the phrasing of those jokes really felt like they could have been coming out of the mouths of Adam Pally, Eliza Coupe and company.
(*) Multiple Coach references this week in the video with Past Nick, and a thought occurred to me when the idea of Nick moving in with Caroline came up: in the (hopefully very unlikely) event that "Happy Endings" doesn't come back, would this show and/or Damon Wayans Jr. consider a part or full-time reunion? I think the idea of Coach moving back into the loft for however long Nick is living with Caroline has a lot of promise, especially now that Winston has been so clearly delineated as a character. Then again, the writers have had a full season to deepen their understanding of all the other characters, where they only had 21 minutes or so of Coach. Would he seem like a relic of what the show used to be if he came back, even as a one-shot guest star?
And, fourth, there's Jess/Nick. I'd like to look at that final scene as being entirely about Jess being a good friend to Nick, but the show's been telegraphing their hook-up of destiny for so long — including the climactic scene just last week — that it's hard to view it through any lens but a romantic one. And I don't feel like the show's given us enough evidence that this is a worthwhile story to pursue for any reason other than that it's the kind of thing shows like this do.
All that having been said, there was an awful lot of good material here. Cece and Schmidt continue to be an unexpected highlight. The broken penis joke was wisely introduced late into the season so they won't be able to overuse it, and the payoff of Schmidt getting a massive erection from the idea of emotional intimacy gives me faith that the writers can keep making this story funny now that the two of them have moved past the mutually loathing sex buddies phase and into something more sincere.
Nick's attempt to address himself from the past was another familiar gag — "Parks and Recreation" did it last season with the second Ron & Tammy episode, for instance — but the writers and Jake Johnson have gotten such a handle on Nick in this last batch of episodes that it felt like its own thing. We know now that Nick is going to spout a whole bunch of nonsense in both the past and the present (at this point, it's turning into the "Troy & Abed do something goofy" of "New Girl" tags), and yet he remains just real enough that it's possible the reunion with Caroline won't be a fiasco. Okay, it will, because Nick and Jess must hook up some day soon, but he at least can sound convincing when arguing for her with both his past self and his current roommates.
And even though I didn't like the proposal gag, I thought Paul's return overall worked well, as both an appropriate post-script to the end of the Fancyman affair and a callback to where both Jess and the show were back in the fall. Ultimately, you can't have Jess pair off with her male equivalent — which is also why Paul and Asian Jess are likely doomed to failure for reasons other than his cheating — but Zooey Deschanel and Justin Long worked well together one more time. I also enjoyed seeing the run of Genzlinger-inspired nicknames the guys had come up with since the relationship ended.
What did everybody else think?