Review: 'New Girl' - 'First Date': The wrath of Fancyman

Nick asks Jess out, but Russell's presence complicates things

<p>On &quot;New Girl,&quot;&nbsp;Jess (Zooey Deschanel)&nbsp;and Nick (Jake Johnson)&nbsp;ran into Russell (Dermot Mulroney).</p>

On "New Girl," Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) ran into Russell (Dermot Mulroney).

Credit: FOX

A review of tonight's "New Girl" coming up just as soon as I shoot up a bear with Hep C...

Last week, FOX aired the "Raising Hope" season finale after "American Idol" in hopes of giving that show a boost going into next season. Instead, "Hope" actually did worse than it had in its actual Tuesday airing. "Idol" was never a great lead-in for sitcoms even in its glory days, but at this point, it seems to have no benefit at all, so I don't know that "New Girl" or "The Mindy Project" will be getting much of a bounce.

I do wonder, though, what a hypothetical new viewer who kept the channel on after "Idol" would have made of "First Date." The bulk of the episode is devoted to a story arc that the show has been building for months, and while I found Jess and Nick's first date — or whatever it was, in each of their mind's — tremendously satisfying, almost all of that came from knowing who each of these characters are, their previous awkward attempts at being something more than roommates, their respective histories with Russell, etc. Nick keeping his cool with the motorcycle cop, for instance, is only funny if you know how Nick would ordinarily react to that guy, which makes you therefore understand Jess's confusion. I continue to be impressed with how the show is handling a story I wasn't sure I ever wanted to see; it just wasn't the most newbie-optimal story. (Though at this stage of the season, it's hard to imagine them having time to change gears and just do a standalone once they learned of the scheduling switch.)

Winston and Schmidt's misadventure with Outside Dave, on the other hand, was both broad and self-contained and the sort of thing I can see working for that hypothetical "Idol" viewer. For me, though, it was ultimately too broad. Of the many different personalities the show has tried for Winston, his inability to think of funny, non-criminal pranks is among my least favorite, and a lot of that subplot spun around him shouting out things so ridiculous that it's hard to imagine this guy (who ordinarily is the most sensible person in the loft) even thinking it, let alone saying it out loud. I like the idea of the show addressing how Winston and Schmidt are only friends because of Nick (sort of like the "Seinfeld" episode where Elaine and George struggled to hang out when Jerry wasn't there), but on the other hand, these two have already been spending a lot of time together of late, like their recent hijinks with the Cece fish.

But boy oh boy, was it fun to watch Jess and Nick get drunk and try to figure out what the hell they were doing — and to see the return of Fancyman, who was understandably frustrated and befuddled by the whole thing.

What did everybody else think?

Alan-sepinwall-sm
Alan Sepinwall
Sr. Editor, What's Alan Watching
Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "The Revolution Was Televised," about the last 15 years of TV drama, is for sale at Amazon. He can be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com
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