New Girl has been many things in its nearly two seasons on the air: a frustrating mess of uneven adorkability, a polished comedic gem, an effective reminder that Natasha Lyonne is still among the living - and your numer-one source for jokes about Rusted Root on network TV.
But on this week's "Quick Hardening Caulk," New Girl went where it has never before dared: guys, this show has gone Full Screwball! Full-on fish-throwing, aquarium-breaking, power-drill-as-a-penis-metaphor screwball, I tell you!
On one hand, it was surprising that the sitcom decided to jettison its veneer of hipster cool and go full-tilt into double entendre penis gags that your parents could laugh at (I mean, not in front of you. I mean, your parents don't know what penises are! I mean, you know what I mean).
Though I found this episode roundly hilarious, I was a little shocked to find a joke or five that wouldn't have felt out of place on The Big Bang Theory (also in this vein: that breaking-the-expensive-aquarium bit was straight out of Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo. I know, I know I'm ashamed that I know that, too).
On the other, it is even more surprising that it took this long to get here.
From the show's very beginning, Zooey Deschanel's Jess seemed like a project intended to merge the spirits of Lucille Ball's Lucy and Rachel from the first five seasons of Friends. And many of New Girl Season 1's missteps seemed to stem from scripts that were clever, but not quite in step with that character; scripts that took that kooky, polka-dot-wearing cartoon of a woman and asked her to deal with a thoroughly mundane world filled with parking tickets and mean businesswomen and Justin Long.
Her rubber face and Mel Blanc pipes were not only not an asset in these episodes, they were a detriment (an annoying, annoying detriment).
The friction created by these early mismatches seemed to encourage New Girl to tone it down a lot and to try on a lot of different stylistic hats - from the hyper-realism of "Eggs" to the strangely touching melodrama of "TinFinity."
"Quick Hardening Caulk" wasn't short on any of the show's usual attributes. If anything, the blistering New Girl quotes were flying at an even faster pace than usual. But I was most taken by the sheer fearlessness of its physical goofery.
In those moments at the hardware store, New Girl slipped off its need to be the smartest kid in the room and opened its arms to the sheer pleasure of being smartly dumb. And I thought it was an utter success.
The show's tone has varied so much from episode to episode, there's no way to tell if next week will take the show back to more cerebral territory or keep exploring this new world of screwballery. I'd like to see the latter, personally - I think Zooey Deschanel has it in her to channel the spirit of Madeleine Kahn, another breathtaking beauty who didn't let her wholesome good looks keep her away from a decent dick joke.
And, oh, yeah, it was satisfying to have confirmation that we haven't seen the last of Jess and Nick sucking on each other's faces. Phew!
What did you think of this episode's screwball vibe? Do you feel bad for that fish that Schmidt dropped? Are you irritated that I barely even talked about the face-sucking?