So this is how you're gonna keep us on the hook for the rest of the season, eh, New Girl?
And you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way. With its clashing relationship expectations, confusing non-date dates, and awkward upper-boob touches, "First Date" took New Girl's Confused Twenty-Something Realness Quotient (C) to new heights.
I found it impossible to not wince with recognition--painful, painful recognition--as Jess and Nick went about their convoluted evening (if your own twenties didn't involve a guy who asked you out and then acted like he was angry about having to take you out/ a girl who made fun of you for trying to dress nice and treat her nicely, well, good for you, but also: go to hell).
With reappearances of characters ranging from Fancyman himself to Outside Dave, and callbacks galore, it seemed like tonight was going to be the night--that this thing that we've all been working so hard for (I mean, as hard as people passively watching a TV show can work) was finally going to happen. Except...no.
Yet, that anti-climax wasn't anti-climactic. It felt like the right ending. It felt real. Yes, a show that featured a B plot about a homeless guy taking over the Loft's bathroom, has quietly transformed itself into the realest comedy on television.
How did this happen? How did this show turn from an annoying and forced-feeling "hipster-com" into one of the more genuine TV representations of what it actually feels like to be lost in your twenties? Guys, I have a theory.
During New Girl Season 1, there was a lot of hemming and hawing about Zooey Deschanel (that's what we did in the olden days, before we had Lena Dunham to hem and haw over). We all asked: could this doe-eyed indie sweetie, previously best known for being an ethereal indie sex goddess/ adorable singer/ imaginary girlfriend to every guy in a Radiohead t-shirt, carry a sitcom?
And so New Girl Season 1, especially at the beginning of the season, tried to answer this question by building a sitcom based on depicting Deschanel as a doe-eyed indie sweetie. Sometimes it worked, but when it did, it was often in spite of itself and in spite of Deschanel's Jess.
But the problem, it turned out, was not Deschanel. The problem, as we are discovering in New Girl Season 2, was expectations. We expected a sitcom about a hipster cutie-pie, and the writers gave us the best sitcom about a hipster cutie-pie that they could. But, as we can now see, Deschanel was always more than just that. She's a charming and gifted comic actress, who was boxed in by our expectations of her, based on her past work.
This season, the writers and cast of New Girl have fought those expectations in the most effective way possible: by pretending that they didn't exist, and moving Deschanel squarely into the physically comedic actress turf that's been inhabited by everyone from Lucy through Alyson Hannigan.
And not only has it worked for Deschanel--freeing her up to show off her formidable comic chops and ability to land a strong percentage of the best New Girl quotes--but it has freed up the show to be real, to be truly funny, and to invert comedic conventions to tell some striking truths about twenty-something existence.
I'm so glad I stuck around and gave New Girl a chance to change my mind. I'm glad I waited for that, and I'm happy to wait for Nick and Jess to give us not what we want, but what feels real.
Also, that whole thing about it being weird when you hang out with your best friend's other best friend? Is such utter truth, oh my god, I can't even.
Did you like the way this episode left things between Nick and Jess? Did you buy the awkwardness of Winston and Schmidt hanging out together? Have you been attacked by a homeless guy wielding shaving cream lately?