September 19, 2016

New Girl: "Wedding Eve"

This summer as always, in addition to the second-rate series that aren't worth our time (and a few great ones that totally are), the networks have been airing reruns of last season to prep us for the fall premieres. That means over the last few Tuesdays I've been reminded of how quietly phenomenal Season 5 of New Girl was.

Jess in the Jury Box.
For a half dozen episodes, the show was without its lead; Zooey Deschanel was on maternity leave, which meant Jessica Day was a sequestered juror. Couple Deschanel's temporary exit with Megan Fox's entrance as a recurring guest star and it's easy to imagine this season going very, very badly. Clickbait headlines even suggested that Fox was replacing Deschanel (as if anyone could). But that didn't happen, and the season didn't tank. Instead, Season 5 was kind of fantastic. Fox's Reagan was a skillfully crafted character, distinct enough from Jess that a comparison isn't fair. Sure, she lived in Jess's room and Nick fell head over feet for her, but she endeared herself to us in her own cold, distant way.

When Jess returned, the hijinks amped up again. While following her ex-boyfriend Sam, Jess found herself in the bed of his truck - as it went through a car wash. After a series of escalating dares, er, pranks, Winston got married. (!!) With "A Chill Day In" and "Road Trip," we got two of the most fun episodes of the season, which cover the same period of time as the group celebrates Cece's bachelorette and Schmidt's bachelor parties.

The gang takes a shot in their loft to kick off a game of "True American."
The gang commences a game of True American.
This brings us to "Wedding Eve," Season 5's penultimate episode, and a brilliant encapsulation of everything New Girl does best: physical comedy, classic sitcom misunderstandings, and love. Also, of course, True American - the show's invented drinking game. True American allows the small ensemble to stretch their physical comedy muscles.  It's also generally used as a device to get two characters in the same space - under a table, on top of a single chair, or "behind the iron curtain." In this episode, the game got Jess together with Sam, whom she'd been avoiding since she found a diamond ring in his jacket and feared he would propose. He wasn't going to, of course. Tell me you didn't realize as soon as I did that Sam was meant to be with Diane?

But between the pratfalls and wordplay, New Girl is a love story. This season, it was mostly Schmidt and Cece's love story, and as the credits rolled on "Wedding Eve," Schmidt left in the dark of night, not as a runaway groom, but in a grand gesture of love. Season 5 also gave us a delightful love storyline for Winston. Lamorne Morris is the unsung hero of the show when it comes to comic timing, and despite the wacky marriage sidetrack, he and his cop partner/new girlfriend Aly shared a sweet "I love you" in this episode. (Which was immediately followed by some food poisoning induced retching because this is still a comedy after all.)

Mostly, though, I think New Girl is the long, slow, beautiful love story of the title character. And just in case we forgot who else's love story it is, Sam was there to give Jess this reminder:

New Girl returns tomorrow night, September 20, at 8:30 on FOX.

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