Saturday, June 8, 2013

Funnier In Its Sophomore Season, New Girl Season Two Delivers!

The Good: Funny, Wonderful character development
The Bad: Nothing superlative on the performance front.
The Basics: The second season of New Girl is genuinely funny, though not extraordinary.

Last year, I found that there were very few new shows that grabbed me. For example, my wife enjoyed the first season of New Girl (reviewed here!) quite a bit more than I did. But, we decided to do a marathon of the second season despite my finding the first season to be entirely average.

Fortunately, the second season of New Girl is quite a bit better than the first. While the first season of New Girl belabored the humor and took a lot of time establishing the show’s character (and seemed derivative of better shows on television), the second season develops the characters well and is more overtly, laugh-out-loud funny than the first season was. New Girl, in its second season, utilizes cutaways quite a bit more and it shows a maturity that many shows do not get to. While there are some wonderful laugh-out-loud moments in the season there are times when the episodes are not afraid to be serious. Instead of diving for the cheap laugh, New Girl is smart enough to be serious and dramatic.

For those who missed the first season, the basic premise of New Girl is that single schoolteacher Jess lives with three men in a Los Angeles apartment. There, she puts up with the douchebag businessman Schmidt, the former athlete Winston and the Slacker, Nick, with whom she has pretty excellent chemistry.

Opening with Jess getting laid off and Schmidt getting his penis cast off, Schmidt throws a danger party to celebrate and discovers that Cece has moved on. Jess starts dating Sam, with whom she has meaningless sex. When she is dating Sam, she realizes she relies upon Nick for more things than an average friend. She hangs out with Cece’s model friends on Cece’s birthday and calls her friends out on their vacuous nature. Jess tries to “Parent Trap” her divorced parents at Thanksgiving. When their friends get pregnant, Jess and Cece go baby crazy.

While Cece begins going on arranged dates to try to please her parents and get the baby that she desperately wants, Schmidt is hurt and begins actively pursuing her again. Despite breaking up with her when she wants to get serious, Sam and Jess get together a couple times (including going to a cabin with Nick and his stripper girlfriend). Nick becomes more protective of Jess, for example when she has a student who has written disturbing fiction that makes Nick think the student is a psychopath. As Cece’s quest for an Indian husband intensifies, Schmidt gets jealous and Nick and Jess start to grow together.

New Girl is a lightly serialized half hour comedy that works in its second season to actually develop the characters that were established in the first season. The humor from the show is derived from absurd lines more than innately humorous situations. Characters like Nick are ridiculous and Winston plays very much off counfounding the stereotypes of black people (he is the anti-thug, which becomes the subject of an entire episode when Schmidt tries to be supportive of Winston by connecting him to what he associates with black culture . . . a situation that gets out of hand when Winston sends Schmidt into the projects to find crack cocaine as a prank).

To its credit, the second season of the show is far funnier than the first and it does not simply trade on the established celebrity of Zooey Deschanel. In fact, for the second season, the writers of New Girl seem to realize what gems Nick and Schmidt are and they develop their characters exceptionally well. Still, New Girl is a five-person ensemble and in the second season, the primary characters are:

Jess – Laid off as a teacher, she comes to emotionally rely upon Nick more. She steals another woman’s identity for a blind date and goes by Katie for an episode to have the best sex of her life. She gets a job at the Casserole Shanty and watching reruns of 80’s comedies that allows her to fit in with new hipsters down the hall. While dating Sam, she works at a haunted house and later gets a job teaching an adult education creative writing class. She continues and on and off relationship with Sam, while she continues to rely upon Nick for emotional support, for example, calling him when she is home alone and gets scared,

Nick – Has to set Jess straight when she is a horrible shot girl at Schmidt’s party. He becomes convinced that an older man named Nick who comes into the bar is an older, time-traveling version of himself. He gets weirded out by Schmidt giving him a cookie and pranks Schmidt constantly. His secret college crush comes and he makes a move on her only to discover she is a terrible kisser. He meets an old man who helps him release all of his anger. He hits on Jess’s mother at Thanksgiving and is surprised to discover that he is into it. When his father comes to visit, he exposes him as a conman to everyone, especially Jess who has not previously been swindled by him. He comes to Jess’s aid to protect her from a student he does not trust,

Winston – Discovers a love of girly drinks that only Nick can make. After three weeks of not having sex with Shelby, he begins fantasizing about other women and feels guilty for that. After realizing he might die, he is more assertive at his job and gets a show own! He and Shelby break up at Halloween and he soon has to adjust to working at night. He starts freezing up when he enters the dating scene and he meets a woman in a bar who helps him boost his confidence,

CeCe – Moves on from Schmidt. While she dates a new guy, Robbie, she helps Schmidt out from time to time. Given the opportunity to hook up with Schmidt, she resolves to be nice and faithful instead. She discovers if she is going to have children, she has to do it pretty much immediately. When that happens, she dumps Robbie and Schmidt steps up, though she does not believe they are a good partnership, so she calls her mother to get set up on some dates for arranged relationships,

And Schmidt – is eager to rebrand himself when his penis cast comes off. He throws a danger-themed party to celebrate and then tries to hit relentlessly on Winston’s sister. He becomes obsessed with meeting Kanye West and fakes being Tug Romney to get a date. When the gang gets new, young and hip neighbors, he tries desperately to fit in with them. Upset with her being unable to pay the bills, he cuts her off from hot water until she can get a job at the same time as he discovers his new boss is a vixen. When he is unable to satisfy his boss, he freaks out about his inability to perform. When CeCe comes back on the market, he focuses on winning her back.

The second season has the ensemble cast playing off one another with expert comic timing. While the overall plot arc of season two is reminiscent of the second season of Cheers (reviewed here!), the show feels much fresher than that because of the tight-knit cast. While Zooey Deschanel might lead the cast, it is Jake Johnson (Nick) and Max Greenfield (Schmidt) who dominate the cast. They play their characters with an exceptional blend of verbal and physical comedy that makes them seem like real people living in a world where the absurd is commonplace. Both Johnson and Greenfield have moments where they must play their characters with a stronger dramatic bent (usually hurt, deeply) and they make the viewer empathize with their characters. They are the heart and soul of New Girl. While Jess (Zooey Deschanel) might be the face of the show, the comedic and dramatic gravitas comes from Greenfield and Johnson. Lamorne Morris and Hannah Simone are given more to do in this season and while they rise to the occasion, they do not perform in a way that confounds the viewer’s expectations of them.

Regardless, New Girl shows solid growth in its second season and is consistently funny, making it one of the few “must watch, must buy” DVD sets from the 2012-2013 television season.

For other current shows, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Happy Endings - Season 3
The Walking Dead - Season 3
Arrested Development - Season 4
House Of Cards - Season 1
True Blood - Season 5


For other television reviews, be sure to visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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