Friday, November 14, 2014

Changing The Dynamics, New Girl Season Three Stumbles!

The Good: A few good lines, One or two moments of performance
The Bad: Predictable plot arc, Addition of the character Coach, Most of the character moments get undermined
The Basics: In its third season, New Girl shakes up the dynamic between the characters . . . and pretty much ruins the charm and chemistry of the show.

For every sitcom that is, essentially, a drawn-out romantic comedy, success is a mixed bag. Success means that the show either has to transition into a series that becomes a relationship-based comedy about “making it work” as opposed to a “will they or won’t they” (get together) show. Changing that chemistry can kill a show (Moonlighting is the most universally-recognized example of that) or it can reinvigorate a series that is sagging conceptually - Frasier managed to reinvigorate itself in its eighth season (reviewed here!) by finally hooking Niles and Daphne up. New Girl Season Three shakes up the chemistry of the show in a similar way, but with pretty disastrous results.

Ironically, the big problem with the third season of New Girl is not that Jess and Nick develop the relationship that they began at the climax of the second season (reviewed here!). The issue that drags down the third season is split: after setting up an interesting conflict for Schmidt at the end of the second season that conflict is completely resolved exceptionally early in the season and Coach returns. Coach was the original roommate character in the apartment, played by Damon Wayans Jr. in the pilot episode. Wayans Jr. returned to Happy Endings for its second season (reviewed here!) after the pilot episode was shot and New Girl was picked up for a full first season (reviewed here!). Now that Happy Endings has been cancelled, Damon Wayans Jr. is freed up and he returned as Coach to New Girl. The change in dynamic for the show when Coach was reinserted to the ensemble, without removing Winston Bishop (the most expendable character of New Girl) from the mix, gutted the show and makes the third season of New Girl unworthy watching more than once (if at all).

Following the disastrous attempt by Cece to get married and Nick and Jess running off together, Nick and Jess begin a genuine romantic relationship. They recover from being “vacation lovers” by returning home and trying to express themselves and change their relationship. This comes as Jess is getting used to being a full-time teacher and she tries to combat the professional apathy of her coworkers. Schmidt, of course, finds himself unable to choose between Cece and Elizabeth and he tries to lead them both on until he is outed by Jess and Nick. When that happens, Schmidt becomes determined to break Nick and Jess up and he moves out of the apartment. Coach returns as Schmidt is moved out and he brings an Alpha Male sensibility to the mix.

As Nick and Jess’s relationship develops, Jess’s sister comes to town. Schmidt strikes up a relationship with Abby and begins to support her terrible jewelry business idea. Unfortunately, when she abandons him, he ends up with a storefront, near bankrupt and then sued, forcing him to move back into the apartment. Sadly for Nick and Jess, that comes as they are discovering they cannot actually live with one another.

Unlike the prior season, which climaxed with a number of big relationship moves, the third season of New Girl ends in an anticlimax and does little more than re-establish all of the characters to their original positions. In other words, the characters in New Girl are hardly developing and growing and the third season diminishes the hope that the characters in the show will mature. The irony here is that the characters in New Girl have an entirely different dynamic with Coach added to the mix. Coach motivates and competes with Winston and Schmidt becomes a more stereotypically masculine jerk with Coach around. In other words, the characters are changing regardless of whether or not the major relationships endure or develop; the addition of Coach oddly turns Schmidt indiscriminate and less classy. It also forces Winston into the role of a much more generic buffoon than he was in prior seasons.

Cece is, arguably, the only character who actually progresses in the third season of New Girl. With Nick’s help, she becomes a bartender and under Schmidt’s guidance, she learns to mix a good drink and actually goes for her G.E.D. Her arc in the third season depends much less on Jess than in prior seasons and actress Hannah Simone rises to the occasion of being more than just a pretty face for the series.

New Girl flounders in its third season because it is clear the writers and producers had no firm idea of where they wanted to go with the entire show. In addition to this being evident by completely screwing up the dynamic between the residents of the apartment by adding Coach to the mix, giving Jess professional responsibilities also seems to have come in an inconsistent way to the show. Jess’s new co-workers at school are disillusioned teachers who are horrible parodies of apathetic, partying teachers. While they might have very funny lines, the recurring guest stars who portray the other teachers make an almost entirely different show for the episodes in which they appear. Instead of a quirky buddy comedy, the show takes on a workplace comedy feel and trying to force the two together (as the producers do with an episode that features a school dance) is disastrous.

Ultimately, the third season of New Girl takes the once-interesting sitcom into territory well-mined by previous comedies. Is it unwatchable? No. Is it unmemorable? Most definitely.

For other shows from the 2013 – 2014 television season, be sure to visit my reviews of:
The Walking Dead - Season 4
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 1
The Newsroom - Season 2
Breaking Bad - Season 5
The Clone Wars - Season 6
Orange Is The New Black - Season 2
Parenthood - Season 5


For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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