New Girl, “The 23rd” a Christmas Downer?
I have had a love/hate relationship with New Girl since it started. I was really excited for the pilot, I adore Zooey Deschanel and though I wasn’t sure about the rest of the cast, I thought it would be clever and cute. After watching the first couple episodes, I was really hesitant to put it in my permanent rotation. It only made it to my Hulu queue in the past couple of weeks. Deschanel’s character, Jess really had me agonizing whether or not I could give this show any credibility. Her “adorkableness” was a little too cutsie, and as one reviewer put it, it seemed totally unbelievable that a grown woman would be unable to say the word ‘penis’ and that she would wear hillbilly teeth to a wedding. But then I started looking around me and realized I know this woman in my real life, someone who would do these things. A lot of us know this woman. She hasn’t had enough life experience to have grown beyond the age of twenty-one despite being in her late twenties/early thirties, and we love her in spite of ourselves. This is how I’ve come to feel about Jess and New Girl, enjoying the show for what it is and not trying to over complicate it or make it be more than it needs to be, which is just entertaining. That said, unfortunately I didn’t feel like this episode was particularly entertaining and I didn’t feel as invested in the characters as I normally do, something was just missing this week.
The episode begins with Jess taking the guys shopping for a Christmas gift for Paul really didn’t make sense as Paul is not a “guys guy” and none of them would have any insight into what she should get for him. Her gift of an anatomically correct, stuffed beating heart falls flat of course in comparison to Paul’s tickets to Vienna and the music festival. And then it gets worse, if not cliched, when Paul tells Jess he loves her and she says “thank you”. This just seemed lazy and it sets the tone for a not so fun episode in which I never really felt engaged.
The episode centers around Schmidt’s office Christmas party, but there is this continuous, annoying issue that keeps coming up of Nick needing to get to the airport so he doesn’t miss his flight home as he seems to do every year, but there is never any real urgency conveyed by any of the characters regarding this and the interjection never works as a comedic tool. The whole crew, CeCe, her boyfriend and Paul included go the the company party. Schmidt stands up to his boss about playing Sexy Santa at CeCe’s encouragement and Winston makes friends with a pretty cool little kid. Director Jason Winer and Writer Donick Cary seem to enjoy pairing Winston with kids, as they did in the episode “Wedding” with an overzealous pint sized usher. This pairing seems that it is leading Winston to a new career, possibly as a nanny?
Jess confides in Nick that she doesn’t love Paul and he encourages her to tell Paul, alluding to a future Nick and Jess hook-up. While CeCe and Jess have their moment in the bathroom in which CeCe tells Jess how to handle her situation like a grown-up, Nick sees Paul in what he construes as an upset state. Nick, assuming Jess has already spoken to Paul, inadvertently breaks the news that Jess is not in love with him. When he realizes his mistake, Jake Johnson (Nick) shines as the comedic hero of this episode, trying to unsay everything he said by saying he was kidding, drunk, anything to make what just happened disappear. When Jess realizes what is going on, Nick tries to escape but is locked on the patio with Paul and Jess as they talk things out and eventually have to call it quits. The funny moments still centering around Nick trying to escape the situation and eventually trying to interject his own thoughts on where their relationship should go. I have been dreading this moment, not so much for the characters, but because I really love Justin Long as Paul, he plays the role perfectly. Jess is funny enough as a girl, but hilarious as a guy. Nick’s self sacrificing attempt to cheer up Jess with the lights on Candy Cane Lane was cute, but dull. This was all very anticlimactic, I didn’t even feel that bad for Jess or Paul. Though I really like all the characters, I didn’t feel emotionally invested in the break up at all or elated at Nick’s affection for Jess. I feel that Jess’ immaturity and naivety were more evident in “The 23rd” than any other episode that I have watched so far and I would rather have seen her grow in this episode, especially with more serious subject matter. One thing in this episode did stir something in me, Deschanel’s beautiful She and Him rendition of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” was magical as a closing melody.
I’m sad to see Justin Long go, but look forawrd to Jess being freed up for more dating mishaps and to the writers being able to focus on Deschanel’s talents without the couple factor looming. I anticipate seeing the next episode directed by Peyton Reed who directed “Bells”, written by Luvh Rakhe, one of the best and most well rounded episodes yet. I’m hoping he can draw me back in and make me care about the characters again.