New Girl: The one at the Velvet Bunny

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My reading relationship with Jessica Goldstein, who recaps Parks and Recreation for Vulture and is a style writer for the Washington Post, is entirely different than my relationship with Josh Gondelman, who started recapping New Girl for Vulture this season. I’ve disagreed with most of what Gondelman writes about New Girl because he has enjoyed this season, and I haven’t.

Here’s a show that follows up a pretty flawless first two seasons with one that continued to ignore one character, kicked another out of the loft and forced another to shed his snake skin to become something he’s not. Nothing is new when Coach comes back, a situation I criticized before the season — Winston is still Shrimp Fork, Nick is still whipped and Schmidt still can’t make a decision by himself.

Coach returns to the loft after breaking up with his girlfriend, which was his reason for disappearing from the loft in the first place after the pilot episode, and takes the guys to a strip club called the Velvet Bunny on a Tuesday night. Jess isn’t invite, so she doesn’t want Nick to go. When he does, she goes to Nick’s bar with the cruelest of intentions. She has every intention of hooking up with someone else because Nick wont call Jess his girlfriend in front of Coach.

I thought this was a realistic portrayal of how people act sometimes when an old friend comes back into the picture. Nick hasn’t seen Coach in at least two years and who Nick was two years ago is entirely different than who Nick is now. He’s suffering from the feeling that he’s grown apart from Coach and from the days when they guys used to party every night of the week. All of the guys feel this way. Schmidt has a presentation in the morning. Nick wants to be with his girlfriend. Winston can’t stay out of trouble when an ATM exchanges $2,000 for Bunny Money. Nobody wants to be at the Velvet Bunny, but they’re forced to stay even after Coach admits that his girlfriend broke up with him and he’s unhappy because Winston’s money is only redeemable in the gift shop or the kitchen. The Velvet Bunny swag they leave with is tight, son.

Jess doesn’t know Nick feels this way, so she’s at his bar forcing herself on guest star Taye Diggs, barging through the security blanket known as Cece. Worse, Jess can’t stop talking shit about Nick, but he’s a great kisser so that makes it okay? Raise your hand if you think Jess’ actions in this episode are warranted. No hands raised in my apartment — I don’t care that I’m the only one in it. What does she think Nick is going to do, get aroused by a lap dance? He’s proven time and time again to be faithful, while Jess is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. It’s going to be messy and nobody is going to come out of it well. Not even Schmidt, who still begrudgingly lives across the hall.

The Nick and Jess relationship is not working. That’s not only my opinion, but a Vulture blog written not by a guy named Gondelman but a writer named Amanda Dobbins. It’s not working for the characters and it’s not working for the show. Nick is a shell of the man who chugged a bottle of Absinthe in the morning and made mistake after mistake, and the Jess character is good for nothing but making up with Nick at the end of every episode. We’re far removed from Jess’ early season three troubles at school that actually gave her a purpose and story line. I want Teacher Jess back so badly, I can’t squeeze my fist any tighter. I really don’t want to dislike Jess. I’m still trying to adore her, but it gets more difficult every week.

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Considering only how they felt as a part of the show and not how long they lasted, the most successful or best relationships Nick and Jess had in the first two seasons have come and gone. This is neither of their best attempts at dating.

Everything worked when Jess was dating Russell in season one. The conflicts held up, the heat was there and the end was reasonable and realistic. Sure, the end of that relationship may have directly led to what is happening now between Nick and Jess because Nick is exactly the type of guy that Jess can have all of those heated Russell-Ouli moments with — only, somewhere down the line that got lost in translation.

Nick’s most comfortable relationship was with Julia, though his most effective and electric one was with Angie. Anyone in a relationship with Olivia Munn is instantaneously in their most electrifying relationship, hands down. The relationship with Julia worked because both characters made something of each other. Julia made Nick care about things like Valentine’s Day and Nick brought Julia out of her shell to where she was knitting with Jess and Cece. However, the relationship with Angie was effective because all of the fire and controversy was there, and just when you thought they were going to make it through the brick wall, it was Angie, not Nick, who couldn’t pull the trigger. I miss Angie, so much.

For now, we’re stuck with this episode-to-episode relationship between Jess and Nick that seems like it should be stirring up more than it is. The show needs more than to have an episode that shrinks a major issue down to a small thing that can result in Jess jumping into Nick’s arms and making out with him at the end of every episode. Simple resolutions every Tuesday limit what the show can do to give more variety to the story. It feels like the writers are either stuck, afraid to do something detrimental to Nick and Jess or are having too much fun beating a dead horse and watching all of us grow more frustrated each week — not that the writers are crafting a new episode each week to fulfill our needs. We’re going to have to grin and bare it, at least for a while.

I didn’t understand why Nick wouldn’t have more of a reaction to Taye Diggs in bed, unless it’s something festering at his core. A big fight may be what New Girl needs. It is what Jess said she wanted, after all, but as we learned in Tuesday’s episode, people change. For real, Coach even cried.

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