New Girl: Coach’s Pistons

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“New Girl” really wants you to like Damon Wayans Jr.’s Coach character, the faceless roommate who wandered back onto the show this season after a supposed breakup and now spends most of his time watching, and re-watching, Detroit Pistons games. In this week’s episode, “Basketsball,” Jess tries to get to know him by faking her allegiance to said Detroit basketball franchise.

Jess wants to be his friend because she can’t bare not being liked, but what she doesn’t understand is that being introduced as “my buddy’s girlfriend” isn’t actually an insult. Last season, she needed to be accepted by Julia (Lizzy Caplan), Nick’s last serious girlfriend. We’re not tagging Angie (Olivia Munn) as “serious.” So she studies her pumpkin ball and sits through uneventful and themeless Pistons games because that’s what Jessica Day does.

But it’s still weird how little we know about Coach. We understand he’s a trainer, but the show has rendered that pretty irrelevant since he tried to whip Nick into shape earlier this season. There’s no list of wacky coworkers, annoying bosses, or hilarious stories coming from Coach’s job, like there is for everybody else. In this way, “New Girl” continues to hold the character back as if it isn’t sure it actually wants him around. Weird, considering last week’s episode was so focused on career choices and, in this week’s episode, Winston shadows Schmidt at work and the two of them carry that as a separate story line.

We learned one of the biggest secrets of Coach’s back story last week — his name is Ernie — and yet nobody is playing with it this week. The show chose not to take that opportunity to be funny. The only time I laughed really hard was during Nick’s cell phone vs. disposable camera monologue. Also, by telling us Coach’s name, the show had an opportunity to use this week’s episode to really dive into all who is Coach; instead, I think of him as a squatter. He should be arrested.

“New Girl” creator Elizabeth Meriweather and team have left a lot to be desired with Wayans’ character. They started him on a heated, sexual relationship with Cece. (Don’t get me started on what’s happened to Hannah Simone’s character). That faded when Schmidt gave it the old “Thumbs Down.” Then, the guys were going to help him release him back into the wild. His argument with the police officer who’s dating his ex was one of Wayans’ clearer moments. Now we know he’s a Pistons fans, which doesn’t matter in the slightest because it wont come up again.

Last week’s “Clavado En Un Bar” was really strong, so “Basketsball” left a lot to be desired. If this week was a trial, to see how Coach gets along with Jess, it was a false start. There isn’t a threat of Jess, say, voting him off the island, so what real reason does Coach have to want to be Jess’ friend? They get along. Maybe that’s enough for now.

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