The Nick Miller-Jessica Day party for two experiment lasted 30 episodes from beginning to entertain the idea in season two’s “Cooler” to their messy separation in season three’s “Mars Landing,” during which the roommates cited creative differences as the reason for their breakup. “New Girl” creator Liz Meriwether spent 30 episodes — 31, if you consider their hush-hush approach during Winston’s birthday in this season’s “Big News” — trying to force a relationship between the show’s two most magnetic characters. It started with so much promise, a heated kiss at the end of “Cooler” that set the internet ablaze, but ended up hand cuffing Jake Johnson’s character and turning Zooey Deschanel’s cute and cuddly Jess inside out into a stranger.
Their relationship is the reason why my final recap of season three is coming so late, because “New Girl” took so many steps backward that I stopped watching. Actually, the last episode I watched before starting a personal hiatus was “Mars Landing,” a particular 30 minutes that I loved for what it brought to light about the turbulence in their relationship.
In the dicey poker game that is on-screen romances, Meriwether didn’t know the cards in her hand or how to use them and nobody was looking over her shoulder to tutor her. She tried to duplicate what Schmidt and Cece developed throughout the first two seasons of the show into something with her title character because Jess’ consistent slew of bad dates wasn’t enough to satisfy the show’s creator.
There often seemed to be a spark in the air between he duo, developing especially toward the end of the first season as Nick made important life decisions. Instead of moving forward in his rekindled relationship with Caroline, Nick returned to the loft to leave no doubt that season two would tilt toward a Nick and Jess dynamic. However, and much to viewers’ surprise, the roommates were in somewhat serious relationships in the midst of the second season.
I’ve argued before and I’ll argue again, Nick was better off with Olivia Munn’s character than anybody else. I also wanted Merritt Weaver’s Elizabeth to stick around with Schmidt, but that dissolved, too. I’m not always right, but it all seemed to easy to pull the stunt that left Nick alone in season two’s “Cabin.” Everything that happened up to “Cooler” pointed in the obvious direction, which seemed fine even after the steamy kiss. But their relationship trended downward as it became more and more prevelant that the chemistry between the Schmidt and Cece characters couldn’t be replicated. There is a kind of obsessive investment that Schmidt always has in Cece that neither Nick or Jess has for the other. Instead, Meriwether may put them together because it’s convenient.
Unfortunately, I’ll reference “Friends,” which handled relationships way better. Schmidt and Cece are so much like the infamously popular Ross-Rachel dynamic in “Friends.” Schmidt, like Ross, is kind of a dummy who thinks he’s really interesting. He’s forever enthralled by this girl. Rachel, like Cece, was the an attractive girl brought into the show via a friend of the group. (Note the fact that Jess, unlike Monica, was not always associated with the root group).
In both cases, there is a buzz between the two characters. In this season of “New Girl,” the buzz died down because a byproduct of Nick and Jess’ relationship was the separation of Schmidt and Cece. Meriwether wanted to deflect the attention Schmidt and Cece were getting, onto Nick and Jess, hoping for the best. She screwed up Schmidt and Cece, who are still the most interesting non-couple on the show, and put a stranglehold on Nick’s improvising character. Nick became the dog. Jess threw him a bone. But it wasn’t fun to watch them play catch.
“New Girl” got really bad this season and I go back and forth deciding whether or not to leave it on my DVR in the fall. Nick, relentlessly my favorite character, wasn’t himself in season three; at least, until the last few episodes during which he got to get in some trouble with some high schoolers and then avoid awkward moments with Jess on a pre-planned Cruise. The finale, “Cruise,” wasn’t all good though, as it left open the idea that maybe Nick and Jess would gravitate back to each other. The ending of the episode leaves me thinking happy thoughts. The idea that Nick and Schmidt are going to return to their college living situations — bunk beds — is impressively promising. It’s a fresh idea for a show that got very dull, especially since the buddies are, for all intents and purposes, single and ready to mingle. It’s this idea that keeps me interested, but I’ll need to see more of an effort from Meriwether to set Nick free rather than catch him in the trap doors the locked him into a relationship in the first place. Olivia Munn’s reappearance wouldn’t be such a bad thing either.