New Girl is so painfully cheesy that admitting to liking it is a little like admitting to watching Honey Boo Boo, or anything that involves Snooki. But I am hooked. Sometimes I feel as though the characters were plucked from my own little universe; I’ve known the quirky beauty who is completely oblivious to her looks (in fact, I currently live with one), the law-school dropout who’s afraid to grow up (I dated one), the high school sports star who worries he peaked too soon (my brother, after a basketball injury), the insecure Jewish boy who overcompensates with a god’s-gift-to-women attitude (a certain classmate). Watching New Girl is like peeking into an alternate reality where these personality types have been stretched to ludicrous extremes. And yet, over two seasons, the foursome has managed to evolve plausibly into a tight-knit family, despite the implausible scenarios that involve epic games of Truth or Dare and Halloween hijinks gone awry.
But “All In” pushed New Girl’s usually charming cheeseball writing past its breaking point. It was no longer so-bad-it’s-kinda-cute. It was just bad.
Season Two’s finale saw Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) finally decide to give their will-they-or-won’t-they relationship a shot. In the Season Three premiere, they reiterate that they are “all in” (a phrase that they repeat ad nauseam), but can’t seem to cross the threshold to their shared apartment because neither one wants to face the bucket of drama that is dating your roommate. It’s a totally valid concern.
Unfortunately, what ensues is total mess. Nick and Jess spontaneously hightail it to Mexico and break into a tony resort; Nick, in a nuttier-than-usual break from reality, insists that he and Jess should live there rather than return to their nosy roommates – and then is promptly arrested. Jess is forced to rally said nosy roommates to break Nick out of “Mexican jail,” which turns out to be an empty suite at the resort. Meanwhile, in razor-thin subplots, Schmidt (Max Greenfield) is torn between the beautiful and newly single Cece (Hannah Simone), and Elizabeth (Merritt Wever), the shameless college girlfriend who loved him even when he was very, very fat. Also, Winston (Lamorne Morris) tries to complete a puzzle and learns that he is colorblind (Schimdt: “If you think your shoes are brown, what color do you think you are?”).
The world in which New Girl operates has always had its own backwards logic. I can almost believe that a U.S. border agent would accept a shredded passport, shabbily reassembled with packing tape, with little more than a raised eyebrow, or that Winston would wear a hooded sweatshirt as a pair of pants without ever noticing. It’s a world in which Jess can say, “I got a really great deal on Craigslist – I got you,” and actually sound sincere. That’s fine; I knowingly bought into this shtick when Winston and Jess decided to join a handbell team back in Season One. But what I can’t accept is a show that ends exactly where it began – with Nick and Jess struggling to walk through their front door as a couple, having learned only that a relationship takes work. That was covered, extensively, in Season Two.
In a better show, Winston’s puzzle, and his total inability to assemble it, might be a metaphor for the characters’ convoluted relationships. By Season Three, Jess has been involved with a middle-aged millionaire, an overwrought football star, and a ridiculously handsome pediatrician. Nick has gotten over the girlfriend who turned his heart into minced meat and dated a free-spirited stripper, with predictably disastrous results. Schmidt has loved and lost Cece, engaged in a 50 Shades of Grey-style relationship with his boss, and returned to the college girlfriend who actually calls him out on his crap. Even Winston, who always gets the short end of the stick plot-wise, managed to date occasionally. So the puzzle could be a fitting symbol for all these haphazard attempts at romance. But this is New Girl, where a puzzle is just a puzzle, and two people who love each other actually think that living in Mexico will solve their problems.
Still, I’m not ready to give up on this show. I’m not all in, but I will be watching next week with my fingers crossed.
— Rebecca H.