Last year, Fox's "New Girl" had the opposite of a sophomore slump. The second season was equal parts funny and feelings. Raise your hand if you cried when Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) got together. (If you don't raise your hand, you're totally lying.)
Things are a little tougher in the third season. You might say that "New Girl" has been jumbled in its junior year. But all that changed with last week's A++ episode "The Box," which crackled with jokes about old purses, intelligently explored the classic theme of friendship and money, and also pushed relationships forward. Bonus: Jon Lovitz as Rabbi Feiglin. "New Girl" doesn't need a makeover — no emotional earthquakes, no Big New Romance — it needs a makeunder. Let's take it step by step.
1. Burn the passports. Let's face it. The trip to Mexico was just a postponement of dealing with the dynamics in the house. It was preposterous and almost "Brady Bunch"-y, and we love the characters too much to see them in situations that are more contrived than clever. The great thing about this show is that that whole story could have worked just as well if Nick and Jess were camped out in a nearby park.
See Nick and Jess south of the border in the Season 3 premiere episode:
2. Play True American. Not every week, obviously, but the rat-a-tat-tat dialogue of TV's most dynamic housemates is one of our favorite aspects of the show, and we miss it. We miss the good old days, when a show could be as simple as someone having a date with someone not good. We understand that the sexual tension building between Nick and Jess gave last season a jump-start and you can't put toothpaste back in the tube, but you can find a way to force the gang to play True American together. We miss it!
The story behind the True American drinking game:
3. Break out the fat suit, the tie-dye, and the Dave Matthews CDs. Flashbacks on "New Girl" are so awesome and spot-on that we want more. Our favorite episode of last season was, hands down, "Virgins," which includes gloriously nuanced and laugh-out-loud re-enactments of first times. "New Girl" is better at time travel than any sitcom ever, so one more time, for the cheap seats in the back …We! Want! More!
4. Watch out for Winston. While we are enjoying Winston's (Lamorne Morris) burgeoning relationship with Ferguson the Cat, a remarkably handsome beast, we think the whole cat bit jumped the shark when Winston didn't realize that the girl from the vet was into him. Winston is kind of like Phoebe from "Friends." And a quirky character works best if the quirkiness never eclipses the basic grounding.
5. Put Schmidt on the prowl. The best thing we can say about this season is that it's the Year of the Schmidt (Max Greenfield). Schmidt's attempt to earn CeCe's (Hannah Simone) forgiveness was gut wrenching. When he warbled, "I used to be fat," and opened up about not knowing how to cope with his newfound attractiveness, we felt more emotionally invested than we do in a lot of one-hour shows. Hats off to Schmidt. But now we're ready for him to deal with dueling breakups the old-fashioned way: one-night stands, booze, and so on.
6. Play nice(r) with guest stars. Reports surfaced that Angela Kinsey of "The Office" would guest-star as a cliquey teacher at Jess's school. And those reports made us smile. But dear beloved "Girl" writers, if you're going to get Angela Kinsey, please give her more to do. If she comes back, can she hook up with Schmidt? Thank you!
Watch the episode of "New Girl" with a guest spot by Kinsey:
7. Have the gang hit up Clyde's. We miss the good old days with Nick behind the bar and the gang all trying to figure out why they are where they are. We love the loft, and we were as happy as Jess when she and Nick got back from that misguided trip to Mexico, but this season, we're feeling kind of claustrophobic in the loft.
8. Send Schmidt to rabbinical school. Seriously, his whole tell-me-I'm-good story was awesome. His banter with the rabbi (Lovitz) killed. We're not saying that Schmidt needs to graduate from rabbinical school or anything, but we say "Shalom" to all potential plots that bring Schmidt to temple. Volunteering, scoping out babes at Friday night services, and bar mitzvah crashing are all kosher with us.
9. Take a cue from Nick. Show, don't tell. We love Jess to be the gloriously verbal, deeply analytical teacher that she is, and we like it best when she does all the talking. That whole episode where Nick started to talk a lot about his feelings was kind of a drag. And we get it: Nick and Jess love each other and are really good at sex. We've heard about it, like, ten times an episode every episode this year … it's getting old. Less is more. Case in point:
[Video: 'New Girl': Schmidt's Catchphrases]
10. Give everyone a box! The best thing about "New Girl" is the way it makes you look at normal life differently. In "The Box," Nick inherits a box of money and proceeds to blow it on glamour shots instead of paying off debts and, God forbid, putting it in a bank. We love it when "New Girl" applies a comical laser to everyday life, and "The Box" was purely "Seinfeld"-ian in its examination of friends and money. Every scene was the best scene — Jess trying to get the parking ticket payments back, Winston trying to get paid, Nick going berserk over Jess's purse collection, Jess melting at Nick's opening up a bank account to prove his love. In old school "New Girl," most episodes had a "box" of some sort. So can we get more of that? OK, great, thank you.
Winston asks Nick to pay him back:
"New Girl" airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Fox.
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