“Digital Exploration of Interior Design” comes at an interesting time for Community. It’s the third week the show has been back, and it’s also the first week since its return where it will have to go up against timeslot behemoth The Big Bang Theory. The first two episodes the show returned with were slightly more normal outings, the first more than the second, but “Digital Exploration of Interior Design” goes hard on the silly. I’m not too worried that this week’s episode will scare away new viewers who found the show during its premiere, if only because the slight dip in ratings between the first and second episode implies that those people left even after a relatively sane installment, but this felt like a litmus test to me all the same. It’s Community at close to its strangest as Britta first rants against and then falls in love with a “corpo-humanoid” embodiment of the restaurant Subway, Troy and Abed’s relationship splinters further in a disagreement over whether they should build a pillow or blanket fort, and Jeff apologizes to the locker of a fellow student he believes to have gone to the grave thinking he was a dick. Oh, and John Goodman’s Dean Laybourne returns with a goatee and an absurd ponytail because, as he puts it, “I’m going through some stuff.”
What I’ve always loved about Community is that it can take a batch of plots as ludicrous as that, play them up for their innately ridiculous aspects, and still manage to thread quite a few legitimately poignant emotional and character beats into the show. One of my favorite examples of this was in Jeff’s plotline where he and Annie try to resolve his feelings of guilt over a long unread letter that accuses him of being insensitive. The plot is fairly obvious, it’s clear the male student who pops up midway through the episode is actually Kim despite his explanation that Kim died, but what works about the plot is how it ends up turning back around on Annie. Her frustration with Jeff emerges not from the fact that Jeff’s been insensitive to a guy named Kim, but that he has seemingly forgotten their brief kiss that ended the first season of the show. Annie wants Jeff to admit that the two had something, but he’s completely unable to do so despite his protestations that he “doesn’t kiss forgettable girls.” Annie reads that as a further refusal of what they shared from Jeff, but it seems more to me that it’s Jeff’s subtle hint that he still feels for Annie but is unable to tell her for fear of what it would mean.
The pair simply cannot find a middle ground to stand on, and part of the reason why is that they’re two very distinct people. Jeff’s crippling insecurities emerge from a need to feel accepted and revered while the younger Annie desires the kind of overt recognition that would require Jeff to go out on a limb, something he’s incapable of. The episode further delves into the depressing ways that people fail to connect at its end as Jeff, who seemed to have finally made strides towards remembering Kim, asks Annie who this Kim she’s talking about is and we’re reminded just how hard it is for people to change in meaningful ways. That concept even ties into some of the episodes, very funny, running jokes. Garrett pops up all over this episode, and we learn that there seems to be an ongoing effort to “save” him. When Annie claims that he has been saved, Jeff incredulously asks if that’s really the case after seeing Garrett awkwardly swaying in and out of a water fountain. That Kim share’s this sentiment only further proves that Garrett is likely to be in constant need of help simply because he’s Garrett. It’s the same concept as before just played for laughs as Garrett’s screeching shout of a voice mixed with his utter exhaustion over brisk walking shows that saving someone is just as difficult as getting them to be a more open, sensitive human being.
Britta bumps up against this same issue thanks to the budding romance she shares with the “week old” Subway. Subway was once a regular man, but as his 3-year contract stipulates, he is no longer allowed to speak of his old life, engage in non-platonic relationships, or break with Subway’s corporate agenda. The only problem is, he still has a heart. (It’s something the good folks over at Subway haven’t figured out how to remove from their corpo-humanoids yet.) Subway falls for Britta, and when Britta realizes that they share similar dreams and values she falls for him as well and the pair engage in a night of passionate, eventually non-mainstream, sex. Britta’s initial reaction to the fact that Subway is co-opting humans into living, breathing representations of a corporate interest has her worrying that we’re one step closer to a dystopia like Orwell’s 1984, but “Digital Exploration of Interior Design” shows that so long as we’re still human it will be near impossible to change the basest instincts that drive us, no matter how many contracts we sign or desires we sublimate.
The problem is that those desires we sublimate can sometimes be the very things that hold our relationships together. The wedge that last week’s episode began to drive between Troy and Abed gets pushed even deeper this week thanks to Dean Laybourne and his continued quest to bring Troy into the world of air conditioner repair. The pair begins the episode by attempting to build a pillow fort, because it’s tougher and thus better than building a blanket fort. An excitable Dean mentions that they could manage to break the world record for a blanket/pillow fight, and while Troy wants to do just that, he would have to use blankets to do so and Abed is unwilling to compromise in his vision for the fort. Laybourne only worsens this divide as he preys on Troy’s sidekick status to Abed and emboldens Abed with praise for his distinctive vision. The Troy/Abed friendship is a strong one, but like in last week’s episode, Abed’s singularly focused nature makes it a friendship that is dangerously unbalanced. Troy loves Abed, but Abed is unable to bend in the way that an equal relationship would require. That leaves Troy to carry the load of compromising, and when he finally decides to stand up to Abed things go predictably poorly. The respective forts go to war, and we’re left with Troy and Abed’s friendship on ground that’s more than a little shaky.
No one is able to hide who they are forever, and what’s worse, altering who we truly are seems to be an impossibility. We can come together, and lean on others to help ease our woes, but those individual jealousies and issues always threaten to pull those bonds apart. I’m not worried that Community is suddenly going to rend the study group apart, but that it can so readily examine the ways that our relationships are fragile things amid an episode as funny and out there as “Digital Exploration of Interior Design” is exactly why I love it, and exactly why so many can be turned off by it. Community is a dense, meta show, Abed quite literally delivers the “To Be Continued” stinger in tonight’s episode, but for those of us who enjoy playing its game and following where it leads, no matter how depressing those places might be, there’s very little like it on TV.
I’m not quite sure why “Fancyman Part 2” is labeled as the conclusion of a two-part story. It certainly deals with some of the plot details established in last week’s episode, but it’s not so much a conclusion to the previous episode as it is simply the next outing in this season of New Girl. I don’t mean that to come off as harsh, but the only reason why this episode seems to be labeled as part 2 of 2 is that it doesn’t spend too much time re-establishing characters like Dermot Mulroney’s Russell. Most of the side plots that emerge are vaguely related to ongoing concerns of the season such as Winston’s developing relationship with Shelby and the escalating affair between Schmidt and Cece, and one even features an entirely new character, Nick’s law school roommate Dirk. There are some loose threads that tie Part 1 and 2 of “Fancyman” together, but this isn’t really a case where the pair forms into a more cohesive whole.
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy this week’s episode, I just don’t think it ended up elevating last week’s installment. “Fancyman Part 2” is the superior of the two episodes, mostly because it’s consistently funny and actually makes a more concentrated effort to deliver on the plots it sets into motion. There’s quite a bit going on in the episode, and I enjoyed every plot that episode set into motion. Jess’s side of the story features her awkwardly beginning a relationship with Russell. The two go on a dinner date that ends with a hugely bizarre hug along with a back pat from Russell that Jess insists was “actually kind of hot”, Russell clearly “knows how to pat a back.” Jess simply doesn’t know what Russell is looking for, a younger woman who’ll find him irresistible or maybe a classy lady of some sort. Jess of course works herself into a panic over what to do, but at Cece’s urging she asks Russell out to dinner once more. At said dinner Jess clumsily brings the conversation around to the botched kiss, but Russell is pulled away by a phone call and the dinner abruptly ends, which only leaves Jess more convinced that she’s doing something wrong.
She heads home and runs straight into Nick’s portion of the episode that deals with his realization that he too can be a Fancyman like Russell, the only catch is that he’s only a Fancyman for 20 year old college girls who think 30 year old bartenders are totally awesome. Martin Starr shows up in the role of Dirk, Nick’s “smartest” friend who collects degrees and is a confident yet ridiculous professor. Dirk’s recently been dumped and he’s realized that he can easily sleep with undergraduates, it’s perfect for him because it’s the kind of relationship that lasts only one night and doesn’t require any real investment or self-reflection about the state of his life. It’s a lifestyle that seems attractive to Nick, but New Girl manages to strike just the right mix of humor and sadness with the story as Nick gets increasingly drunker and more embarrassing while Jess tries to drink away her pain over the situation with Russell. I’ve been really enjoying Nick’s descent into self-pity and general sad sackness, and “Fancyman Part 2” represents a new low for Nick as he drunkenly hurls himself from Russell’s parked car in his efforts to find a place to vomit. Mix that in with several make out sessions involving an airheaded 20 year old college student and Nick has never seemed more at sea.
Luckily for Jess Russell isn’t playing the Fancyman to her proverbial undergraduate, while Jess may have been learning to use the toaster on her own in the year that Russell last went on a date, the awkwardness between the pair comes from the fact that Russell really likes Jess and is out of practice at dating. He’s unsure of when to make a move with her, especially when Jess goes on a long rambling speech about how protective she is of her “gold.” It’s not a revelatory speech, and while Russell’s character could benefit from making his unseen daughter into a more seen character, it’s still a nicely sweet conclusion to the episode. Especially as Jess and Russell’s first kiss is scored to the sounds of Nick vomiting and aided by Dirk’s wandering hands. “Fancyman Part 2” manages the trick of escalating comic climaxes quite nicely in a fashion similar to other strong installments of the series like “Valentine’s Day” in its final moments and contrasting the calmness of Jess and Russell with the craziness of Nick and Dirk worked quite well.
The rest of the episode deals with two relationships getting more serious. The first is Winston and Shelby’s and the second is Schmidt and Cece’s. Both plots feature the couples at first retreating from the relationship and then coming together. Winston and Shelby do it by crossing paths in their attempt to return to the other while Schmidt and Cece manage to do so when their fantasy sex location, which turns out to be the back of Schmidt’s “mambulance,” is driven to Mexico with them in it. I liked both of these plots, they’re not huge steps forward, but they worked nicely to advance the overall plot of the season and having Winston aware of Schmidt and Cece’s relationship promises to provide plenty of humor, especially considering how unhinged it makes him during the few moments we get with him after he’s discovered it. His utter disbelief at Cece being into Schmidt makes for an enjoyable unhinged Winston and seeing Winston convinced that the rules of the universe are no longer in effect if someone like Cece would sleep with someone like Schmidt was quite funny.
“Fancyman Part 2” isn’t a high water mark for New Girl but it’s a good baseline for the kind of episode that the series can manage. It’s a solid effort all around with plenty of good laughs and a few storylines that do a nice job of examining an aspect or two of all the characters. I don’t know what else to say about it beyond that, it’s a fun, well built half-hour of TV and so long as New Girl can still manage to hit the highs of episodes like “Injured” while also making episodes like this one the series should be in good shape.
For a little while, early on in the episode, I thought that Smash might be making some kind of effort to move past the flaws that were holding it back. It was spending time with parts of the show I wasn’t invested in, Leo’s court woes and Julia’s affair with Michael, but it was seemingly wrapping those stories up. With the help of Tom’s boyfriend the lawyer Leo’s charges were dismissed and Michael finally came to his senses and decided that it was for the best if he and Julia ended their affair. The latter was an out of left field moment, Michael claims he’s done with Julia because he truly loves his family even though he was utterly uninterested in them as recently as last week, but at least it was a moment that seemed to be the writers of Smash saying that they knew those plots were mistakes and that they were dropping them as quickly as they could manage.
That “The Coup” was written by the current show runner Theresa Rebeck, she’s stepping down from the lead role when the series comes back for its recently announced second season, made me think this was a case of the woman in charge putting her foot down and trying to steer the show towards its strengths. But then the episode just kept making the same mistakes the series has made time and time again, and in some respects it managed to be worse than the show has ever been. There are extraneous musical numbers, copious amounts of characters telling us how we should feel about how good or bad performances were, and a far too large helping of Dev’s ongoing woes at his job in city hall. There’s simply a lot of plot that feels extraneous to the actual thing that makes me want to watch Smash, the production itself, and what there is related to the production is hardly interesting.
The title of the episode relates to Derek’s plan to have Karen work on a potential new number, and direction, for the musical. An edgy, modernized take that apparently involves a terrible song written by Ryan Tedder, who also gets an exceedingly unnecessary cameo appearance. (I’d never heard of Tedder before tonight, but apparently Karen’s a huge fan of his band, OneRepublic. Either that or product placement/synergy is totally her thing.) Derek and Eileen are scrambling to figure out how to make the musical work financially, and this modern take on the material is their big plan. Ellis ends up being something of a unifying thread this week as he runs all over the episode, hearing things he’s not supposed to and generally dicking over everyone he possibly can in an effort to get an assistant gig with Eileen. I’m really not a fan of Ellis, and his behavior in this episode is both toxic, his scene with his girlfriend is just bizarre as he goes on about how Tom and Julia are apparently losers and he now solely wants to be a producer, and completely enervating. The worst part of it is that he succeeds, landing a gig with Eileen and doing so in a way that should be a huge red flag to any potential employer as he gives a cruel kiss off to Tom by revealing that he’s taken a new job when he is literally working that new job.
The one counterbalance to Ellis arrives in the form of Eileen’s daughter, Katie. Katie’s played by Grace Gummer, of the Gummer/Streep acting empire, and she arrives to help defend Eileen from Jerry’s underhanded divorce tactics. As Ellis is snooping on a conversation between Eileen and Jerry Katie notices him doing so, I don’t know how Katie is the only character who notices that Ellis is absolutely everywhere he shouldn’t be, and tells him off. It’s not much, but it makes me hopeful that Ellis will get a big comeuppance sometime soon. Katie also gets to tell off Eileen after the new number is revealed. She’s hurt that Eileen would resort to such an underhanded tactic to blindside Tom and Julia, and since we’re told that she’s a saint since she volunteers and does good things all the time apparently that means she’s right. Eileen backs down from changing the direction of Marilyn but decides that it’s necessary to pick up a star to sell the show.
There are two big flaws that help to sink “The Coup.” One is that its musical numbers are just atrocious. There are only two of them, but each of them bordered on unwatchable for me. The second is related to the first, and it’s that the viewer is told how to feel about nearly everything that transpires in the episode. Did you like the previous musical sequences? Well, apparently they weren’t all the great since they didn’t tap into Marilyn’s dark side. Did you not like the new direction for Marilyn? Oh, well it’s apparently spectacular but not worth following because it was come about dishonestly. The problem with that is, I’m completely baffled by those sentiments. I’ve really enjoyed the numbers written specifically for the show with the exception of the one that represented the new direction for Marilyn. It’s a standard, terrible techno style pop song that says nothing about the characters or what’s going on with them. That Derek thinks it’s fantastic makes me question his sanity. Smash has to stop telling me how I felt about its songs. It can’t try and wow me one week with a show stopping performance only to tell me the next week that I was wrong to like it so much, and it can’t keep telling me something that I thought was terrible was actually fantastic. At a certain point it needs to get out of its own way and just be good.
Then there’s the totally useless plot involving Dev. His quest to become the next press secretary of New York City continues and it involves a bunch of barely there political maneuvering as he attempts to expose his competition’s sexual transgressions with a minor. It’s vaguely tied into the rest of the episode as a comparison of the ways that both the world of politics and the world of Broadway are similarly cutthroat, but it does nothing besides say that, hey, the world of politics and the world of Broadway are kind of similarly cutthroat. I don’t tune in to Smash to see bland political drama, but apparently the writers believe that I do as far too much of this week’s episode dealt with that world.
There’s simply a lack of clarity to Smash, it seems unsure of any of its elements so rather than committing to any one of them it goes after them all. That of course makes everything far too busy while also giving everything far less attention than it needs to receive. Smash is a hodgepodge of half thought through ideas that the writers seemingly refuse to make anything coherent out of. “The Coup” didn’t end up being a grit your teeth and bear it so we can get to the good stuff kind of episode like I hoped it was, instead it was just another example of Smash’s creative staff failing to live up to the kind of show that Smash could be.
I feel I may have initially underrated last week’s episode of Community. I felt it was a minor episode of the series partially because it never really positioned itself as something audacious or totally ambitious. That’s a little bit unfair since it was very, very good at what it was trying to be, a more “normal” episode of Community. It was a good choice for the first episode back; a simpler less off-putting episode of the series was more likely to bring in new viewers who are sometimes annoyed with Community’s elaborate homages and parodies. I mistook that for the show not trying as hard as it sometimes does, but in retrospect the episode was an immensely well-structured character piece with a lot of laughs. In other words, it was much more of a “major” installment that I’d at first believed and “Contemporary Impressionists” helped highlight this fact.
“Contemporary Impressionists” isn’t a bad episode by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s slightly more scattershot than “Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts” and relies just a little bit more on the references and homages that Community’s detractors point to as some of the show’s problem. Where last week’s episode was nicely unified and paid off all the character stories and themes it was teasing out over the course of the half hour “Contemporary Impressionist” is a little less effective in expounding on the topics it chooses to deal with. That’s not to say that it doesn’t grapple with some interesting topics, and I’m actually a really big fan of how the episode ends with an effective coda that adds just enough a wrinkle to the fairly pat sitcom ending that at first seemed to be developing. The basis of the episode itself revolves around whether or not Abed’s divorce from reality is a good or bad thing. Over the winter break Abed’s been hiring celebrity impersonators to act out his favorite movie scenes with him, and while it at first seems like harmless fun things get real when the manager of the company, a French Stewart impersonator named Vincent played by French Stewart, shows up demanding Abed pay his 3,000 dollar tab.
The group almost uniformly agrees that if they pay for Abed he’ll learn nothing and only head further into his own world. Troy on the other hand argues that Abed’s version of the world is far superior and that he’s enriched all of the lives of his friends greatly. They can’t disagree either, Abed is most certainly a giving friend and the group agrees to work a “Star Mitzvah” to help pay off Abed’s debt. The situation quickly goes from fun to terrifying for Troy though as Vincent threatens to break Abed’s legs should anything go wrong. Troy’s left terrified throughout the night as he’s the only one aware of this fact and desperate to make sure that reality doesn’t intrude on his friend’s elf-like sense of wonder. It all leads to a bunch of fun, not least of which is the realization that Gillian Jacobs makes for a bizarrely convincing Michael Jackson impersonator who is absurdly hilarious at moonwalking while talking in a high pitched voice about Jeff’s dangerous use of anti-anxiety medication.
All of the plots tonight tie into this concept of reality vs. fantasy in one way or another, Jeff’s portion has to do with the fact that his new psychiatrist has been pumping him full of anti-anxiety meds even though the only thing that keeps his potentially raging ego in check is his barely existent self-doubt. Jeff’s decision to pitch in as a taller, more handsome version of Ryan Seacrest is exceedingly dangerous for him since he’s the center of attention for all of the older Jewish women who are attending the party, and once they’ve got their complimenting hooks into him even Britta’s brutal honesty can’t snap him back to reality, especially considering the award for most handsome young man is on the line. This is another storyline that deals with the main thread that Season 3 has been building all along, Jeff’s attempts to deal with his father/mental issues and how they’re driving him away from the group, but it ends up leading to what is essentially a punch line rather than any strong statement about his character. Jeff’s Hulk out is pretty funny, as is his slow walk to the old theme from the 80s Hulk TV series, but it’s not exactly revelatory or essential to the episode.
It’s the same for Pierce and Chang who each get stories that amuse but never amount to much more than needing something for their characters to do. Pierce decides to show up at the party as Burt Reynolds because his vanity requires that he not admit that he does resemble Vincent’s suggestion of Fat Marlon Brando. When he gets to the party he’s forced to accept this reality, but a party guest suggests he’s actually fat Burt Reynolds, and Pierce clings to this subtle upgrade in his status. It’s a small moment where reality and fantasy collide once more, but since we don’t spend much time at all with Pierce it doesn’t connect. Similarly Chang’s psychoses continue to rage as his overzealous stint as Greendale’s chief of security becomes more and more absurd. For some reason the Dean decides it’s a good idea to give Chang the ability to hire security interns to hopefully curb his bizarre need for absolute power. It’s a terrible plan, but luckily Chang’s master plan to usurp the Dean as king of Greendale relies mostly on hiring the only people who would be foolish enough to follow him, teenaged boys. Again, nothing much comes of this plot, but getting to see Chang’s bizarre mental math in the thought bubbles that pop up alongside his head is a bit of fun.
The real highlight of the episode comes at the very end as, after the group has successfully resolved Abed’s debt, Troy walks in on Abed sitting at home having hired more celebrity impersonators. Troy’s frustrated and ultimately mad, and while he tries to hide those feelings from Abed he eventually lets them out rather than lie to his friend as they have a strict no lying policy. Abed is characteristically confused by Troy’s insistence that sometimes Abed simply can’t do what he wants to, but when Troy insists that Abed must trust Troy even if he can’t trust that Troy might know more than him, it’s a fairly touching conclusion to the plot. Troy and Abed’s friendship has always run deep, and seeing it challenged here with reality is an exciting moment. Most sitcoms would likely leave the plot here, but what makes Community special is that it pushes further. Abed accepts that to continue his friendship with Troy he must sometimes do things he doesn’t understand for him, but just when all seems right with the world and Troy is prepared to head to the dreamatorium with his friend Abed states that he wants to play by himself. He’s clearly hurt by Troy’s statements and the reality of the situation has strained their friendship. The episode closes with Abed in the dreamatorium alone, receding fully into his dream world. Suddenly though an evil Abed clone appears, and the pair converse over how his presence makes things dark, perhaps too dark. Evil Abed claims it’s only too dark if he shares it with another, and the moment is appropriately melancholy. It’s not necessarily an avenue that needs to recur on the series, but it’s an acknowledgement that even when friends come to an understanding after a disagreement the pain can still linger. Fantasy is always easier than reality, and while accepting that reality is a necessary part of daily life, and an essential part of growing up, that doesn’t make it hurt any less. Abed’s a more mature, understanding person at the end of “Contemporary Impressionists”, but that doesn’t mean he’s any happier for it.
If I wasn’t aware that this week’s episode of New Girl was being labeled the first part of a two-part affair I might be inclined to be a little harsher on it. There’s still some issues I have with it as a piece of entertainment, but some of the flaws that I noticed are ones that could be erased should next week’s episode deliver on the setup provided. The main issue with “Fancyman Part 1” is one that strikes many set-up episodes; it’s largely predicated on getting the characters in place for next week’s episode. There are attempts to tell stories that wrap up within the half-hour, but they’re mostly perfunctory and less than involving.
The bulk of the episode has to do with a rich parent of one of Jess’ students taking a liking to Jess despite not being the most impressed with her teaching style. It doesn’t help that Russell, played by Dermot Mulroney, walks in on Jess after she has put on some sort of sex-ed program, which seems oddly out of place for an elementary school if you ask me. Jess is in full outlandish mode, but the episode smartly couches that oddness in a lack of context. Jess’ lesson likely wasn’t completely reasonable, but seeing her in a bowler hat and wearing a sign that reads Mr. Monogamy sans seeing the actual lesson lends it that traditional Jess awkwardness without making Jess seem too strange since there may have been a method to her madness.
Russell seems to be hostile in his introduction, demanding that his never seen daughter be excused from dreamcess in favor of more time with a private tutor. This leads to a fearful Jess debating whether or not she should apologize to Russell as he’s one of the school’s largest donors and that he might pull his funding over Jess’ oddities. Jess decides to tell him off but her car breaks down on her just outside of Russell’s office where Russell ends up seeing her and suddenly reveals himself to be both kind and generous, calling for a tow truck and lending Jess his own car for the day. “Fancyman Part 1” doesn’t do a great job of foreshadowing this shift, and that Russell is attracted to Jess at all never comes through in his brusque dressing down of her in his first scene.
It also doesn’t help that Russell doesn’t get much definition beyond being an effortlessly charming and giving person once his true personality asserts itself. The episode’s sole attempt at explaining why Russell might be attracted to Jess is that he’s incapable of interacting with his daughter and he sees in Jess a potential model for a better relationship with his child, but since we never see how he interacts with his daughter that trait rings hollow. We’re told he’s bad with his daughter, but since we don’t know her or how she reacts to him the viewer is left with no real basis for just how desperate he is to foster a connection with his child or how bad he truly is with her.
That kind of shallowness pervades the other sub-plots of the episode as well. Winston gets a few scenes to worry about whether his budding relationship with Shelby is in danger due to his lack of trivia knowledge, and by extension his perceived intelligence. That sends him into a marathon session of memorizing trivia answers and promptly mixing them up at trivia itself, Crispin Glover is most certainly not the first man to die during the Revolutionary War. Shelby is another poorly developed love interest, so when she declares that she wants dumb, carless Winston and not trivia wizard Schmidt as her boyfriend we’re left wondering just why that is. The episode tosses off some stock plots but, much like last week’s episode, never really finds much to animate them or make them unique to the characters and world of New Girl.
The most successful, at least for me, of the plots was Nick’s. It begins as he’s rejected at a cell phone store for his absurdly low credit score, Nick’s evolution, or devolution, into an utter loser has been one of my favorite developments this season. I love the way Nick will do almost anything to avoid spending money and how readily he buys into Jess’ plan to make his not having a phone part of his “mystique.” As the first season of New Girl has developed Nick has been revealed as having serious confidence issues and an inability to reach for any ambitions he may harbor. Russell ends up being a good foil for him as Nick is instantly seduced by his manly study, despite being less than impressed with his gaudy hallway and ostentatious kitchen island. Watching Nick fawn over Russell’s fancy desk and suddenly “understanding” hunting is a lot of fun because Jake Johnson really gets into the strange sort of awe that Nick instantly develops.
Despite that bit of fun nothing really comes together in “Fancyman Part 1”. There’s some brief talk about how Jess might be scared of a relationship with a strong, self-assured man, but as that potential relationship is being left for Part 2 there’s no real way to judge how effectively that story will resolve. What’s left is an episode that’s mostly setting up the hopefully superior installment that will follow next week. The actors on New Girl have nicely settled into their roles, and since they share an easy and solid chemistry they can animate lesser installments of the show, but New Girl has been trying so hard to elevate its storytelling that I’m hopeful it won’t slip back into allowing its strong cast to pick up the slack for by the numbers writing in the way it has over the past two weeks.