1) Nick and Jess are over — at least for a little while.
No, there was nothing wrong with Nick and Jess dating. In fact, everything about it worked in that charming way sitcoms make opposites attract and then fit perfectly together. Zooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson’s chemistry didn’t hurt things either. What got in the way during an up-and-down third season was writers’ interference. Forced to come up with a way to extend the life of the sitcom, Elizabeth Meriwether & Co. chose to fall back on the so-classic-it-should-be-retired sitcom trope of breaking up the show’s power couple (though one could argue “New Girl” belongs to Schmidt and Cece) instead of mining new areas for comedy gold.
Now, at least, it’s over. The couple has been split up and any rekindling of romance isn’t likely to happen for a while. Ross and Rachel remained on a break for almost seven seasons, giving fans nothing but longing gazes and repressed feelings after their mid-Season 3 break up — though they did get married in Season 7 — until the series finale when they joyously reunited on what will hopefully be the last great airport chase. Nick and Jess may not make it that long — the show itself is on life support, ratings-wise — but the writers are likely to explore the duo’s new found single statuses before they reengage with each other. Enjoy the lack of drama while it lasts.
2) Coach & Winston: Competitors Turned Partners
When Damon Wayans Jr. joined the cast last season, many worried the return of Coach (from the series’ pilot) meant the dismissal of his replacement, Winston, played by Lamorne Morris. Yes, Winston struggled in Season 3. Yes, Winston has always struggled to find his role on “New Girl.” Yes, he’s not a strong enough character — or, more accurately, one properly defined by the show’s writers — to carry his own plot line, as we all unfortunately discovered when he dated both Shelby (who wouldn’t take him seriously) and Bertie (who took him far too seriously).
Winston works best when playing against the rest of the group. In earlier seasons, he excelled when he couldn’t find the appropriate degree of pranking compared to master prankster Nick. Why? Morris was set up as the inept wild card, a defining characteristic too often relied upon or over-extended in other episodes (his ineptitude was taken too far with the police exam plot — no way could he be taken seriously as a real cop). In Season 3, his non-sexual bond with Cece in “Thanksgiving III” worked wonders as the duo grew together through a mutual hatred of camping (though this B plot was never resolved), but it peaked when he entered into a bake-off with Coach during “Birthday.”
Writers recaptured the magic in that dynamic again in “Exes,” when Winston and Coach both took dates to Schmidt’s apartment, and again in “Mars Landing” when the three friends tried to impress their new hot neighbors. Sure, Schmidt was there to lend a helping hand, but I think Morris and Wayans Jr. have found comedy partners in each other. Hopefully the dynamic will be explored even further in Season 4.
3) “New Girl” has finally embraced its status as the new “Friends.”
In an interview with Vulture, series creator Liz Meriwether said, “I think this year we got a little heavy, we got a little into that emotional arc […] We’re having a chance to get back to basics and sort of reset the show [in Season 4], and kind of go back to the dynamics of the first season and the pilot, where it’s just this group of friends who are having fun.”
Yes! This is exactly what fans of the show want to hear. Do not overcomplicate the relationships between Nick and Jess or Schmidt and Cece. Both work together as couples, and that can’t be changed no matter what is done in the writers’ room. Let these six friends exist as just that, much like the original group of six “Friends” did so successfully for so many seasons more than a decade ago. “How I Met Your Mother” tried to be this generation’s Chandler, Monica, Rachel, Joey, Ross, and Pheobe (sans one member), but the group just wasn’t comparable. One character overwhelmed the rest (Barney, obviously), and it was a romantic comedy from start to finish anyway.
“New Girl” is not. It’s a classic sitcom and needs to embrace those roots. Whether you prefer Schmidt over the rest of the clan or not, he’s got more than adequate support if they’re not mishandled. So thank you, Ms. Meriwether, for honestly addressing and accepting the issue at hand. Now do something about it. We’ll be watching.
4) Netflix Will Save “New Girl” (Again)
Without any evidence from Netflix as to viewer statistics, I’m going to continue operating under the theory that the online streaming service is the main reason anyone is still talking about “New Girl.” The show has gone through some severe highs and lows since its inception (remember when it was basically “The Zooey Deschanel Show” with extra twee?), and many traditional TV watchers may have given up on it by now (they have, in fact, when you look at the year-to-year ratings decline).
But Netflix binge-viewing masks many flaws hidden within the episode-by-episode breakdowns seen by the decreasing number of day-and-date watchers. When you’re plowing through a season in a weekend, you’re not going to pause and reflect whether or not a B-plot in Episode 8 worked or even if an entire episode’s construction left many subjects unresolved. You’ll keep going, pushing through to find the funny somewhere down the line even if that means watching five hours of TV until you get to the comedy gold.
This, of course, doesn’t work for new shows. People will give up early if they’re not hooked. “New Girl,” though, has given us just enough to keep watching, and keep watching we will until the slog becomes too difficult or the seasons too forgettable. “New Girl” can’t afford another Season 3 slowdown — FOX needs a Netflix boost for Season 4 to keep the show competitive — it’s drawing about half the 18-49 demo as “NCIS: Los Angeles,” so yikes! — but that may not happen considering the quality of episodes premiering September 16 (the same day as the new season begins, an odd choice for FOX considering most viewers won’t be able to catch up during the day so they can watch that night). Here’s hoping Season 4 picks up quickly so we can binge a Season 5.
5) Schmidt is still here.
If you’ve made it this far with “New Girl,” it’s likely because of one man. Schdmit, played with an unparalleled combination of bashfulness and sexual tenacity by Max Greenfield, has been the driving force of the show since he stuffed a $20 in the “douche jar” early in Season 1. While he got lost a bit in the Season 3 casting shuffle, he never lost his edge. Greenfield’s enthusiasm never wavered, even when his B-plots became A’s and none of them were given proper resolution. No matter what was going on, Schmidt could always make us chuckle. No doubt he’ll keep the streak alive in Season 4.