TV Diary | New Girl: “The 23rd”
TV Diary | New Girl – Episode 1.09 – “The 23rd“ – Original Airdate: 12/13/11
Editor’s note: New feature time here on the blog. I’m kind of shamelessly stealing from The AV Club’s format from their episode reviews, but I’m going to start doing some mini-reviews that I’m calling TV Diary. As we enter the digital age, DVRs have become much more prevalent in the past five years and many people tend to keep up with their favorite shows on their own pace. Many, like myself, rarely watch anything live so the stockpile of shows on the ol’ TiVo can get rather large. TV Diary will give you a look at what I’ve been watching – may be a show that aired months ago, or it could be a show that aired just last night. My hope is that maybe I’ll turn you on to something you haven’t been watching or warn you off of something that’s terrible. Onto the entry.
One of the weird things about watching a lot of television and developing a backlog of shows to catch up on is having to watch a Christmas episode in early January. It just feels tonally off and is more than a little depressing, knowing not only that the holiday has come and gone but also that the next Christmas is over eleven months away. Maybe that contributed to the lukewarm feelings I had toward New Girl’s first Christmas episode, “The 23rd,” or more likely it’s just that it was a subpar episode in an otherwise enjoyable freshman season, which returns with new episodes a week from tonight. From the moment that Justin Long was cast as Paul, the love interest of series star Zooey Deschanel’s Jess, we knew it was a short-term thing. Long does movies and wasn’t about to be locked into a regular television series role for the first time since playing Warren P. Cheswick on the late, lamented early 00s series, Ed. With that in mind, it was just a matter of time before the wheels came off of Jess and Paul’s relationship. What was surprising was that it came after just three episodes, leaving the whole arc feeling more than a little rushed even as it came to an organic conclusion like so many relationships do when one party rushes the “I love you” and the other reciprocates with the lame “thank you” response. Because Deschanel is the star of this show and isn’t going anywhere, obviously Jess was the one unable to come to terms with Paul’s sudden declaration of love . This is a sitcom trope and is usually an easy way for writers to get out of a storyline or casting situation with minimal problems, and it’s no different here. However, to episode writer Donick Cary’s credit, the interesting twist is that Paul finds the heartbreaking information that Jess just really isn’t that into him via Nick, who assumes (after hearing Jess’s true feelings straight from the source) that Paul has already talked to Jess about it and unwittingly spills the beans  to him. To add insult to injury, Nick finds Paul out on a balcony  where they’re soon joined by Jess. As she begins to lay into Nick for opening his mouth, they realize that the door to the balcony has been locked behind them and they’re all stuck together. Again, this seems like Sitcom 101 but what’s great about it is that Nick’s uncomfortable nature around people was established in the previous episode, “Bad In Bed,” where Nick refused to get a haircut because he didn’t want to have to make idle chit-chat with his barber. So the fact that he’s now stuck listening to Jess and Paul hash out what went wrong in their relationship without any means of escape creates some great cringe comedy, even more so when little annoyances like Nick’s phone going off in the middle of Jess and Paul’s conversation pop up. Johnson, for one, is great in this scene. Another positive to come out of “The 23rd” is that the balcony scene also shows that New Girl’s writers are beginning to figure the Jess character out a little more because she’s more forceful and adult than the infantilized girl who many critics had problems with during the show’s first handful of episodes. With Paul’s exit, I’d wager that we’re still headed for a Jess/Nick pairing that the show’s been setting up right from the jump, although guest star Lizzy Caplan would seem to be the next obstacle in their path towards coupledom. Sitcoms (or most television shows, for that matter) rarely come fully formed and it’s clear that New Girl is in the process of discovering its own formula right now and before they completely perfect it, that’s going to lead to some subpar episodes like “The 23rd” along the way.
 After she gifts him with a stuffed, anatomically correct heart of a 55-year-old non-smoker after being dissuaded by Nick (Jake M. Johnson) from giving Paul a gift certificate for “Piping Hot Sex.” Paul gave her tickets for a trip to Vienna for a music show. Obviously this relationship was doomed solely from a gift-giving standpoint.
 Watching Nick try to backpedal (horribly) is great comedy: “What? I’m still drunk. No, shut up you goofball.”
 At Schmidt’s (Max Greenfield) office party where Schmidt has (again, apparently) been roped into playing a Sexy Santa for all of the women in the office. He professes at the beginning of the episode to enjoy the role thanks to his ability to collect dirt on his co-workers because of it but he’s changed his tune quite a bit by episode’s end.
*Just as the writers are starting to figure out what they want Jess to be, they also seem discovering a purpose for Winston (Lamorne Morris). His competitive nature had been established in previous episodes and now his gift for connecting with kids has been shown for the second time (the other being in “Bells’). At the office party, he’s able to get through to the difficult son of Schmidt’s boss (Michaela Watkins) so impressively that she offers him what appears to be a nanny-type of job for which she’s willing to compensate him handsomely for. Watkins, in offering him the job: “Whatever you’re thinking… add money to that. Like, a lot.”
*And kudos for bringing Watkins back yet again. This is the second consecutive episode that’s featured her as Schmidt’s boss and, taking the Winston storyline into consideration, it looks like this could become a recurring role. Very smart move. Watkins’ brand of dry humor works very well in this role.
*Schmidt gifts Jess’s friend CeCe (Hannah Simone) with a bottle of perfume that he designed itself. It chokes her when she puts some on and he later realizes: “It does smell terrible. It’s like a dirty dishtowel.”
*Winston’s impression of the perfume? “God, that is bad. But like the weird kind of bad that makes you wanna smell it again.”
*Nick’s Christmas gift ideas: A box of tacks for his young nephew. A frozen burrito for Winston.
*Jess, upon seeing Schmidt’s Sexy Santa get-up: “Are those my shorts?”
*Jake M. Johnson is still sporting the aftereffects of the hi-top fade from “Bad In Bed.”
*What are Sexy Easter Bunny, Sexy De Mayo, Sexy Martin Luther King Jr.? All roles that Schmidt has played in the past at work.
Episode Grade: B-