Jeremy Likes TV

I like TV. Probably more than any human should.

TV Diary | New Girl: “The Story Of The 50”

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TV Diary | New Girl – Episode 1.10 – “The Story Of The 50“ – Original Airdate: 1/19/12

Episode Grade: B+

To watch New Girl’s first 2012 outing, “The Story Of The 50,” is to witness a show that’s beginning to find itself. I’ve mentioned before – and I fully believe – TV series themselves are living organisms. They grow and evolve and learn, often demonstrating their steepest growth curve in their debut seasons and that’s what New Girl seems to be doing right now. While some critics wrote the show off as a twee little trifle that was too in love with its (according to some) infantilized lead character [1], New Girl is quietly starting to evolve into one of television’s better sitcoms and “The Story Of The 50” is another step in that evolution, largely due to three big factors. First, creator Elizabeth Merriweather and her writing staff realized that Max Greenfield’s Schmidt character – while providing solid comic relief throughout the season thus far – was in danger of devolving into a cartoon character. The solution? Give him an origin story. “The Story Of The 50” is structured around Schmidt’s birthday and the setting provides an opportunity for Merriweather and co. to explain why Schmidt is… well, Schmidt. After he loses the party bus [2] that he’s booked for his 29th birthday bash, he explains to Jess that he’s very competitive with a friend [3], Benjamin (David Neher, Community)who we saw being a d-bag in the series’ pilot – and that the late cancellation of the party is going to not only be social suicide, but also a source of derision from Benjamin. From this conversation, we learn that Schmidt was once a dorky, overweight college student who was friends with Benjamin – “friends” meaning that Benjamin and others used to use Schmidt as the butt of jokes until Schmidt self-actualized and lost weight and developed his (clearly) overcompensating persona. Jess, feeling sorry for her friend, takes it upon herself to book the party for him complete with confiscated high school pot, party bus fashioned from a school bus, and a stripper [4]… who turns out to be male and played by Upright Citizens Brigade co-founder Matt Besser. This storyline establishes that Schmidt’s need to be accepted in social settings and his clearly over-the-top mannerisms and personality are born out of just trying to fit in, making him much more relatable than he was in any of the show’s previous nine episodes. Secondly, “The Story Of The 50” starts building New Girl’s universe via a couple of excellent guest stars. True, the show’s already spent time with Justin Long’s Paul as Jess’s first post-breakup suitor [5], but “The Story Of The 50” doubles down by introducing us to both Lizzy Caplan (Party Down) as Nick’s new lawyer girlfriend, Julia, and comedienne Rachael Harris as the vice principal at Jess’s school who invites herself along to Schmidt’s birthday party when she finds Jess raiding the contraband drawer of the school’s office. While it’s unlikely that Caplan will be around too long due to her in-demand status and the fact that her character is just the next in a line of obstacles between Jess and Nick finally getting together, she’s talented enough (and easy on the eyes, too) that she’ll likely make Julia a much more memorable character than Long’s Paul was and I look forward to whatever time she’s able to give the show. On the other hand, Harris is just as talented and her character seems like the perfect type to stick in a recurring basis. Her uptight, Type-A personality seems like it could be a perfect female foil to the flighty Jess. Again, this type of world-building is essential to long-term success so good on New Girl to recognize that. Finally, “The Story Of The 50” sees the triumphant return of the douchebag jar. After its initial appearance in the pilot, it looked like the jar was going to be a nice recurring gag that allowed the show’s characters to regulate Schmidt’s douchebagginess. However, it disappeared after that episode and hadn’t returned until now. It was actually used to structure the episode as the entire Schmidt birthday party story was told via flashback after Schmidt is forced to place a $50 in the jar [6] for trying to kiss Jess after expressing his appreciation for her throwing the party. Using the jar is another way to keep Schmidt grounded and is an opportunity for Greenfield to display some great improv as he did in the tag at the end of the episode, rattling off various jar-worthy offenses. Successful shows need little regular touches like this so here’s hoping that the jar is back to stay. Taking those three factors into consideration, “The Story Of The 50” is a big step forward for New Girl’s long-term prospects as well as a strong start to 2012, and it shows that Merriweather and her writing staff are in tune with what works on their show.

[1] A characterization that, while not necessarily one that I agreed with, could see at least a little merit in.
[2] To Frankie Muniz. I mean… losing your party bus at the last minute is bad enough but losing it to Malcolm? That’s gotta sting.
[3] Or, as Schmidt puts it: “We’re bro-nemies. We’re fre-nemeses.”
[4] When shopping around she’s looking for one with “a heart of gold… and a crotch of gold.”
[5] And, as this was the first episode following Jess’s breakup with Paul, I found it odd that he wasn’t mentioned once. Did Fox air some episodes out of order or are we just to believe that he didn’t register much of an impression on her? Either way… odd.
[6] Established as the largest amount of cash he’s had to put in the jar in one shot.

Miscellany:
*Jake M. Johnson and Lizzy Caplan dueling Bill Cosby impressions FTW.
*Love that Besser feels the need to mention that his stripper character is also the baritone at his Presbyterian church.
*Schmidt’s propensity for needlessly shortening words is a source of consternation for Nick, as well it should be: “He once called an oven an ‘ovs.’ He calls an airport an “airp.'”
*”Why don’t you ditch that zero and get with a hero? And by ‘hero’ I mean my penis.” I’d definitely wouldn’t be opposed to Neher nailing down a recurring role, either.
*Don’t remember seeing CeCe in this episode and, frankly? Can’t say that I really missed her much.
*”You honk the nipple. It’s pretty awesome.”
*”Where are you going? And why are you wearing your jury duty pants?”
*”Are you bringing the stripper? Because I’d really like to get a look at her jugs first.”
*”It’s getting a little nippy out. Not a good time to start turtling.”
*”Then I think I’ll help myself. To sex. With your friend.”
*”I don’t care what people think. Do you think I care too much what people think?”
*Episode below courtesy of Hulu.

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Written by jeremylikestv

February 6, 2012 at 11:00 am

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