New Girl: Season 3 — a review

New Girl waited a year to go into its sophomore slump.

After two seasons of rooting for Jessica Day and Nick Miller to become a couple, it was a bit of a letdown when they did choose to become romantically involved. Jess and Nick run off to Mexico together after the debacle of Cece’s aborted marriage. They are “all in” on becoming a couple and they spend some quality time with each other. At least until Nick ends up in trouble with the Mexican law, and Jess has to call the gang to help bail him out.  You know, the usual.

That was kind of the highwater mark in the Jess/Nick relationship. At least in this season. It was obvious from the outset that the two were doomed to break up at some point. And, of course, they do break up late in the season. These two aren’t exactly Rachel & Ross, but it is a familiar sitcom pattern, isn’t it?

Here’s what else was going on with our favorite characters in this season.

Jess works hard to fit in with the “cool” teachers at her new school. Jess attempts to befriend Coach by pretending to be a Pistons fan, which interferes in her relationship with Nick, a lifelong Bulls fan. Jess’s older sister Abby (played to the hilt by Linda Cardellini) pops in for a three-episode arc that’s over too soon. Jess gets Coach a job at her school (as a coach, of course), then gets promoted to vice principal and is given the task of firing Coach to cut the budget. Inevitably, Jess and Nick break up because Jess is under the impression that she wants a relationship with someone who has a plan for his life, which doesn’t describe Nick one little bit.

We discover that Winston is terrible at doing jigsaw puzzles. Later, he steals his girlfriend’s cat Furguson, after he discovers she’s cheating on him. And to complete this character arc, Winston decides to become an LAPD cop. He passes the entrance exam and Jess and Nick try to keep the news of their breakup secret so that he can have the spotlight for the day. Guess what happens.

Schmidt tries dating Cece and Elizabeth, his old college girlfriend, at the same time, without either knowing it. Nick ends up outing Schmidt to Cece, causing the two to break up. Schmidt retaliates by trying to break up Nick and Jess. It doesn’t work. Or, does it? They end up breaking up anyway. Schmidt moves out of the loft, and right across the hall. He ends up dating Jess’ sister Abby. Then Schmidt spends an entire episode trying to become a better person; it doesn’t really take. Schmidt gets sued and has Nick (who apparently passed the bar exam at some point) represent him. Cece begins dating a younger Australian dude. Schmidt helps Cece study for her GED exam.

I already mentioned that Coach returned this season, after his one-and-only appearance in the pilot episode. As much as I like Damon Wayans Jr., his character always felt unnecessary to me this season. I guess he was intended to be a bit of a utility player. He gets to work with Jess at the school. He gets to go on one date with Cece to drive Schmidt crazy. No real character arc here.

Nick Miller, who I once said was the heart of this show, really doesn’t get a chance to shine this season either. He figures in most of the zany plots, of course, and I still like the character, but he comes off more as the Kramer-figure in this season, good for a laugh or two, some bizarre behavior, and little else. The stories that seem to feature Nick end up being more about how the other characters react to Nick. This is true whether Nick is suddenly playing at being a lawyer, or comes into an inheritance from his late father, or decides that this year’s Thanksgiving should be celebrated in the great outdoors.

There are a couple of set pieces in the season that bear mentioning. There is one episode where the gang ends up at a mansion party thrown by Prince. Yes, that Prince, who is an actual guest-star in the episode. Since Prince is no longer with us, this was a bittersweet moment in the series, and it instantly elevated the grade I gave the season by half-a-letter.

The other is the season finale. The entire gang gets to go on a cruise because Nick and Jess purchased the nonrefundable tickets before they broke up. This felt like a contrived plot from the beginning. Where would Nick and Jess get the money to pay for all of them? Plus, it just doesn’t seem like something either character would have done. I could never get past that, and it ruined the verisimilitude for me. It was an okay episode with a bizarre ending, but it justified my take on the entire season.

The bottom line is that New Girl, in Season 3, is still good, but not as good as it was in the first two seasons. By the way, somewhere in the first third of this season is where I stopped watching during my first go-round. I understand why a bit more now, but plan to stick with it to the end this time. The bitter end, if necessary.

Season 3 Report Card: B+ (and the + is all Prince).

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