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Saturday, November 9, 2013

"Coach" Is the NEW GIRL Now

Article first published as "Coach" Is the NEW GIRL Now on TheTVKing.

Way back in the fall of 2011, FOX's New Girl introduced us to Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and her three new, male roommates. Lest we forget, though, the initial trio are not the ones we've come to know and love so much over the past couple of years. One part was replaced in episode two, never to be heard from again... until now.

Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.) was not dropped from the cast because his character didn't work. On the contrary, while Winston (Lamorne Morris) is his own person, not the same role Coach would have had exactly, many lamented that Wayans was committed to Happy Endings, a bubble show that ended up lasting three seasons (and should have gone on longer). Thankfully, because New Girl went for the slight retool, rather than the usual recast, and looking towards the bright side of Happy Endings' unfortunate demise, the opportunity is now ripe for Coach to return.

Last night's episode, "Coach," finds Coach dumped by his girlfriend, the reason he hadn't been around for awhile, and he comes to seek solace in his friends. Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Nick (Jake Johnson) are still at odds, but they set that aside to comfort Coach, along with Winston. However, Coach's idea of coping is for the young folk, and Nick and Schmidt soon realize that isn't something they can handle any more.

Everyone has a friend who disappears while in a relationship, so this is a credible explanation of Coach's disappearance. It also resets the series, as Jess is the one lonely and abandoned at the start of the show, while Coach is now in that boat. I didn't love Coach's dynamic with Nick, Schmidt, and Winston, though. The other three already have a patter down, and Coach doesn't gel, playing the old friend who hasn't grown with them.

Normally, this would be a recipe for a one-off guest appearance, perhaps a very occasional recurring part. New Girl, however, is considering letting Coach stick around long enough to explore the full implications of such a reunification. "Coach," is the first of four installments Wayans is signed on to do, though if negotiations can be completed successfully, he may stick around full-time. As much as I think Wayans belongs on a series, I am torn as to whether this would be the right move. It depends on where the writers go with him next.

Coach brings out the worst in Nick. Desperately seeking Coach's approval, Nick not only disses Jess, but misspeaks about the status of their relationship, spurring her her to go out and flirt with a very forward man (a hilarious Taye Diggs, Private Practice). It's the first real test Nick and Jess have had since officially committing to coupledom, and it doesn't go well at the start.

However, true love wins the day and Nick and Jess make up before anything too bad can happen. While it might have been more interesting and lasting for Jess to sleep with Diggs' character ("we were on a break," anyone?), there's been enough depressing material lately, given Schmidt's plot. Because of this, I'm glad the series goes with the safer, but happier, route of having Nick and Jess confess their love for one another.

Will a Nick / Jess pairing grow stale in time? Some shows avoid putting together their leads too early, and while I've argued against this action time and again, I'm starting to see how this could be a problem. The comedy Nick provides is because he cannot grow up, and as gratifying as it is to see him rise to the occasion when a woman demands it, it makes me wonder where he will go from here.

Schmidt's isolation is his own choice, but it's very clear it's going to be temporary. He is constantly around his friends, finding excuses to come home often, and still hanging out with the others. He is going through something very painful, and he needs those he loves around, even Cece (Hannah Simone), if she can forgive him even a little. I love that things aren't instantly all right and the story is taking its time fixing the rifts, giving it a sense of realism.

There may not be room for Schmidt to return to the apartment if Coach stays, but allowing the cast to take over two units opens up multiple possibilities, including space for a permanent couple to get some private time. So overall, having Schmidt move across the hall is a very smart idea.

CeCe is deeply wounded by what Schmidt has done, which is why she encourages Jess to forget about Nick. But that's more about Cece's feelings than what is actually right for Jess, and CeCe thinks better of it soon enough, a sign that CeCe's condition is definitely improving. I look forward to when she can be a true part of the group again.

Winston's part of the half hour is, as usual, the weakest link. Accidentally buying a bunch of strip club dollars is a problem, but it's way too much money to seem at all believable, even for Winston, who tends to go big. And why won't his friends help him out at all? Not to mention, why waste a ton of the cash on unwanted clothing when you can just return to the place and use it little by little until it runs out? This is especially weird once we see the club offers a vast menu of takeout food, something that would definitely be a better purchase than a crappy hoodie. It's not like the cash expires.

"Coach" is a fairly typical entry of New Girl, in spite of the two big developments that occur. It isn't as funny as other installments, but it does serve the characters and the established arcs in an entertaining way. Hopefully, as Coach integrates with the others, we'll get some better episodes in the near future.

New Girl airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.

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