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Friday, February 7, 2014

NEW GIRL Awkwardly Meets "Prince"

Article first published as NEW GIRL Awkwardly Meets "Prince" on TheTVKing.

FOX's New Girl got the prime post-Super Bowl slot this week, meaning it had way higher ratings than usual, many viewers likely checking out the third-year sitcom for the first time. As someone on board from the beginning, it's gratifying to know others might find it on the schedule. But a typical episode it was not, and does that mean it missed the chance to show off its charm?

There's always pressure on the series that lands such a visible air time. It has one chance to both show who it is, and do something a little bit atypical and out there, maybe playing to the football game's target audience. Various programs have met with a wide range of success, from selling out completely while caught up in the moment or pretending it's just a typical week (which can be as bad), to effortlessly mixing what the show is known for with something flashy sure to have employees talking around the water cooler. Unfortunately, I think "Prince" falls towards the first end of the scale too much.

In "Prince," Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and CeCe (Hannah Simone) have a chance encounter that earns them an invitation to a party thrown by the legendary musician, not exactly a believable happenstance. As Jess leaves, though, Nick (Jake Johnson) says 'I love you' to her for the first time and, in a panic, she doesn't say it back. This leads Nick, Schmidt (Max Greenfield), Winston (Lamorne Morris), and Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.) to crash the shindig, though the other three guys quickly focus on their own goals once inside.

New Girl is strongest when the main players get together and interact. Like any good comedy series, it has excellent chemistry between its leads, and that's what viewers tune in for week after week. We want to see their friendship and their love.

There are some examples of this in "Prince." Coach and Winston have an awesome moment when they work their way past the bouncer. Nick and Jess, ultimately, make up in a very sweet way. And CeCe and Schmidt share a scene dripping with tension, giving hope to fans who wants to see them reunite as a couple.

But there's also a lot of weird bits that feel forced. Prince (himself) inserts himself into the Nick and Jess's relationship. This is funny, to be sure, as is the Prince / CeCe ping pong game in the tag, and the CGI butterfly that incessantly follows Prince around. However, by putting a third party into the conflict, it kind of takes away from Nick and Jess themselves. They don't get a chance to work out their issue naturally, as Prince takes the lead in that.

Even worse are the cameos by LA Dodger Clayton Kershaw and supermodels Alessandra Ambrosio and Ana Beatriz Barros. None of this feels right for the show, their appearances ringing false. The characters in New Girl are great for their every-man quality. Having them rub shoulders with celebrities is just wrong, and when said celebrities cannot act, it makes the whole thing exponentially bad.

Let's hope would-be viewers pay more attention to the very beginning of the half hour, when the four guys get into a dispute over who should move Jess's panties out of the washer. This is way more authentic New Girl, and will show you how the players actually behave on a normal basis. If you were a fan of that scene, then give the series another chance, even if the rest of the installment flopped.

New Girl returns to its regular time slot tonight at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.

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