Saturday, October 13, 2012

New Girl 2.04: "Neighbors"

“If I had a dollar for every person I couldn't hang out with because they hate Schmidt, I'd be rich. Like fill my gas tank up all the way rich.”

So this past Tuesday was my twenty-ninth birthday. Which made me wonder if the TV Gods were trying to tell me something when both my FOX sitcoms (“New Girl” and “The Mindy Project”) featured women in their early thirties trying to act like they’re still in their early twenties. Both shows tackled the theme in a different way and with their own distinctive comedic voice, but the-grow-the-hell-up-a-thon gave me pause. Don’t worry, I won’t be giving up blogging for wine tasting nights à la “Okay Awesome,” I just found the whole thing to be ironic (in an Alanis Morisette kind of way, not the actual definition kind of way). Anyway, like the first three episodes of the season, I wouldn’t put “Neighbors” in my pantheon of all-time great “New Girl” episodes, but I did laugh a lot, probably more than I’ve laughed at any of the other season two episodes. I think why I enjoy “New Girl” so much is because the characters are at a similar point in life and can make similar pop culture references. The TGIF stuff especially had me cracking up (and if you read this blog, please tell me you remember TGIF…I can’t be that old, right?).

Anyway, the episode begins with Jess wallowing in underemployment (she’s working at a place called the “Caserole Shanty.” It’s not a day she has to work, so she’s been watching a TGIF marathon all day and she’s also been working on her Urkel impression. The guys think that this is pretty pathetic, and Jess’ attempts at other 80’s-90’s sitcom impressions don’t help. This conversation is interrupted by four new neighbors introducing themselves. They’re 23 year old hipsters, and they’re really rather obnoxious. They mention they’re having a party, which Jess and Schmidt are especially excited about, but then the hipsters say that only “young” people are invited. The “young” comment really throws Schmidt for a loop. He shows the rest of the gang the results of this shady online actuarial service he’s subscribed to, and h ways that Winston is going to die young. Nick goes very Ted Moseby and says he enjoys aging into his personality. This whole conversation degrades into a slap fight between Schmidt and Nick, and the actual funny thing about that bit is that Winston and Jess don’t even resist. There was a recent piece in the Washington Post about how unrealistic all the physical fighting between friends on television is. I guess the “New Girl” creative team didn’t read it.

The loft crew decides to try and crash the hipster party. When they arrive, the neighbors say that because some of their friends couldn’t make it, the kickass party has been downgraded to a “chill hang.” Winston and Nick immediately peace out at that, but Schmidt and Jess decide to stay and experience the event. The kids, however, aren’t getting any of the pop culture references Schmidt is trying to make. Strangely, Jess is the one they respect, especially because she works at Caserole Shanty. They also really like her Urkel “Did I do that?” too, even though they have no idea where it comes from. They even think her Stephanie Tanner “How rude!” is hilarious, not realizing that she’s ganked both of her “catch phrases” from the TGIF marathon. The kids still don’t like Schmidt, though. In fact, they kind of hate him. Nick says this is not the first time this has happened.

Nick’s main plot for the episode is that he’s trying to pull a very elaborate prank on Schmidt. Basically, he wants to make Schmidt feel old by messing with his shoes and his chair to make it harder for him to get around. Winston wants to get in on it, too, but he’s a horrible prankster. He either goes too far (things that could result in serious injury) or not far enough. As Nick puts it, Winston has no sweet spot when it comes to pranking. Making things even worse for Schmidt (beyond the pranking), Jess drills it into his head that the kids hate him. And then the kids make that readily apparent by being nasty. And I have to say, I actually felt sorry for Schmidt for one. Schmidt can see that he’s not welcome amongst the hipsters, so he pretends he has to go take care fan emergency for work and leaves. That combined with feeling old due to Nick’s pranks leads Schmidt to ask Jess to help him be cool.

The next time Schmidt and Jess visit the neighbors, Schmidt desperately tries to take advice on being cool, right down to the clothes he’s wearing. It doesn’t work, though. The kids still hate him. Then one of the kids says his mom does his laundry, and another talks about not understanding how a dishwasher works. This throws Jess for a loop, and she says they can’t hang out anymore. I guess she finally realized that she’s grown up more than she thought. Once they leave the neighbors’ apartment, Jess tells Schmidt he should stop trying so hard to be loved by everybody. Schmidt counters that he doesn’t give up (implying that Jess has given up on teaching). Jess explains that since her life isn’t where she wants, she had been hanging out with the kids because they don’t judge her. The neighbors then drop by the loft, and Nick in full old-man mode scares them off. Before they leave, though, they tell Schmidt that they hate him because he’s an ass, not because of his age. This, somehow, makes Schmidt feel better.

Most of the characters on the show are in a better place by the end of the episode. Winston had become frustrated with his job at the sports radio show, so he tries to quit in a speech that’s pretty much wall to wall sports metaphors. I figured he lost his job, but at the end of the episode, he announces to the gang that he’s been named a producer of one of the radio network’s shows. Sure, it’s the middle of the night show, but it’s his own. I think he’s going to be the Robin of this group of friends, always providing entertainment from his crazy late night broadcasts. Nick reveals to Jess that he spent more money than he could afford on the elaborate prank on Schmidt, but he thinks it was worth it. Jess doesn’t have much time to sympathize, though, because she’s all dressed up professionally and leaving for her first day as a tutor.

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