New Girl: The Complete Second Season (DVD)

Hey, girl, what’cha doing?

In New Girl: The Complete Second Season, Jess (Zooey Deschanel, (500) Days of Summer) is still settling to life with her three male roommates, easygoing bartender Nick (Jake Johnson, Safety Not Guaranteed), wannabe ladies’ man Schmidt (Max Greenfield, Veronica Mars), and clueless Winston (Lamorne Morris, Sex Love and Lies). This season sees Jess out of a job, ongoing romantic frustration between her and Nick, Schmidt’s relationship woes, and Winston’s ongoing search to find himself.

This episode list forgot where it left the charger:

• “Re-launch”—After being laid off, Jess decides to join a “re-branding” party.

• “Katie”—Jess gets a new man in her life, but he thinks she’s someone else she met online.

• “Fluffer”—Nick fears he’s doing boyfriend-type stuff for Jess without being her boyfriend.

• “Neighbors”—The gang realizes they’re getting older when a group of hip young twenty-somethings moves in next door.

• “Models”—Jess tries to show her best friend Cece (Hannah Simone, WGC Ultimate Gamer) how much their friendship means to her by filling in at one of Cece’s modeling gigs.

• “Halloween”—Jess gets a temporary job at a haunted house, where everyone’s dating crises come to a head.

• “Menzies”—Jess is unable to pay for her part of the rent, and finds job hunting difficult when she’s emotional during that time of the month.

• “Parents”—Jess’s divorced parents visit come to visit, and she tries to get them to reconcile with a bunch of Parent Trap schemes.

• “Eggs”—Jess and Cece worry about having kids someday, just as Schmidt worries about proving his sexual prowess.

• “Bathtub”—Schmidt admits he’s still in love with Cece, even though he’s a in a relationship of sorts with his new boss.

• “Santa”—Still more relationship ups and downs come to a boil as the gang attends a series of increasingly crazy Christmas parties.

• “Cabin”—Jess is invited to a romantic weekend at a cabin with her boyfriend Sam, but she doesn’t want to face him alone, so she gets Nick to tag along.

• “A Father’s Love”—Nick’s father, a con artist, is in town. Jess tries to get them to repair their relationship.

• “Pepperwood”—The guys fear a student at Jess’s new job might be a psycho killer.

• “Cooler”—The guys leave Jess at home as they go out for a night on the town, and she has trouble being alone.

• “Table 34″—Sexual tension grows between Nick and Jess. Schmidt embarrasses himself at a party for Cece.

• “Parking Spot”—A premium parking space opens up in the building, and roommates compete over who gets it.

• “Trifinity”—Nick, Winston, and Schmidt hold a party to celebrate ten years of their being roommates, and, like all of their parties, it becomes a disaster.

• “Quick Hardening Caulk”—Schmidt is hurt after learning Cece is engaged. Jess, meanwhile, sees a new side of Nick.

• “Chicago”—Everyone heads to the Windy City to attend an outrageous funeral.

• “First Date”—Jess and Nick have their first official date, debating the whole time about whether it’s actually a date.

• “Bachelorette Party”—Jess wants to throw Cece the ultimate bachelorette party, but Cece’s future mother-in-law does not approve.

• “Virgins”—Each of the characters flashes back to the time they lost their virginity.

• “Winston’s Birthday”—Jess and Nick don’t have time to sort out their new feelings for each other during an especially hectic day.

• “Elaine’s Big Day”—At Cece’s wedding day, Schmidt plots to disrupt the nuptials.

What a difference a year makes. My overall reaction to the first season was that it was OK. Season Two, though, has shown great improvement, upgrading from “OK,” to “pretty good.” Whereas the show once produced chuckles, it now produces some big, hearty belly laughs. I had to pause and ask myself, “Am I really laughing this much while watching New Girl?” only to answer, “I suppose I am.”

With this season, the series has become a full-blown cartoon. It has the outrageousness, rapid-fire pacing, and quick cutaways made famous by the likes of The Simpsons or Family Guy. While it’s true that the apartment is impossibly large and stylish, and everyone is unnaturally good-looking, the heightened reality works in the show’s favor as it gets more and more cartoony. Whether there’s a wild badger on the loose, or they’ve come up with an excuse to dress Jess up as Elvis, it’s all a fit for this broad, exaggerated alternate world these characters live in.

Jess’s character is the show’s big selling point, as she does the “awkward yet adorably vulnerable” thing. She’s gotten used to her three guy roommates by now, so the writers have to come up with new ways for her to do her shtick. This includes her losing her job, and all the insecurities that come with it, which leads to a lot of story opportunities. It’s really her ongoing romantic tension with Nick, however, that drives the whole season. It’s less “Will they/won’t they?” and more “When will they?” as they dance the hesitant flirtation dance with one another.

Although Jess is the main character, Schmidt has become the show’s breakout star, with legions of fans and volumes of internet memes dedicated to him. A big part of that success is Max Greenfield’s million-words-a-minute delivery, which is a nice fit with this season’s rapid-fire comedy approach. The basic joke is that Schmidt is not quite the suave ladies’ man he appears to be. It’s the character’s unstoppable enthusiasm that makes this work, Schmidt is the center of Schmidt’s universe, and this frees him up to say and do pretty much anything and get away with it.

For another bonus in the acting category, we get some notable guest stars this season. Jess’s parents are played by Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween) and Rob Reiner (This Is Spinal Tap). Reiner is especially great, developing a pitch-perfect comedic timing with Jake Johnson, making their interactions a highlight of the whole season. Another guest star standout is Merritt Weaver (Nurse Jackie) as an old flame of Schmidt’s, who represents how Schmidt’s life could have gone had things been different.

Winston doesn’t get as much screen time as the other guys, and I’m not sure the writers have a handle on just who this guy is. He’s too often played as the dumb one, a few steps behind everyone else. It’s possible that the creators want to use Winston to recreate the popularity of Troy and Abed’s childlike goofiness from Community, but that show’s mad genius is not something easily replicated. It’d be better to figure out just who Winston is once and for all, because as it is now, actor Lamorne Morris has nothing to work with.

All twenty-five episodes are here on this three-disc set. Picture and audio are clean, clear, and bright, as expected for a recently made major network show. For extras, we’ve got an extended version of the episode “Virgins” and a commentary on “Cooler.” There’s also a short featurette about Schmidt, a gag reel, and some deleted scenes.

Enthusiastic performances and breakneck pacing add up to an improved season and an improved series overall. It surprised me how much I enjoyed this season, and hopefully it’ll surprise you as well.

The Verdict

Hey girl, not guilty.

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