A wedding is a great place to have a revelatory epiphany about commitment, to reconnect with a former romantic flame, or to prove to your friends and family that you’re really making something of your life—if you’re a fictional character. If you’re living in the real world, however, and you’re not one of the people getting married or footing the bill for the whole shebang, a wedding is mostly a great place to drink other people’s booze, cut loose, and maybe embarrass yourself on the dance floor. Because, seriously, when was the last time that a regular, run-of-the-mill wedding had any of the weight or consequence (once again, for the people who aren’t at the ceremony’s center) that years of movies, TV shows, books, and songs have suggested? What is it about weddings that make characters act these ways? That latter question seems to be the question at the core of this week’s New Girl, the first completely solid episode of the series (and, by extension, a pretty good argument for its full-season pick-up).
Ironically, the first episode of New Girl to air after Fox registered a 24-episode vote of confidence in Zooey Deschanel’s “adorkability” is the one where Deschanel’s Jess is operating under orders to not be herself. Jess’ roommates have a lot at stake in the evening depicted here: Schmidt hopes to take home an old campus crush (and not Natasha Lyonne’s voracious, man-eating Gretchen, his standing date for drunken wedding hook-ups); Winston needs to be the greatest wedding usher of all time in order to prove that he’s not a total failure in life; Nick just needs to avoid interacting with Caroline. And that’s where Jess factors in: In the guise of Nick’s new girlfriend (troublesome foreshadowing there), she’s supposed to be a buffer between Nick and his ex—and maybe an agent of agitation, as well. And that’s why she needs to not be her normal chicken-dancing, secret-bike-short-wearing, singing-all-her-feelings self. Of course, there’s only so much comedic potential in all of these scenarios succeeding, so “Wedding” puts most of its comedic stock in them going up in hilarious flames.
The big takeaway here and one that you’d think the roommates would’ve learned by now: If you ask Jess to bottle herself up, she’s going to explode all over the place. Her meltdown comes in a tremendous comedic showcase for Deschanel, one which would come off as over-written were it not for the actress' wild-eyed commitment. Coming into New Girl, the main knock on Deschanel’s acting was that it was flat and one-note; New Girl hasn’t added additional dimensions to that perception, but it does play to Deschanel’s strengths (broad reactions, physical comedy, general gregariousness) in a way that also suits a television comedy. Jess is never going to be the most nuanced character on TV, but she’s still a lot of fun to watch. And it’s hard to deny the humor of Deschanel, breaking free from her roommate-imposed suppression and inadvertently threatening Katie Cassidy with a cake knife. She’s acting a smidge crazier than usual in that scene, but I’d chalk it up to loss of circulation and the fact that she’s been acting so “normal” for the rest of the episode.
Conversely, what we see from Nick, Schmidt, and Winston in “Wedding” doesn’t depart much from what they’ve been given in past episodes, but they each earned a lot of laughs from me this week. Winston especially, even though the overzealous treatment of his usher duties is almost definitely something that was originally conceived with Coach in mind. Lamorne Morris nonetheless handles the task of upstaging his prepubescent rival usher with aplomb, and a tender moment with Jess late in the episode helps differentiate Winston from Coach. (Because, given the speed at which New Girl is developing the roommates, there’s no way Coach could go from “Who cares?!?” to “I love bubbles” in the space of two episodes.) After two episodes of being bailed out in the final act by the guys, it’s Jess’ turn to return the favor in “Wedding,” as she gives Winston space to let his guard down, pushes Schmidt toward something resembling monogamy (but just barely), and coaxes Nick out of his photo-booth prison. This isn’t Jake Johnson’s finest half-hour—when Nick gets drunk, Johnson gets gratingly hammy—but he’s given a lot of good lines as his character grows closer to getting over Caroline.
It feels like I’m making a lot of caveats for an episode of television which I legitimately enjoyed—that might have something to do with the fact that “Wedding” isn’t too structurally dissimilar from the episodes that preceded it. There’s not much difference between the roommates showing unity by singing a cheesy Bill Medley-Jennifer Warrens duet and the roommates showing unity by slow-motion-chicken-dancing to a cheesy Phil Collins single—and the plots that led to those conclusions have a lot of similarities, too. But while all three episodes of New Girl that have aired so far share a corresponding framework, what “Wedding” does within that framework is enough to make it stick out. For instance, it’s much more densely packed with jokes, a strategy that always increases the chance for laughs—but “Wedding” actually makes good on those chances. And while the main character spends most of the episode trying to stifle herself, “Wedding” feels like the loosest, most energetic, and most fun episode of New Girl to date. It’s almost as if the writers took a cue from the episode’s setting and decided to let their characters live it up a little.
- In the screener version of “Wedding,” the DJ at the reception has impeccable taste, going deep and unpredictable with David Bowie’s “Modern Love” and Franz Ferdinand’s “Do You Want To.” Can’t imagine either song really bringing people to the dance floor, though.
- Did Nick RSVP “+1” to the wedding thinking he’d be able to take Caroline, only to find out that she’d received her own, separate invitation?
- Justifying the last few years of “Don’t Zooey Deschanel and Katy Perry look exactly alike?”: Jess seemingly plays Perry as Nick’s fake girlfriend.
- “When I see you, I want to think ‘Who let the dirty slut out of the slut house?’” “Probably the slut butler, right?”
- “One more time—Carol Lee? Cara Lou? Coraline?”
- “I’m just cutting off my underwear—girl stuff.”
- “The photobooth is a liar, FYI.”
- “It was weird when I was stuck in a freak sandwich between you and that 8-year-old—can we talk about that?”