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Nobody’s funnier about having zero boundaries than the New Girl roommates

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Here’s to Nick Miller and Schmidt (no first name given), two of TV’s best best friends. May they live until the year 2098 and die on the same day.

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“Bob & Carol & Nick & Schmidt” is the story of Nick heeding the call when his cousins (Lennon Parham and returning guest Bill Burr) ask him to help them start a family. But that premise is a Trojan horse: “Bob & Carol & Nick & Schmidt” is actually about the friendship between the last two characters in that title. Theirs is a tie that transcends everyday fraternity, persisting in spite of Schmidt’s detailed life plan for Nick and Nick’s incredulous response to that life plan. Nick storms out of Schmidt’s bedroom shouting “boundaries!” but they’re way past that. There are barely any physical walls in apartment 4D, let alone invisible barriers separating the roommates’ personal lives.

And that’s exactly how New Girl should play it. To put distance between these characters and the actors who play them would drain the energy that sustains the show (which is already shorthanded) this deep into its run. As an actor, Jake Johnson has surely felt this. As a first-time director, he capitalized on it. He aimed to unite the cast and guest stars in the frame and in the moment, and it really pays off: The scene in which the Boston Millers first ask Nick for a sperm donation reaches its fevered head because the actors are all interacting in real time—and then they all get to sort through their feelings about Nick saying “yes” together, too. The editors throw in some closeups, but there’s still a naturalistic zip to the whole exchange. At the very least, it’s fun to watch Max Greenfield silently react to Bobby and Carol asking for sperm, or look on in disapproval as Winston explains the contents of his dress-shopping kit.

The guys blow through boundary after boundary as the episode progresses: When his nerves get to him at the sperm bank, Nick invites Schmidt into the donation room; Schmidt and Bobby both burst into the bedroom when Nick backs down from physically impregnating his cousin’s wife. It’s absurd stuff, but it’s held together by an internal logic, one composed of Nick and Schmidt’s devotion to one another and Johnson and Greenfield’s commitment to their characters. Any concern about the outlandishness of the scenario is defused by the guest stars: Burr and Parham play the Frank Grimes role here, outsiders grappling with the extreme depths of Nick and Schmidt’s friendship. (Though the cousins do their own zany boundary-pushing in requesting Nick’s “troops.”) They poke at the dynamic without puncturing the reality of New Girl, wondering aloud if Schmidt is Nick’s “manager” and citing other anecdotal examples of intense male bonding. (“My dad and his friend Joe were close like that.” “Oh yeah?”) “Bob & Carol & Nick & Schmidt” is funny because this relationship is out of the ordinary for Bob, Carol, and us, but also because it stays true to the second-strongest relationship on New Girl (after Nick and Jess’).

Never one for tooting a whistle when he can blow one long blast, Winston threatens to overstep his assigned wedding duties when he accompanies Cece to the bridal shop. If anything exemplifies the go-for-broke high that New Girl is on this season, it’s Cece and Winston drinking champagne, arguing about wedding dresses, and dancing to Patti LaBelle. It’s the sort of sequence GIFs are made of, and it leads to heady consequences once the bubbly wears off: The drunk duo settles on a monstrosity of a gown, replete with mirrors and battery pack. “You look like a prostitute for wizards,” Winston says of the dress. “I look like a bullfighter in space,” Cece responds.

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But unlike Nick’s sperm donation, Winston and Cece make a transaction they can’t talk their way out of. It’s a fine mess they wind up in together, and they’re going to work around it together, with Winston accepting an invitation to join Cece’s bridal party. While “Bob & Carol & Nick & Schmidt” reinforces one friendship, it advances another, demonstrating that Winston sees Cece as more than a roommate, and vice versa. Though I have a sneaking suspicion that making Winston a “bridesman” is also a subtle way to neutralize Prank Sinatra come the wedding day.

Testing one final boundary, “Bob & Carol & Nick & Schmidt” eventually pulls a silhouetted Jess into its orbit, with a credits tag that makes sure the sequester doesn’t prevent Jess from seeing Cece’s butt-ugly dress. It’s a nice nod to the roommate who’s not there, but it’s a better display of the teamwork at play while she’s away. Winston’s badge can’t overcome the no-return policy at Herrando’s Bridal, but it does manage to get a note up to Jess’ room; while Cece prepares to show off the dress, Nick’s standing by with a brown paper bag to prevent Schmidt from taking a look. And when Schmidt collapses at the sight of all that illuminated glass and chiffon, guess who’s there to break his fall.

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“This isn’t romantic,” he protests, comparing their Officer And A Gentleman moment to Nick pulling Schmidt to his feet in a previous cutaway. It’s not romantic, but it is platonic—and no other network sitcom is getting better comedic mileage out of platonic friends who can’t set—or just plain don’t need—boundaries.

Stray observations

  • Of course, there are at least two cable comedies that can challenge that last claim—including the one co-created by and co-starring Lennon Parham.
  • In cased you haven’t read it yet—and you missed the very, very subtle link in the review—here’s my interview with Jake Johnson about directing “Bob & Carol & Nick & Schmidt.”
  • Schmidt can’t wait for Cece to change her appointment at the bridal shop: “Oh no, I want to get married in August, so I can walk down the aisle covered in flies.” Cece: “You’re so concerned about these flies…”
  • Carol notices a pattern in the loft’s decor: “Seems like there’s a space theme. You guys like space?” Schmidt: “Outer space? Yes.” (I love that Schmidt qualifies the type of space that they like—because it’s clearly not the physical kind.)
  • Best Winston exclamation from the bridal shop: “Show me some clavicle!” or “Am I crazy to want a hat?”
  • Most horrifying analogy related to Nick’s sperm donation: “They’re reaching into your skin wallet” or “We don’t just need your reindeer—we need Santa. Come down the chimney. Feet first. Bring a sack full of gifts”?
  • Wait, nope, never mind: It’s Carol’s misinterpretation of “I’m A Little Teapot”: “Just tip me over and pour me out!”
  • Winston is not a 17-year-old cop: “I’m a cop prodigy. You see my school is the streets, but my other school… is school.”
  • Cece: “I don’t know why every wedding doesn’t have a groomsmen.” Winston: “Woo, I’m going to get so naked at that bachelorette party.” Schmidt: “That’s one reason.”
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