Most sitcoms have two characters with insufferable sexual chemistry and loyal fans know eventually the two will get together and are watching not to see if, but when this will happen. I think there’s a fine balance between introducing the romance too soon in the series, or introducing the romance too late in the series. Both missteps can be fatal to the show’s integrity and fatal to a show’s ability to keep its audience interested.
One of the charming elements of “The New Girl” was its ability to keep the show about four friends with roommate issues, issues about life and employment and direction. It was a good way for the show to appeal to a certain audience – predominantly relating to people aged 21-35, it initially addressed a population on the move across, or up and down the ladder of society and constantly made us laugh with, never at – a lovable group of friends who are all quite different but fit neatly together, provided by a really great cast of mostly-unknown actors who have taken roles and made them into real people.
Then, Nick and Jess made out.
I was all about Nick and Jess making out; I’ve been waiting for these two and their smoldering obvious attraction for one another to amalgamate in a steamy (and it was steamy – every time they made out was steamy as all hell) kiss. It added an exciting new layer to the show that was explored but never addressed in true Nick-and-Jess fashion. It was great. It was what audiences wanted to see. Then after they made out, I wondered: What happens now?
What happened was a series of very good-quality episodes in the show’s already-impressive back-catalogue of good episodes; some awkward tension, some unease about said-awkward tension, some wondering what ‘what are we?’ without actually asking (because trust me, real friends simply do not in these situations, actually ever ‘ask’ in real, plain English words). In last week’s episode, Nick’s father passed away and the loftmates attended the funeral in what was a very funny, heartwarming episode. The awkward tension was not as pronounced with so much else going on (which was a great move on the writers’ part) and this week, Nick and Jess attempt and actual date and move towards addressing what they are, although they’re still not quite there yet. A gimmick involving Jess being confronted by her ex-boyfriend who suggests that they each write on a paper what they are is a bit ludicrous and out-of-character and a silly plot device was an unimpressive way of bringing this up. But on the brighter side of this week’s new episode was more comic gold from Winston and Schmidt’s newly-developing bromance as they grapple with the accidental hiring of a “real live homeless person”.
This brings me to another classic television show mistake: focusing way too much on the couple getting together. By zeroing in on the Nick and Jess love story, we are ignoring other plotlines: Will Cece end up seeing through her arranged marriage? What happened to Winston and Schmidt’s love lives? It seems the other characters, while bonding and changing in great, new amusing ways, are being put on hold to make way for Nick and Jess to take over the show. And it’s only midway through Season 2….
To the credit of “The New Girl”, the writers are clearly attempting to be careful about the handling of Nick and Jess’ newfound romance. It’s slowly and carefully paced which is good for the show, and also in line with a very real concern of two real friends (let alone roommates!) who do not want to ruin their friendship by jumping into what might end up as an awkward fruitless hookup. However, I worry for the future of Nick and Jess. I get impatient with continuing dramas that cannot find a better way of keeping audiences interested than continually breaking up two lead characters and then getting them back together. I can sense that something huge is coming – maybe in the season finale or otherwise – that will come in and systematically break apart this very cute, lovely thing that we’re just getting accustomed to. And that being said, this cute, lovely thing that we’re accustomed to could have waited a little longer. If you’re going to destroy something, I feel that perhaps some further build-up may have helped satiate viewers’ appetites and not deviate from the show’s initial premise.
I am nearly reminded of The O.C., a really bad mid-2000s Fox drama that begged the constant question, when are Ryan and Marisa going to get together? They did. Halfway through a very good start of what could have been a very good show. And then once they got together, they were immediately broken apart for the first time with what was a RIDICULOUSLY over-the-top plot about some stalker who brandished a gun and stole Marisa away from Ryan and once she came to her senses, Ryan was no longer willing to be with her anymore because he didn’t trust her to trust him, etc. etc. etc. BORRRRIINNNGGG. And it all went downhill from there; more breakups, more reconciliation, more drama between the two of them until eventually (SPOILER ALERT), she actually died (i.e.: actress Mischa Barton left the show…gee, I wonder why). If the show had paced out and thought more clearly about how many seasons they were hoping for and what they hoped to accomplish in those seasons, they would not have ended up with half a good season followed by unbelievable garbage for the rest of the series.
To the writers of “The New Girl”: I love this show. And I love Nick and Jess. However, I don’t want to feel that on-again, off-again stress in their relationship for the remainder of this series, and I don’t want that stress in their relationship to overtake all the other reasons why I love this show. In short, I don’t want to lose interest. I don’t want The Fonz to jump over sharks on his water skis.