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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Girl: "Bells"

There were not an exceptional amount of laughs in “Bells” but it was still an enjoyable enough viewing experience. It felt like the show committed to fleshing out its main quartet of characters and establishing potential long-running conflicts between them, which overall is a positive sign for the show’s prospects going forward.

“Bells” mostly split itself into two main plots, splitting the roommates into pairs and pitting one against the other. Schmidt and Nick get into a fairly stupid argument about money which at first seems drawn from the master book of sitcom plot points (one person wants to call a plumber while the other swears he can fix it himself) but turns into something different and more interesting. I don’t think it’s come up before that Schmidt comes from money, but Nick’s disappointment with his life has come up before, and it makes sense to explore that tension in relation to someone else. Schmidt especially makes sense as the target for such anger, since it’s been established that Nick looks down on him and considers him an unserious person. For a while, Nick seemed especially unsympathetic, but by episode’s end his behavior had been satisfactorily explained if not excused.

Meanwhile, Jess enlists the preternaturally-talented Winston to join the handbell choir she’s formed for wayward youths. (I appreciate the ridiculousness of this contrivance, taking it as a sign that the show’s writers are trying to be original.) Jess the free-spirit has trouble controlling her charges, but Winston goes mad with power and starts demeaning the kids, leading Jess to toss him out of the group. It’s a nice way to characterize both Jess and Winston without making either of them 100% right or wrong. Jess’s speech to Winston in which she talks about how much she cares for the kids and doesn’t want to be another person telling them what they can’t do was really well-written and delivered. It made her much more human and more likeable. As for Winston, the show has finally started to explore his character, and I like the direction they’re taking him, as a competitive former athlete struggling to find his place.

There were also some funny moments, lest readers think I’ve given up on comedy in sitcoms. I laughed pretty heartily at Jess trying to dance while playing handbells, and settling for doing the robot, in character as a robot programmed to play the bells. I also got a kick out of the way Nick and Schmidt’s escalating feud carried over into the Jess story, as she and Winston were both perplexed as to what kept happening to all the stuff in their apartment. “Where did the freezer and the couch go? Where we robbed by giants?” And the fact that the handell group was called “Ensembell” was pretty funny.

All in all, “Bells” wasn’t as funny as “Thanksgiving” but combined they give me a lot of faith in the show’s potential.

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