“New Girl” review: “Basketball”

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It hasn’t been as easy as I’m sure the New Girl writers (or even we as viewers) thought it’d be to write for Damon Wayans Jr.’s Coach and integrate him back into the group. And “back” is a stretch, consider he only appeared in the pilot prior to this season and his relationships with most of the characters didn’t play out on camera, but he was funny. Since his “return,” he’s only moped around because of his breakup, come between Schmidt and CeCe, and simply hasn’t had a ton to do because of all the characters that must be served each week.

And his relationship with Jess has been pretty limited. They met when she moved into the loft during the pilot, and left before episode two. In “Basketball,” Jess attempts to rectify that by bonding with Nick’s good buddy over basketball. Specifically, Detroit Pistons basketball. We venture a little into “adorkable” Jess territory here as she attempts to tolerate basketball, going as far as rooting for and wearing a jersey for the Pistons, the rival of Nick’s beloved Chicago Bulls.

There’s very little doubt Jake Johnson, being a Chicago native and sports follower, is an unabashed Bulls fan, so his understanding of the semantics of Nick’s predicament can’t be understated. Nor can any of the physical comedy he does in this and every episode; him in a Derrick Rose jersey attempting to seduce Jess is either a high or lowlight, depending on your visual outlook. For Nick, rooting for the Bulls goes beyond being a fan. It’s one of the links to his hometown and late dad, and seeing his girlfriend root for the team’s chief rivals prompts him to withhold sex unless she repents for her sins.

Whenever you think the Jess/Nick relationship is about to hit a rough patch, the relationship dilemmas only draw them closer, and the show has done a decent job of handling this. Relationships, TV or actual, can end because of the smallest things, and New Girl has tried to show that this one is stable enough to face them with little to no angst. The results are more childish and comical than angry from the two. Jess, tired of watching basketball with Coach, resorts to cutting the cable wire before finally giving in to Nick by wearing the Rose jersey. Except Nick couldn’t take the lack of sex and already put on the Pistons’ jersey. No shouting matches or hints of a breakup…so far.

We haven’t had much of Schmidt in the office recently (no Carla Gugino or Eva Amurri). Here, he’s asked to train a new, much older, possibly anti-Semitic hire due to age discrimination concerns. This is a real issue and it’s interesting to see it dealt with, albeit comically. The warden from The Shawshank Redemption initially appears to be doddering and out of touch, but slyly cons Schmidt and jeopardizes his chances at a promotion. Funny stuff from old pro and veteran actor Bob Gunton in the bar, and after Schmidt befuddles him using his lack of technology.

Oh. And bartender CeCe suggests maybe Winston could be a cop. That’s ripe for some good stuff for a while if he pursues it. I have this image of Lamorne Morris in police academy going through training drills, and I’m wondering if that’s funny or not. Maybe not. Already have enough police stuff from Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I see the characters on this show representing many people around their ages, with lots of indecision on life choices (last episode’s focal point) and CeCe’s situation not being much different from Winston’s. You just wonder if he’ll run for mayor or something at some point.

Please don’t.