by Clio McConnell
Schmidt puts fifty dollars in the Douchebag Jar. Nick gets a nickname and a new girlfriend. Winston learns to pronounce “charcuterie,” and Jess throws a “badass” party. All this to say that Fox’s “New Girl” hits the ground with a running start after its holiday break.
Even without achieving success at the Golden Globes—neither of the show’s nominations (Best Comedy or Musical Series, and Zooey Deschanel as Best Actress in a Comedy) resulted in a win—“New Girl” easily gets back in the swing of things.
“The Story of the 50” begins with a distraught Schmidt—it’s the eve of his twenty-ninth birthday (the last good year, according to the birthday boy, because once you turn thirty “it’s just all darkness”) and he’s just lost his party bus reservation to Frankie Muniz. To cancel the bash would, of course, be “social suicide,” and the overly image-conscious Schmidt worries what his mean-spirited college pal (his “fremesis”) Benjamin will think.
So, Jess, being the kindhearted and ambitious roommate that she is, resolves to organize a replacement party. Nick warns her that she is not “emotionally, mentally, and spiritually prepared” for such an endeavor, but she and Winston forge ahead, resulting in a re-definition of the term “party bus.”
Meanwhile, sporting his “Bill Cosby sweater,” Nick rubs elbows—with Julia (the wonderfully sarcastic Lizzy Caplan, of “True Blood” fame), a new lady friend. Not a very smooth mover, Nick tries to hide the fact that he has three roommates, and whenever he admits something embarrassing about himself (such as the fact that before her, he had no dating prospects), he follows it up by saying “in a hot way.” Eventually he learns to tell Julia the truth, although she promises she has secrets of her own—one of which comes unexpectedly to light in the course of the evening.
With Caplan’s arrival on the set, apparently the undercurrent of Jess-Nick sexual tension has been decidedly moved to the back burner. Despite the disappearance of Jess’ short-term boyfriend Paul (Justin Long) and the opportunity this promised for the “flirty roomies,” the writers seem to have other plans. Schmidt, as usual, is looking for love in all the wrong places (i.e. in the female gender pool), while Jess gets rather too lucky for her own good.
With “The Story of the 50,” writer/creator Elizabeth Meriwether proves that even adults have problems with confidence. Every young adult dramedy has a smattering of episodes tackling the issue of self-consciousness, but they often portray the problem as a one-time fix. In this episode of “New Girl,” though, it’s clear that self-assurance can be hard to grasp, even for adults like Schmidt and Nick. And, true to form, Meriwether gets her message across with smiles and laughter, forgoing the too-easy tears and melodrama.
Guest star Rachael Harris (“The Hangover”) elevates the comedy as Tanya, Jess’ party-happy boss; and while supermodel Cece is strangely absent from this shindig, she isn’t sorely missed.
Clio is the Theater and Books editor for the Washington Square News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.