by Clio McConnell
This week on “New Girl,” Dermot Mulroney returns as the Fancyman, but he hasn’t quite brought the “Part 1” hilarity back with him. Last week’s episode delivered the goods neatly, including segments that showcased each actor’s comic abilities—for example, Nick makes a great angry poor man, and Winston is entertaining as he stoops to ask a little kid for relationship advice.
The second episode of this two-parter was not quite as successful. Because, let’s face it, Nick creepily using his bartending skills to dupe college girls into hooking up with him is not nearly as endearing as Nick trying to fold a sweater. And Winston doesn’t quite pull off the desperate boyfriend routine—although his rendition of the “Wicked” soundtrack proves that he just might have a deeper soul than we thought.
Jess, too, is a little lackluster. Of course, she’s supposed to be off her game, because dating Russell (Mulroney) has got her stressed out and nervous. On their first date, as she was leaning in for the goodnight kiss, he awkwardly gives her a hug and—literally—a pat on the back. In discussion with Cece, Jess insists, “It was actually kinda hot. The man knows how to pat a back.”
But when we see date “numero dos” with Fancyman, chemistry does not abound. In fact, it’s one of those date situations that makes you want to turn away, so as to escape from the awkwardness the characters are feeling. It was a little bit uncomfortable a to watch.
Apart from the Jess/Russell drama, we mustn’t forget about our favorite secret lovers—and Schmidt and Cece do get the center stage for a while in “Fancyman (Part 2).” Indeed, by the end of the episode, their secret is not so secret anymore—thank you, Border Patrol! (No, I’m not kidding. And I’m not telling you which of the other roomies gets to be around for that inopportune discovery.)
To relieve some of the awkwardness—and to cause some measure of it, as well—Martin Starr (“Party Down”) guest stars as an old pal of Nick’s. Constantly referred to as the “smartest guy” Nick knows, he’s a college professor who has recently had a bad break-up (are we sensing a theme on this show?), and now drowns his sorrows in the stupid co-eds that hang on his every word. Though his character, Dirk, is definitely a sleazeball, Starr has several funny moments.
The regular cast members are their usual kooky selves, but the comedy seems to be turned down a notch. Nevertheless, “Fancyman (Part 2)” provides a solid dose of slapstick, as when a very drunk Nick takes a nosedive out of a parked car—which, of course, he thinks is totally “badass,” because he thinks the car was still moving. And there are almost too many humorous puns to handle.
This episode takes the necessary time to delineate the characters’ growing/changing relationships—romantic and otherwise—which unfortunately means that the comedy falls by the wayside. It seems reasonable that by next season, the “New Girl” writers will figure out how to do both at the same time.
Clio McConnell is theater/books editor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.