New Girl: New Guy, New TV, Silly Hats for All

Usually, you unplug it first.

After a pilot that was generally cute, funny, and almost as life-affirming as the end of Dirty Dancing, New Girl returned this week with the all-important second episode. The biggest change between this week and last is a change of roommates: the Black roommate from the first episode (who may have had a name but as far as I could tell was just called “Coach”) is out, and a new Black guy, Winston (Lamorne Morris), is in. It seems Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.) was unavailable, but I know a lot of viewers are out there scratching their heads over this one, wondering what was wrong with Coach or whether the show’s makers thought that viewers simply wouldn’t notice the switch.

I noticed. Winston arrives on the scene from his two years as a professional basketball player in Latvia, hungover, and grumpy about the New Girl, even though from a viewer’s perspective she has more of a right to be there than he does. We are not told where Coach went, leading me to believe that like Superman and Clark Kent they cannot be seen at the same time. If they were, we’d see that there’s only one character with two bodies.

As is clear from both episodes, the premise of New Girl is “OMG, men and women are different! Isn’t that funny?” And yes, it is funny. The show is funny, despite still struggling to find its legs. However, in “Kryptonite” these differences mostly make me cranky with the characters.

Jess needs her stuff, which is still at her cheating ex-boyfriend Spencer’s house. This is only mildly irritating to the guys, until they hand her a basketball and she bounces it, violently, into their gorgeous flatscreen television (OMG, girls are bad at sports!). Now they all care deeply about her getting her stuff—including a replacement TV—and push her to do so. It’s only after Jess is manipulated into giving Spencer’s new girlfriend a ride to the airport that the guys realize how weak Spencer makes her—he’s her kryptonite.

Jess’s inability to stand up to Spencer is another of those Venus v. Mars moments, one that seems to say OMG, women are weak. Spencer is an irredeemably horrible character who treats her like a doormat—or worse, since he removes his shoes to “keep an Asian house.” There’s nothing to like about him, which makes Jess’s weakness for him all the more repulsive. I know I wanted to shake her. The guys, though, are oddly hands-off in their approach, not even helping her when they see her struggling to carry the precious and delicate television that is so much more important to them than emotions.

In the end, she manages to take back what’s hers, and all the guys, including the spiky Coach Winston, stand up for her, even though they do so a little too late to save the TV. Lessons are learned, kryptonite overcome, and both sides redeemed. Because it’s hard to stay mad at someone in a silly hat.

This article was originally published at TV Foundry.

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