New Girl Season 4 Episode 6 Review: “Background Check”

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What makes an episode of New Girl good? Is it the jokes, or the chemistry between the cast? Does it need to have a crazy, zany premise, or should it be filled with good character moments? When New Girl is at its best, like it was in last night’s phenomenal episode, “Background Check,” all of those different elements come into play and help prove why this show, despite its struggle last season, is still one of the best comedies on TV right now.

“Background Check” is such a stellar episode because of its humor and its fair share of outrageous moments but also because it takes its characters seriously, specifically Winston, who finally gets a win after so, so many losses, when he’s told that he’s going to be a cop. Winston’s desire to be a police officer and his friends’ doubts about whether or not he can do it (spoken by Jess here) keep this episode of New Girl from becoming pure farce. Instead, the show does not shy away from the group’s problems but treats them seriously; despite all the jokes and wacky antics, this is a real situation–Winston’s friends’ actions could actually cost him his dream job.

It’s nice to see New Girl take Winston seriously as a character in “Background Check.” He’s not sitting in his car singing the soundtrack from Wicked, or playing with Furguson, or puzzling–he’s trying to achieve something. In this episode, the New Girl writers stop using Winston’s goal of becoming a cop as a background joke and push it to the forefront as a real, legitimate storyline with actual stakes, and it payoffs wonderfully, providing weight to what could have been just another funny episode of New Girl instead of truly great one.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that New Girl, no matter how weird or wacky it can be, earns the right to embrace that side of itself with scenes like the ones between Jess and Winston tonight. These aren’t caricatures stuck in a cartoon that we are dealing with but real, relatable people, even if they’re put into incredibly bizarre situations, ones that we probably (and hopefully) have never been in.

Because it’s how much Jess, Nick, Schmidt, Coach, and Cece care about Winston that allows New Girl to get away with crazy things like Jess stuffing the meth (which turned out to be aquarium rocks) into her bra, Nick confessing the darkest (and most hilarious) moments from his life, and Coach going out to find someone to be Winston’s Boys and Girls Club little brother, Duquan Feldman (the guy he ends up convincing to come is named Jose). Without these characters and their relationships with one another, would we laugh at this stuff? Probably, but would we really care about it? Not a chance.

And that’s why when New Girl makes the characters its priority instead of an endless list of jokes it needs to tell, the series really shines. Because that’s why we keep watching this show–for Jess, Schmidt, Nick, Coach, Cece, and Winston. All the laughs that come with them? Well, that’s just a bonus.

Other thoughts:

– I’m not sure if adequately expressed how much I loved this episode, but I LOVED this episode. By far, the best one from what has been an incredibly solid fourth season so far and, in my opinion, one of the best episodes of the entire series.

– Winston once handcuffed Furguson to a radiator and then lost the key. But don’t worry. He was doing it all for a Christmas card.

– The return of Schmidt’s kimono was very welcome. Bonus points for Nick being the one wearing it. We also got the return of Nick’s panic moonwalk, which as expected, was fantastic.

– In addition to the nice character work we got with Winston and Jess, I also loved all the scenes we got tonight between Schmidt and Cece, especially the whole Mark Paul Gosselaar exchange. The New Girl writers are doing a great job of bringing them back to a place where the possibility of them dating again actually makes sense.

– What was your favorite Nick Miller confession? Right now it’s a tie for me between “I once tried on my girl cousin’s wool tights and I didn’t hate how it felt” and “I once changed a sign that said ‘Happy Jewish New Year’ to ‘Happy Newish Jew Year.’ Is that a hate crime?”

– Sergeant Dorado is called “The Fish” because her last name is another name for a mahi-mahi. But I like Winston’s theory better: “I’m pretty sure they call her ‘The Fish’ because she’s tough, but fair–like a lot of fish I’ve met.”

– Nick thought peeing on an electrical socket would make lightning. Nick Miller, everyone, the world’s greatest scientist.

– Nick singing “Landslide” horribly off-key is something I never knew I wanted, but now that he’s done it, I can’t imagine my life without it. Please, New Girl writers, let’s have that be a recurring gag.

What did everyone else think about last night’s episode of New Girl?

Photo via Fox

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  1. Barry Kaplan
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