Last night’s show started with Jess in a red bra and concluded with her mugging at the camera after having sex in an elevator, but it’s probably not going to haunt the sweaty fever dreams of too many Zooey Deschanel fanboys. It’s not that the episode was bad — in fact, it was pretty great. It’s just that Jess’s quest to get over her insecurities and finally nail her boyfriend Paul was played for laughs, not titillation, even when the script required her to prance around in an ensemble Paul described as “an erotic ropes course.”
It’s hard to be sexy and funny at the same time, so Deschanel fully committed to the latter. In its own quiet way, this felt a little bit subversive— there’s an obvious imperative for actresses to be smoking hot, and it’s rare to see one who’s willing (or given the chance) to undercut her own sexiness for the sake of comedy.
Also mildly subversive: Schmidt’s matriarchal workplace, and the way the show handled it. Schmidt’s such a bro that he was in two frats in college — he just couldn’t choose one — yet he works in an office absolutely dominated by women. Scrounging for an invitation to a baby shower, he’s like Peggy Olsen, trying to thrive in a world full of gendered rituals that just don’t have room for him. Some writers would use this gag to make jokes about harpy businesswomen or masculinity in crisis, but that’s not how New Girl rolls.
Instead, it turns out that baby showers with Schmidt’s co-workers are the best, booziest baby showers ever. Schmidt can’t even begin to fake being one of the girls; he asks if he can be invited to the afterbirth and makes a speech so sappy his workplace nemesis Beth (guest star Eva Amurri) has to jump in to save him. But once he starts acting like Schmidt again, chugging Pedialyte and pushing his VPVP (Very Pregnant Vice-President) into the pool, he wins everyone over with his party skills. He’s actually sort of like Tom Haverford, in that he wildly overestimates most of his abilities but happens to be genuinely good at having fun.
The moral, if there is one: Being the only guy in an office full of power women can be great as long as you’re willing to be yourself. It’s sappy, sure, but it’s also refreshingly non-sexist. That’s the nice thing about New Girl. It’s never going to make a big political statement about gender, but you can tell there’s a feminist sensibility at work.