Welcome back to “The A-Story Was Meh, But the B-Story Was Great!”, where every week I talk about how much I could pretty much take or leave most everything Jess Day does.
It really does feel like every week I am ready and excited to talk about what Schmidt, Nick, Winston, Coach, and sometimes Cece (she’s the “Y” to the rest of the roommates’ vowels) are up to, but I keep finding myself uninspired by Jess. Maybe it’s just apathy that stems from the realization that I don’t think she’s all that integral to the show. Maybe it’s that she’s routinely given stories that fail to take any interesting comedic turns. Look, I don’t know who is responsible for the boringification™ of Jess Day, only that I would very much like to exchange her for more roommate stories, please.
It’s also possible that I’m having a strong adverse reaction to the fact that Jess spends most of “Landline” saying a Liz Lemon catchphrase over and over again, each time driving the point home a little further that 30 Rock is gone and it’s never coming back.
“Landline” does, fortunately, pit Jess against Coach once again. I’d almost forgotten that they work at the same school — in fact, I’d almost forgotten that they work. Does every episode of New Girl take place on a weekend? Why is it that no two roommates are ever at work on the same day? How often are police-academy classes? WHERE THE HELL IS FERGUSON? I have so many questions.
Jess brings Coach into her office to talk about his fling with the school nurse, yet another woman on New Girl who lacks any discernible personality traits beyond “sexual deviant.” It turns out Coach has been sleeping with Nurse Ratchet (get it? Huh? Huhhhh?) and the underutilized Angela Kinsey, so Jess holds a seminar for the weirdo teachers of her school in which she tells them, repeatedly, to … one second, choking back "30 Rock is over" tears … “Shut It Down” when it comes to interoffice relationships.
Jess’s resolve is tested when she’s introduced to the new science teacher, Ryan Geauxinue (I wasn’t the biggest fan of this joke; goes in you isn’t really a sexy phrase), who looks like he could be Legolas’s ever so slightly swarthier cousin. Helloooo, Ryan, by the way. Will you be sticking around for a while? Take a seat, get comfy, pronounce whatever you’d like while I join Jess in swooning.
At a staff meeting, Coach uses this obvious attraction as a way to expose Jess’s hypocrisy and get the school’s fraternization policies revoked. Mr. Goes-In-You obliviously assists him, and his naïveté in doing so shows that he’s potentially quite a good romantic interest for Jess. Who was that pediatrician again? Dr. About-A-Boy? I haven’t been sold on a non-Nick boyfriend for Jess since him, but Mr. Stick-It-In-Me could turn that all that around. Despite Coach’s successful convincing that teachers should all be able to boff each other, all the time, Principal Not-Gale-From-Breaking-Bad reminds Jess that she isn’t a teacher, she’s an administrator, so the rules still apply for her.
I always love a chance to hang out with the unmitigated weirdo teachers that Jess governs over, but I kept wishing the episode would go back to what it was doing really, really well instead: proving the show’s relevance by not trying to prove its relevance.
The fact that there is currently a show called Selfie on the air tells you everything you need to know about television’s skittish relationship with technology. You can practically feel the network notes oozing out of every scene in, for instance, Manhattan Love Story, or From A to Z: “Say ‘Snapchat’ here, no one’s still using Facebook,” or, “Is there a way we could replace this dialogue with emoji?” There are very real focus groups taking place, right at this very moment, wherein teens are grilled about whether they might watch a show starring Grumpy Cat and Doge.
Perhaps TV is worried that if it doesn’t prove it’s hip enough to know what, I don’t know, Yik Yak is, it will finally be forced to take its place next to the gramophone and the epic poem in the Hall of Antiquated Entertainment.
Your lack of Ariana Grande references aren’t what’s going to put you there, TV. Netflix is.
Before we go further, I realize the characters in New Girl are in their 30s, but technically millennial refers to anyone born between 1981 and 1996. I just googled it, because #IAmAMillennial.
The loft has terrible reception, so the roommates invest in a good old-fashioned landline. It’s one of those corded, avocado-green numbers, and despite some initial misgivings (Schmidt: “Why is there a rope?”), our heroes soon take to it like ducks to outmoded water. They get excited about it, and why wouldn’t they? New Girl seems to instinctively understand what so many shows do not: Millennials are not technophobic of technology from any era. We grew up figuring out how to use new technology, which means we can figure out how to use old technology that’s new to us. Moreover, we like technology. We like record players and really old TV sets. They’re cool to us. We don’t buy the newest Apple products because we’re in such a rush to do away with the old, we do it because gadgets excite us. Millennials are never as obsessively worried about staying current as the TV shows that depict us are. We don’t have to be. We’re already young.
Nick feels like he hasn’t been spending enough time with Schmidt and Winston recently, so he becomes their loft secretary as a way to learn about what’s going on in their lives. Winston has been seeing a girl he doesn’t particularly like, I guess in all the downtime he has attending the most relaxed police academy in the world? So Nick breaks up with her for him. Then he sends Schmidt’s picture into Business, Man magazine, but it was the wrong picture! Were this a children’s book, it might be called Oh No, Nick Miller!, and were this a worse show the whole thing might have been filled with a lot of “womp, womp.” But instead, “Landline” builds to two perfect comedic moments: the showdown between Nick and the answering machine, and the fact that Winston was once, and will always be, the king of talking on a landline.
Oh, also the reveal that Schmidt’s name doubles as a hilarious acronym: Some Can Have Money, I Desire Thoughtfulness.
Nick is kind of a human landline: sturdy but more or less nonfunctional, useful primarily in novelty situations. I hope that the landline becomes a mainstay of the apartment. It’s retro, much like the idea of a sitcom where nothing much happens but aggressive friendship. The landline fits. In fact, it just easily Geauxinue, New Girl.