Maybe I’m buoyed by recent debate shimmies, or perhaps it’s because I spent the summer enjoying Liz Meriwether’s takes on the political climate. Maybe I’m just a huge sucker for sincere displays of Democratic feeling, a sensation that was instilled in me through repeated viewings of The West Wing and an excellent eighth-grade social-studies teacher.
Whatever the case, New Girl decided to do a pro-Hillary get-out-the-vote episode, and it was fairly middle of the road, as far as sitcoms go. But I am here for it.
Jess is fired up about Hillary Clinton, because of course she is. Cece is joining her to canvass for Hillary, and Schmidt bets that they can’t sign up five new voters. Schmidt is sitting out this entire election year, but he’s put all his eggs in a future basket — Paul Ryan 2020. Good luck with that, Schmidt. The stakes of the bet are simple. If Jess and Cece manage to register at least five new voters, Schmidt will vote for Hillary. If they can’t do it, they are prohibited from voting for Hillary and instead will have to vote for Winston. (“Bishop?” Winston asks from across the room. “Winston Bishop?”)
Other through-lines swirl around the episode, of course: Cece has graduated from community college and is transferring to a four-year school, and Schmidt launches an effort to clean up the Loft. But the main subplot in “Hubbedy Bubby” is Nick’s long-distance relationship with Reagan. He’s having a hard time establishing a connection from a distance, and he is millennially terrible at phone calls. In the midst of one truly inept call, Nick somehow suggests that he and Reagan try phone sex. Winston, who is now practiced at “The Long D” (ew) thanks to his separation from Aly, offers to help. With a video-equipped sex shed.
Things go awry, as they always do, and Nick winds up dressed for an outer-space video sex adventure with Reagan using Winston’s backdrop and props. He calls Aly instead, drops his pants, and a desperate Winston and Nick end up simulating various sexual postures in front of a backdrop of hurtling asteroids. This story is … fine? I guess? The unquestionable high point is the brief excerpt of Winston’s more successful video assignations, featuring a tropical background and a narrative about how they need to make love before the Japanese bombs hit.
Eventually, Winston comes up with the brilliant idea of using Nick’s own words, gathered carefully from a series of greeting cards he sent Winston while he was playing basketball in Latvia. (“I was away playing basketball in Latvia” is still one of my favorite reasons for a character’s absence from a show.) This time, Nick gets on the phone with Reagan — presumably, at least, because Megan Fox has yet to grace this season with her presence, so we just have to hope that her voice is on the other end of the line — and gets things going for real. Once Winston leaves, that is. Winston. Get out. Winston. I’m serious.
While Nick is trying to get his rocks off, Jess and Cece are trying to ensure that Donald Trump’s monster-shaped shadow never darkens the White House. They are initially rebuffed at the local campaign office by poor Mary Ellen, played well by The Office’s Kate Flannery, even though she’s given little to do. They’re stuck stuffing envelopes and quickly realize that they’ll never actually register five people by working on the mailers. So they steal what they assume is a list of likely voters and set out on foot, which eventually leads them to a sorority house.
Okay, this is a little bit of nonsense. A sorority house is listed as a place to canvass? That’s fine, of course, but surely Jess and Cece could’ve just shown up at any random college dorm and been equally effective? Given the final twist that these alcoholic collegians are rabid Trump fans, it seems particularly unlikely that a campaign would target them, but I suppose nobody watches New Girl for its plausible plotting.
As Jess and Cece are out hitting the pavement, Schmidt shows up at the campaign office to deliver Cece’s first college admissions letter. This bit, in which Schmidt is incapable of leaving a Democratic campaign office because he so badly wants to organize it, is pretty dumb. It is also the funniest bit of the episode. The highlight is supposed to be when Schmidt gets kicked out for making voter calls and asking them to support “Hubbedy Bubby” and “Hibbidy Bibbity.” (He’s unable, of course, to utter the words “Hillary Clinton” with sincerity.) For me, the high point was Schmidt’s dictatorial stint on the mail desk, calling imperiously for more “’LOPES!”
Meanwhile, Cece gets access to the sorority by showing up with a few handles of booze, a gesture that seems brilliant until they drunkenly realize that the registration clipboards are filled with signatures from Ivana Getsome, Anita Wang, and an increasingly unlikely list of similar names. (Holden D. Cankles is pretty bad. For whatever reason, though, Diarrhea Jones made me snicker cruelly.) Jess tries to take things in stride, but she’s frustrated by their apathy and ends up high up on the sorority’s balcony, making an impassioned appeal to their patriotism. And somehow, it works! Jess and Cece march the young women to the campaign office for more voter-registration forms, ultimately abandoning the mission once they realize it’s a sorority full of Ivanka fans.
There are several big questions here. The first is whether a sitcom episode devoted to explicit electioneering and an attempt to drum up enthusiasm for a specific candidate can, you know, actually work. It’s hard to say, of course — until political scientists do some solid polling on the New Girl effect, I suspect we’ll be in the dark. The second is, politics aside, whether this makes a good episode of TV.
I wish that were easier to answer. This episode enforces my own political leanings; if this were a recap of an episode of The Ranch, in which Ashton Kutcher goes around trying to drum up support for Donald Trump, I hope I’d be equally willing to judge it on its merits. To be honest, this is a middle-of-the-road New Girl at best. Part of the problem is that Jess is often the subject of this show’s gentle ridicule. After she’s spent so much time throwing herself onto windshields, it’s hard to take her seriously when she stands on a balcony and yells about America. This show is much better at sincerely presenting True America than it is demonstrating earnestness about Actual America. I hate to say this, but Will & Grace did it a smidge better.
And yet, at a political moment like this one, it’s hard not to give points for the effort. Take that as you like, though — I’m such a sap that I’m even willing to applaud joking celebrity endorsement videos. All else aside, “Hubbedy Bubby” gave us Zooey Deschanel as Donald Trump, standing on a curb and yelling, “You’re fired!” That’s a joke I can get behind.