The big networks’ Tuesday night sitcom traffic jam continued last night - at least Fox and NBC’s shows did. ABC’s Tuesday comedies, Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B, took the night off to clear way for the Dancing with the Stars finale, but they’ll be back next week. Let’s take a look at what happened on last night’s new Fox sitcoms, New Girl, The Mindy Project, and Ben and Kate:
New Girl – “Eggs”
SAMANTHA: This Neal Brennan-directed episode begins when Jess and Cece’s friends, Melissa and Sadie (Kay Cannon and June Diane Raphael!), reveal that they’re pregnant. Initially, the girls are thrilled – until Sadie (who’s also Jess’s gyno) mentions how lucky she was to get her family started while she still could, and they start hearing the tick of their own biological clocks. Though Jess worries that she’s not ready yet (after all, she’s prone to using her face as a butter knife), she knows she wants a family (and to “give [her] nipples a purpose”), so she and Cece head to Sadie’s office for a check-up. Though Jess starts panicking that, even if her eggs are fine, she might not find the right guy to fertilize them (even though all the guys seem willing to make a donation), it turns out she’s not the one who should be worried – Cece’s reaching her fertile peak, and Sadie says she’s either got to start making babies now or seeing her future a little differently. She has “the talk” with Robbie, who reveals that he loves kids, and wants them “someday” – like, in ten years, maybe.
Elsewhere, Schmidt’s world is shattered when Emma isn’t incredibly thrilled by his awkwardly narrated foreplay. When he realizes he’s “in a real-life sex pickle,” he also takes a trip to Sadie’s office; armed with her expert advice and his own completely unclear euphemisms (and, for some reason, covered in feathers and gemstones), he still strikes out, and is forced to admit that maybe he and Emma just don’t work. In the process, he realizes that he and Cece worked so well because they were so into each other (as much as they both hate to admit it), a revelation which – in the midst of Cece’s new focus on family – might set the scene for a serious reunion. And, because Jess’s dad pointed out that his zombie novel sounds a little more Twilight than Dawn of the Dead, Nick is trying to find fresh inspiration. He’s got an accountabilibuddy: after Winston tells Nick that he tends to make excuses to avoid creativity, the two head to the zoo to get real-life experience – y’know, like Hemingway would (though Nick nails the writer vibe by bringing along a flask). The trip turns out to be a drunken diversion, which leads to a sleep-deprived Winston calling out Nick for not being a Finisher. The next morning, he bursts into Winston’s room with a draft of Z for Zombie, which – in addition to misspelling “rhythm” 32 times – includes a word search without any actual words. But he finished! And that’s worth something, right?
The Mindy Project - “Teen Patient”
BRADFORD: Mindy Kaling has been tweeting all week about how “Teen Patient” is her and her staff’s favorite episode of Mindy Project so far. It certainly has a different feel than previous weeks, taking the show out of the workplace and into a high school, so that Mindy can give guidance to Sophia, a 15-year-old from her building who relies on Mindy and Chelsea Handler books for sex advice, and do the whole fish-out-of-water thing. Changing the show’s setting leads to a more consistently funny episode than we’ve seen in past weeks, but “Teen Patient” devotes so much time to Mindy and guest characters like Sophia and her friends that it comes at the expense of the supporting cast, which is still taking shape.
“Teen Patient” was written by Ike Barinholtz and David Stassen and directed by Channel 101 mastermind Rob Schrab. In addition to being part of Mindy Project’s writing staff, Barinholtz is perhaps the show’s funniest and most consistent supporting character. Barinholtz and Stassen’s script effectively delivers a funny A-story for Mindy and high school pal Sophia, but the episode’s subplot, about Danny Castellano dealing with a sexual harassment claim by Betsy, doesn’t play as well. While episodes like this one that give a sizable amount of screentime to Mindy have helped to develop and explore the character in depth, we still don’t know the supporting cast as well or how they’re used best in an episode. Despite its subpar B-plot, “Teen Patient” lives up to Mindy Kaling’s Twitter hype over and demonstrates the show continuing to find its footing.
Ben and Kate - “Guitar Face”
BRADFORD: With things going so great these past few weeks between Kate and her boyfriend Will, it’s only a matter of time before the relationship hit a speed bump, and that speed bump is the fact that he’s in a ZZ Top cover band. Will’s band ZZ Scott is run by his narcissist friend Scott (played by Dave ‘Gruber’ Allen, who should be on TV more) and makes Kate panic and assume the band is terrible, until she actually sees them. ZZ Scott turns out to be surprisingly decent until she sees that Will’s guitar solo face is the same as his grotesque sex face. When Will catches Ben making fun of his guitar/sex face, he becomes understandably upset, sending Kate into a tizzy. Seinfeld was a sitcom that specialized in finding petty reasons for its characters to break up with their significant-others-of-the-week, and that’s something that Ben and Kate does well here. Will’s “guitar face” is specific and funny and a valid yet absurd reason for dumping somebody, but Ben and Kate separates itself from the callousness of the characters on Seinfeld and other sitcoms by having Kate look past Will’s shortcomings, which is what people often do in real life as an alternative to cutting and running.
Meanwhile, Tommy gets Ben a job as a snack cart driver at the country club he works at, but Ben steals a ton of golf balls and gets both of them fired. Tommy puts Ben in his “penalty box,” refusing to take his calls, leading Ben to concoct a Wacky Ben Scheme to get Tommy his job back. The plan goes so well that it even inspires Tommy’s boss to invest in Ben’s train version of the in-flight magazine Sky Mall, Rail Mall. It’s fun seeing Ben skirt responsibility and jump from job to job and crazy scheme to crazy scheme. It’s an important part of Ben’s childish nature, but I’d love to see him actually find success with a job at some point to see how that throws him through a loop. Also, let’s get ZZ Scott on the show more, if only to give us all more Dave ‘Gruber’ Allen in our lives.
Bradford Evans is Splitsider’s Associate Editor.
Samantha Pitchel writes about and watches comedy in Austin and Los Angeles.