New Girl Review: “Background Check”

(Episode 4.06)

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<i>New Girl</i> Review: &#8220;Background Check&#8221;

For a moment, let us presuppose that there was an adult woman. Like, a woman with a job—a good, reputable job. Now, imagine that she found a big ol’ bag of what she presumed was methamphetamine within a footstool she bought. Would you believe there’d be any chance, any chance at all, that said adult woman would simply toss that meth in her closet, and leave it there? Because that is what “Background Check,” the latest episode of New Girl, asks you to believe.

Not only has Jess left a bag of meth in her closet, it just so happens that Winston has a stern, no-nonsense police officer heading over to do a background check on him. Cops and crystal meth! How can hilarity not ensue? Well, because it is a supremely silly, strained jumping off point for the entire gang (who all feature in the brand new, less good, opening credits of the show) to get into all sorts of wacky hijinx.

This contrivance casts a pall over “Background Check,” one the show cannot entirely bounce back from. Sure, Zooey Deschanel gets to act ridiculous, and try and stuff meth down a drain, and shove it into her bra, and act all drugged up. Is some of it funny? Absolutely. Does Nick get to sweat a bunch, and wear a kimono, and tell the policewoman about a bunch of weird things he did as a kid? Yes, and it is funny. Coach going out to try and find a person to pose as a kid that Winston mentors works less, and Schmidt and Cece don’t get a ton to do except kiss and flirt, and do what they’ve done a million times before. The only thing funny that Schmidt and Coach get to do is discuss their outlet mall strategy.

All of the other funny jokes and humorous bits don’t make up for the fact that the show asks the viewer to believe Jess just decided to keep a bag of meth around. Sitcoms can bend reality and take some liberties, but they can only go so far, and New Girl went too far with this premise. Plus, in the end it turns out it wasn’t meth at all, just rocks. Hey, at least Winston is apparently a good cadet. That’s news.

New Girl can coast on the strength of its cast and its well-written jokes, but the show can do so much more on a good night. “Background Check” does not represent a good night. They flew too close to the Sun on wings of fake crystal meth. And there are a million plausible stories the show could tell about the gang getting in over their heads, and making bad decisions. This was not one they could get away with. You can say the word “kimono” funny, but that does not a full episode of television make.

Chris Morgan is an Internet gadabout who writes on a variety of topics and in a variety of mediums. If he had to select one thing to promote, however, it would be his ’90s blog/podcast, Existential Parachute Pants. (You can also follow him on Twitter.)