Prince, an icon if there ever was one, passed away on Thursday. He was an incredible songwriter, a fantastic guitarist, and a genuine eccentric. For those pop culture aficionados, one of the greatest things about him was that he was an unusual guy who would pop up in odd places, and inspired many an amusing anecdote. After all, who else could be memorialized in portrayal by Dave Chappelle in a story about dominating basketball and eating pancakes? It was never a surprise to hear some odd news about Prince, and yet, it still felt wonderfully bizarre when the Purple One appeared on an episode of New Girl.
New Girl is a very good show—but it is not a “big” show. It doesn’t set the world alight, it doesn’t get exceptional ratings and it doesn’t win big during awards season. Prince is a huge megastar and he didn’t have to do anything he didn’t want to do. He once sent “Weird Al” Yankovic a letter telling Al not to make eye contact with him during an awards show. So on the surface, it wouldn’t make sense for Prince, of all people, to show up on an episode of New Girl at random.
Granted, Prince’s episode, fittingly entitled “Prince,” was a Super Bowl lead out episode. The man who once rocked the Super Bowl halftime show was appearing on an episode of TV that would assuredly get some bigtime ratings. Indeed, by far and away “Prince” is the highest rated episode of New Girl. It’d be easy to assume that the New Girl crew asked/begged Prince to appear in what would be a hugely watched episode of TV—and he said sure, because it was a chance to get some exposure for a couple of records he had coming out (including that record he was making with 3rdeyegirl). This, however, would not be the case.
Prince, in all his delightful strangeness, actually asked to be on the show. During the second season, he contacted Zooey Deschanel and Hannah Simone (because, after all, this is Prince we’re talking about) directly, and said he was a big fan of the show and wanted to be on it. In other words, Prince loved New Girl so much that he volunteered to appear on the show. He lent his name, and his presence, and basically wanted to do New Girl a solid, which is amazing. And everyone involved with the show was smart enough to essentially turn the whole thing over to him.
In the episode, Jess and Cece find themselves invited to a party that Prince is throwing at a mansion, and then all the guys, which, at the time, included Coach, decide to crash the party. Prince gives Jess and Nick relationship advice (because he told the producers he wanted to be part of bringing them together as a couple), and in the end Jess sings a song with Prince. Prince also plays table tennis with Cece, because, as you may or not may not know, Prince loved table tennis. He loses to Cece, but only for comedy’s sake. We all know that, in real life, Prince was probably the best ping pong player to ever walk this earth.
Now it certainly wasn’t the greatest episode of New Girl, but it felt momentous. This was the power of Prince’s presence, and his aura. Who wouldn’t want to see Prince on a sitcom? And who, but Prince, would randomly show up on a sitcom like New Girl? It will surely go down as a strange, fabulous moment in the history of the series, and also a testament to the kind of life Prince chose to live.
As we celebrate his legacy, we can’t help but rejoice over the fact that the great one got to play a role on one of his favorite shows, and to enjoy Nick and Jess getting together, Schmidt and Cece getting engaged and Winston getting a cat named Ferguson. It’s a shame that Prince won’t get to see how it all ends, but at least he got to be a part of the fun. And at least we mere mortals got to witness it.
Chris Morgan is not the author of THE book on Mystery Science Theater 3000, but he is the author of A book on Mystery Science Theater 3000. He’s also on Twitter.