Fresh Off the Boat – A
At its best, Fresh Off the Boat excels in effortlessly tying together the profound with the endearing without losing the funny, so a family flashback episode is pretty well in its wheelhouse. Fresh Off the Boat at its best excels in effortlessly tying together the profound with the endearing without losing the funny, so a family flashback episode is pretty well in its wheelhouse.An Evan-centric episode is always welcome, but this one gets right at the essence of the precocious youngest Huang as he questions the authenticity of his given name. Fresh Off the Boat at its best excels in effortlessly tying together the profound with the endearing without losing the funny, so a family flashback episode is pretty well in its wheelhouse. After Evan takes advantage of a broken toaster to coerce the family to the bank to open his first account (comes with a free toaster), he finds out his name was courtesy of chance, its alliteration with his siblings, and the last name of a nurse — not even the one who delivered him. This leads — as it does — to a series of memories (which of course every Huang can see), all of which illustrate how members of the clan relate to their own name (although Emory gets a bit glossed over) — a connection even more fraught for the parents, Chinese immigrants who had to adopt a new one to please lazy Americans. “Hi, My Name Is…” flows into flashbacks a bit haphazardly, but it adds some nature to a truly surreal episode, made all the more lovely by how it all connects to just how the names brought them together in the world’s grossest meet-cute. The punctuation is a brilliant coda featuring Grandma Jenny’s name origin story, Garfield books, and the perfect crime.
– Jason Thurston
New Girl – A
Often when a show on the renewal bubble airs two episodes in a night, it’s burning them off. However, New Girl received its surprisingly late-arriving announcement of a sixth season a couple weeks ago, and this dual blast of New Girl would have lost impact if aired any other way. The two episodes weave together the tales of Schmidt and CeCe’s concurrent bachelor and bachelorette parties in a crazy double-narrative reminiscent of the underrated 1999 movie Go! (also homaged in a classic Simpsons episode) — and the foreshadowings are as rampant (and brilliant) in the first installment as the callbacks in the later airing. Once it all ties together, it’s clear you’ve witnessed a very special moment of sitcom gold.
When Schmidt and CeCe are accosted by Kid Rock-looking, road-raging madman Toby, Schmidt’s always comical manhood is challenged and he abruptly switches his bachelor party from Tokyo to Vegas. Their mission is stalled when Schmidt crashes his ill-advised moped and the motley groomsman including the male loftmates, CeCe’s pining ex (Nelson Franklin), Schmidt’s obnoxious ex-boss (Rob Riggle) and the vapidly erudite force of nature that is J. Cronkite Valley Forge (Fred Malamed, in his best role to date). Winston is still pining after Ally — extra stoked by Jess’ odd e-mail (whose incoherence is one of the mysteries solved in the next episode) — and when Schmidt picks a fight with a bar of L.A.-hating bikers, narrated hilariously by Nick, Winston’s aggressive and wholly-Winston dance-brawl moves are the highlight of the funniest screen donnybrook since Brick killed a guy in Anchorman. Yes, that’s quite the overpacked sentence there, but that’s part of the power of last night’s New Girl — a collection of farcical genius flashing by at a pace with which it’s hard to keep up.
Meanwhile, as seen in the second episode of the night, Jess and CeCe are settling in for a subdued bachelorette party of chilling in the loft when a wedding present arrives. It is a breadmaker which comes with a side-helping of passive-aggressive needling courtesy of Schmidt’s mom, sending CeCe into a destructive rage. By the time it becomes clear how important the gift is to her soon-to-be spouse, she and Jess are both way too high for the trip to exchange it that descends into a caper. It’s predictable, but oh so much fun, and high Jess, against all odds, is one of the rare TV representations of stoner antics that goes both broad and reverent — and what a fun trip it is. When the boys return, the revelations abound, everything connects, and it all wraps up together in an end worthy of Shakespeare. Ok, that’s an oversell, but in this up-and-down season of New Girl, the show has worked when tackling relationships changing as one pair gets married and when Winston lets his neurotic freak flag fly. This pair of episodes combines the two flawlessly into a cinematic blender of classic farce.
– Jason Thurston