New Girl – B+
I knew there was something that rubbed me the wrong way about Sam, and Winston hits on it — he’s just not a bird shirt person, and Jess deserves a bird shirt person — Sam’s the anti-Winston. Not that Jess should ever date Winston. Anyway, admittedly Jess’ semi-selfless play — she is addicted to being a hopeless romantic, after all — is beautiful and engaging; the jukebox’s added touch of a well-timed, and mysteriously origined “Moon River” (“it’s not even on our jukebox” – CeCe) is the coup de grace. However, the main event of “Return to Sender” is Schmidt’s tenuous relationship with his unreliable dad, Gavin, and more poignantly Nick’s enduring friendship and support for Schmidt. It’s what ultimately makes Nick a compelling character, his genuine desire to make those he cares about happy. Well, that and his eccentric and borderline maniacal non-sequiturs, which are in abundance here (“how many robots are too many robots”).
The first installment of tonight’s New Girl double-shot is a simple farce, made somewhat special by the Winston & Aly B-plot as they attempt to hide their newly uncovered love from their police colleagues, for fear of job reprisals. The show makes quick work of establishing that the two are indeed now an item, as they open the episode in a sea of entwined cuteness that should be saccharinely painful, but, hey, it’s Winston and Aly. Before the secret inevitably comes out, we meet the inspired Sgt. Daniels (Greg Cromer, Nick from Community), a seemingly nice guy who attempts to blackmail the couple to cover his unique gambling problem (“I lost a 60-spot on a game of ‘I Spy'”). The episode’s title, however, is “Dress,” the titular dress is CeCe’s wedding dress, which leads Jess and Schmidt into a series of standard-issue misadventures — Jess is mistaken for an intern by Schmidt’s boss, Schmidt loses his job, Jess earns it back, the dress does not get fixed. While it’s a bit too familiar, it does lead them, and in turn, the show, to an epiphany about the strength of CeCe, and why friends will move mountains for her.
– Jason Thurston
The Grinder – A
Beyond all its meta — and “Divergence” is packed with terrific meta moments as the action mostly stems from the most ridiculous “The Grinder” clip yet and its father-son overtones, and then there’s the comment about side stories, and bewildered asides, an self-referential jokes…it’s really kind of delightfully exhausting, but this is supposed to be an aside. Beyond all The Grinder‘s meta, the freshman sitcom works, like Parks & Recreation or Brooklyn Nine-Nine, because of the depth of its extended world of characters. When Stew and Debbie talk over each other challenging plot holes in the ludicrous opening clip featuring The Grinder and his soldier son, returning for the war, it is a delicious dance that speaks to the inherent comfort and love the pair share (“so he just leaves his son right after he comes back from the war?” “oh, yeah, and what war?”). When Dean abandons his niece’s boyfriend in a high school disagreement that serves as his show-outside-the-show’s side story, her hurt is palpable and moving. That’s not to say it’s not deliriously, Naked Gun-level funny right up to the moment Manler (Kenny Lucas in a rare non-twin role) takes an absurdly long time to pack after Dean storms in with the solution to the case…and…cut for cliffhanger — but not before Stew asks “do you know what the solution is?”
– Jason Thurston