New Girl "Parents" Review: A Tale of Two Schmidttys

By MaryAnn Sleasman

Nov 21, 2012

New Girl S02E08: “Parents”

Jamie Lee Curtis and Rob Reiner guest-starred as Jess’s long-divorced parents on New Girl’s ode to dysfunctional family Thanksgivings. Jess apparently has a long history of ensnaring her parents in “parent traps” in the name of reuniting the family, and this Thanksgiving was no exception when her carefully scheduled parental dinner sessions just so happened to overlap, forcing them to share a meal for the sake of politeness. Oopsie.

Schmidt’s meathead cousin, played by Rob Riggle of The Daily Show and SNL fame, also got in on the awful family awkwardness fun when he referred to himself as “Schmidt,” much to our Schmidt’s consternation. It’s like Highlander—there can be only one. Unhappy with the title of “Schmagle” that Big Schmidt so graciously bestowed upon him, Schmidt participated in a battle of manliness to determine which cousin had the right to the Schmidt title. Things definitely got a little weird—but such is the nature of Thanksgiving, right? I mean, I’ve been to dinners where the kids' table ends up drunker than the adult table, mostly because the “kids” in question are now in their twenties, but it’s still bizarre—especially when the adults continue to make you sit at one of those little plastic Fisher Price numbers.

Jess and Cece gave Momma Day a makeover and Jess encouraged Nick to flirt with her mom to pique her father’s interest. Nick wasn’t a huge fan of that idea because without twins, Jess’s parent trap wasn’t a true parent trap. He was also concerned that he would ruin it because, as he said, “I’ve got something bad inside me. I ruin things.” And of course, the icing on the cake, Nick and Papa Day actually got along quite well, what with both of them being miserable human beings who really just wanted to get through the day drunk and un-food-poisoned.

Except, of course, Nick eventually caved to Jess’s pleas and once the flirting started, it didn’t stop... until Jess’s dad took a shot of turkey drippings to the chest. Whisking her ex-husband to the bathroom to clean him up, a parental makeout session ensued, much to Jess’s delight. Unfortunately, a turkey-fueled makeout session does not a re-marriage make, and when the sad, brutal truth came out at dinner, Jess unceremoniously tried to jam the turkey into the garbage disposal as Big Schmidt and Schmagle entered round two of their feud: a more refined manhood. And Winston? Poor Winston just wanted to get his tryptophan coma on.

At the center of this festive New Girl was the age-old question of what actually makes a family a family. Sure, it’s been done a billion times over, with each holiday season stuffed to the brim with fables meant to remind us that we don’t have to have the Norman Rockwell turkey dinner—or a picture-perfect nuclear family, or the most obnoxious Christmas-light extravaganza on the block—to understand and appreciate the sentiment of the holiday season. Jess’s desire for her parents to get back together can be traced to its original childhood hurt, the initial break-up that was probably so jarring to her understanding of “family.” Jess has often been portrayed as the most “innocent” and naive of the four loftmates, and it would have been easy for the New Girl writers to base the entire parent trap joke on this single aspect of Jess’s character. It still would have been funny. Jess’s disappointment at her parents’ refusal to get back together would have smarted. But the characters we’ve grown attached to on New Girl are more intricately written than that; they're more than merely one-dimensional puppets.

Jess’s parent trap tradition may have been born out of childhood fears and wants, but over the years, as Jess has grown into an adult, her motivation also evolved. This Thanksgiving, it wasn’t about having the picture-perfect, two-parent family. With the revelation that her father’s longtime post-Momma Day partner had cheated on him, Jess worried that as her parents aged untethered to any significant others, that they would become sad and lonely old people. She saw the worst possible outcome to their situation and immediately applied it to her own life, which hasn’t been so awesome with the romance aspect either.

When finally confronted with the truth about her parents’ relationship and the problematic nature of her relentless quest to force them back together, Jess lamented that she only wanted a family. Her mother pointed out that she has a family—even divorced, her parents are still there for her. The Days are still a family, just a different kind of family. Jess also has Schmidt, Nick, Winston, and Cece. It’s the seasonally contrived sort of message every TV show seems to clamor for every holiday season, especially during Thanksgiving, which by its very nature is supposed to be all about looking at what you have and being content with it... and also football and food comas and, for the cynical among us, smallpox.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not a story worth telling. Blah blah blah families come in all shapes and sizes and they don’t even necessarily have to share DNA to be valid. I’ve considered Jess, Cece, Nick, Winston, and Schmidt to be a TV family of their own breed since New Girl debuted. It was nice to see New Girl acknowledge that fact as well.


NOTES


– One-liner of the night, from Cousin Schmidt: “I got the belts set up in the bedroom. Ready to see who blacks out first?” Awkward.

– “You’re gonna love my dad so much—he’s so unhappy.” The miserable relatives never fail to be the coolest relatives at the dinner table, yo.

– The boys’ disbelief that anyone could be perkier than Jess was great. OH THE HORROR.

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  • vcivi Nov 26, 2012

    Love it....!! Jamie Lee Curtis played her role, really nicely...and loved the cousin of Schmid...!!

  • FoxZerro Nov 23, 2012

    I was disappointed by the episode, not so much because it was a load of cliches stitched together to form 22 minutes of entertainment, but mostly because I felt like I fell victim to a bait and switch.

    When I saw on my DVR that the episode was titled Parents I was excited, I thought we would get to meet all of the parents of these characters we have come to know. Since we've already met Winston's mother it would have been nice to see where everybody else came from, even if it was one of those they are just like their parents episodes or they still used the old reliable stereotype of the guy a girl likes being just like her father bit. Had we gotten more than just Jess' parents in an episode titled "Parents" then I would have been much happier. I think adding the trap to the end would have done wonders for the episode. I wouldn't have immediately gone for that reference, since as Nick pointed out there are no twins in New Girl, and the episode probably wouldn't have disappointed me from the start. I guess its my fault for continuing to forget that the show called New Girl is about Jess, because her three roommates (yes, even the one who barely had his own plots) are more likable and interesting than the title character.

    My second issue was with Cece being at the Thanksgiving, and it could have been easily rectified with one line of dialog. I completely understand an accept that she is part of the family that lives in the loft, but having no mention of her boyfriend Robbie and why he wasn't there just felt so off. You have the one line of dialog where Schmidt or Winston asks where's Robbie and have her answer he went back home for Thanksgiving, and suddenly I'm not spending the entire episode wondering what the deal is there. Especially on the heels of the kiss between Cece and Schmidt last week. Again me putting more focus on non-title characters again, and I understand that is problem that I have and I'm seeking help. Still when New Girl finally started to become great last season is when we began having much deeper storylines for Winston, Nick, and Schmidt, so with this season having such a heavy Jess focus, its more than a bit troubling.

    With that mentioned I did like what the episode did for building the world up a bit. Jess being a child of divorce certainly better explains her character and her motivations for acting the way that she does. The way she handled the break-up in the first episode is now made all the more clear, because let's face it like all children, she doesn't want to repeat the mistakes of her parents. While a lot of people are griping over the Jess if her Mom and Nick is Jess' Dad bit I prefer to look for the Black Aura and note that in the end their relationship didn't work out. Quickies in the elevator are one thing, but true, everlasting love does not come from that particularly coupling of personalities so it could mean that they will hold off from trying it.

    For all the positive world building there was one bit that struck me as odd... the fact that Jess has a Master's degree. I feel like that was brand new information and unfortunately it just did not jive with the character that we know up to this point, even going as current eventy as her reaction of throwing the turkey in the sink. I know that this show is trying to capture the whole tone of the real world, and part of that is people with Master's Degrees still having a hard time finding work, but the truth is its not like she has a Master's in English, it would clearly be for teaching and even with layoffs she would probably be able to find another job (as she has as of last episode) but it just makes that whole finding myself story arc that much harder to swallow. Not to mention if the show were grounded in the real world, as it seems to be doing Jess would have been laid off at the end of last school year not the beginning of this one. That's what teacher's unions are for. Sorry just left a bad taste in my mouth.

  • TrueTvWatcher Nov 22, 2012

    Awesome Episode, loved Jess's parents and Schmidt's cousin!

  • SaraLarsson1 Nov 22, 2012

    The biggest cliché of this episode was that Jess' parents were exactly like Jess and Nick. Come on New Girl, I thought you were better than that.

  • DavidJackson8 Nov 23, 2012

    I'm not so sure about how similar Jess was with her mom, but I did kind of roll my eyes at Nick being the same as Jess' dad. It worked well for the comedy aspect of it, but I did kind of groan at the fact that of COURSE Jess is attracted to somebody exactly like her father.

  • SaraLarsson1 Nov 23, 2012

    I was thinking about the whole being "perky" part, walking in with a pilgrim hat and having an overly positive attitude. It was very "Jess-y". And like you pointed out, Nick is exactly like her dad. I just think it's a big cliché when tv-shows have a future/could-be/will they-won't they couple, and it turns out that one of the persons mom or dad is just like the other person of the couple (or both of the parents are just like the couple, as in this episode)..

  • bicelis Nov 22, 2012

    Nick hitting on Jess' mom was hilarious :)
    The best line also goes to Nick "I've got something bad inside me. I ruin things.". When Nick says it, it's super funny.

  • Bujemi Nov 22, 2012

    Haha "I can do this all day! ALL DAY! Winston! Winston! I can do this all day, all Day! Winston! WINSTON! I can do this all day!" Best ever...

  • TypeB Nov 24, 2012

    That was the best line for me in this episode.

  • quasar9 Nov 22, 2012

    Haha Nick is always the best.

  • coutterhill Nov 22, 2012

    I loved when her dad tried to leave and mom yells, "stay in case something needs to be ruined." something along those lines, laughed really hard. Also at the parent trap flashbacks, funny.

  • CrazyAsian1080 Nov 22, 2012

    Warm Bodies. A movie about a zombie that falls in love with a human. I think it might be set in Seattle as well. I wonder if Nick did write his and got it made into a movie >.

  • Montana_Katana Nov 22, 2012

    Favorite line(s):
    "What are you doing?"
    "I'm bored"
    "Nice"

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