Every once in a while, New Girl deals with the idea of differing classes, mostly because Schmidt makes an untold amount of money, while Nick is usually struggling to pay for drunken poker bets and has the credit rating of a homeless ghost. But in “Fancyman (Pt. 1)”, we meet Russell, played by Dermot Mulroney, a character so successful he makes Schmidt look like a pauper and inspires Nick to want to be so successful that he could be president of Earth.
Russell is the father of a student that Jess teaches who comes by the school to check in on his daughter’s progress. Russell isn’t so much a fan of Jess’ unorthodox teaching style, but surprisingly doesn’t seem to have a much of a problem with her “sex alternatives” outfit, which features a bowler hat, a desk full of cucumbers and a sign that reads “Mr. Monogamy.” The two clash, but since Russell is a major contributor to Jess’ school, she must apologize as per the instructions of her principal. On her way to chew Russell out instead, which will also include a bluegrass rendition of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” her car breaks down and who shows up but Russell, offering his much nicer car to drive for the day and inviting her to his house for a cookout the next day. Jess brings Nick along, who instantly changes his opinion of the wealthy Russell and falls in love with the man. Even though Jess tries to fight the obvious differences between her and Russell, she agrees to go on a date with him, I’m going to take a wild guess and say in “Fancyman (Pt. 2)”
Jess and Russell’s gaps in ideals and lifestyles are fun to watch and it is good to see Jess going against someone successful that isn’t cocky, like Schmidt. But what really works in “Fancyman (Pt. 1)” is the evolution of Nick. We are starting to see a Nick who isn’t content with where he is in his life and wants something more. While most of this is shown through humorous anecdotes at Russell’s desk, there is an underlying longing there. Without giving away spoilers given by recent casting choices for the rest of the season, this seems like something that should power through Nick’s decisions throughout the rest of the season, and that seems like a good choice. Nick is the most conflicted character on New Girl, slackerish, always a bit down, yet willing to take the occasional chance. Nick is probably the deepest character on the show, and I’m excited to see where this newfound determination takes him.
My biggest fault with “Fancyman (Pt. 1)” is something that I should expect given the other romantic interests played by Justin Long, Lizzy Caplan and Lake Bell. But the use of big name guest stars pretty much screams that they are only going to inhabit this half-hour space for so long, and even from the episode’s title, you can pretty much tell that Mulroney should be gone after next week. Now with the other guest stars, they came and went without leaving much impact on the series or the characters, but hopefully Russell will at least add a morsel of change to Nick’s way of life.
Winston and Schmidt do share a cute side story about how intimidating at trivia Schmidt is, no surprise given how good he is at rattling off one-liners, but the meat of the story belongs to Nick and Jess. I am hoping though that we get to see Russell integrate with the group at least a bit next week, since the meeting of Russell and Schmidt will surely make the world tilt off of its axis.
“Fancyman (Pt. 1)” is an attempt for the characters of New Girl to make life changes for themselves, most specifically Nick, the episode’s clear MVP. It would be great for New Girl to have its characters have some overarching goals in their lives, rather than just the need to find a new significant other. This motivation is a welcome shift from what New Girl usually poses, and maybe “Fancyman (Pt. 2)” will deal more with that change and the goal of bettering yourself without compromising who you are, which seems to be New Girl’s mantra.