New Girl is a show that succeeds largely on the strength of its cast, and the quality of its joke writing. The storytelling is not always as strong, or as important, but, this week, “The Crawl” stretches that laissez-faire plotting to its limit. It’s an episode where things happen, and then they just sort of stop happening. Fortunately, they paired that with some great moments, and great running bits about the comic strip Cathy, so it was still quite enjoyable to watch. Now, imagine if they had just actually put a little effort into the storytelling.
The episode is about the gang going on a bar crawl. Nick, depressed and gravy-stained after his breakup with Kai, is about to crack, and so everybody sets aside their plans to go along with him in his quest to drink his problems away. As the evening wears on, stuff happens, and people join the group, and then Nick can’t get into the last bar because he threw his shoes at a squirrel. So Winston pulls some beers out of his backpack. That’s it. That’s the end. Yeah, there’s some “Hey we all love you Nick,” stuff before that, but even that felt perfunctory and slapdash.
However, before that point, lots of funny stuff happens. Nick and Winston sing “My Girl” at karaoke with clever new lyrics. Cece gets very drunk and Hannah Simone gets to do some funny drunk-acting. Winston is weird. Coach meets a woman over and over, and then he gets her e-mail address—and why would anybody care about this? Can’t they make any of these love interests, you know, interesting? Yes, they can, if they are Fawn Moscato, who is delightful in every moment she is on screen. She’s also, apparently, a wedge betwixt Schmidt and Cece potentially getting back together, which means eventually she will be gone.
Speaking of eventually being gone: Ryan. He’s been involved with the gang quite a bit, but that appears to be coming to an end. He’s going to take a job as the headmaster of his prep school. He and Jess are going to try and make a major league, long distance relationship work. It won’t. He’ll be gone. Will he be missed? Sort of, but he’s replaceable. Jess will learn to love again. Somebody else will say “raccoon” in an adorable fashion. It’s been hard to get interested in Ryan. He’s mostly been an affable presence. At least they found a reasonable, low key way to get rid of him.
Then again, this was a very “low key” episode. It’s fine for TV to be low concept. Seinfeld was often quite low concept (and hopefully it is okay to compare a show that isn’t Mulaney to Seinfeld). They also had smart, clockwork storylines to go with their quips and antics. Nobody is asking New Girl to put all the pieces together like vintage Seinfeld, but a little more effort than what went into “The Crawl” could have turned a good episode of TV into a great one.
Chris Morgan is an Internet gadabout who writes on a variety of topics and in a variety of mediums. If he had to select one thing to promote, however, it would be his ’90s blog/podcast, Existential Parachute Pants. (You can also follow him on Twitter.)