It has been, in the parlance of our increasingly tedious times, a minute since we’ve seen the New Girl gang, now sans Coach. The fourth season ended on a big note, with Schmidt proposing to Cece. It was a massive moment in the world of the show, so, naturally, the fifth season begins right where things left off.
“Big Mama P” is all about Schmidt and Cece’s upcoming wedding. First, we see Jess and Nick get crowned maid of honor and the best man, respectively, and we also find out that Winston is a hero cop now. However, since this is a sitcom, and since this particular collection of characters is not necessarily on the ball, by and large, the wedding stuff does not exactly go well.
Jess keeps insisting this will be the “year of us,” and since she insists so in song it must be true. But this episode tries its best to refute that. The real crux of the wedding plans, in this particular episode, involves Jess flying Cece’s mom in for a big party and some Bollywood dancing. The only problem, as we find out in a flashback that reminds us the show managed to find a girl who looks exactly like a young Hannah Simone, is that Cece’s mom is a stern, no-nonsense woman. Also, she didn’t want Cece marrying a white guy, and Schmidt is the whitest guy.
All the traditional sitcom notes are hit. Cece hasn’t told her mom that she is getting married. Nick picks up the wrong woman at the airport, a woman who doesn’t speak English. Jess falls down a ton of stairs and breaks both her legs. On its surface, it feels warmed over. Indeed, when it was revealed, and in truth the payoff was so obvious the reveal wasn’t even necessary, that Nick picked up the wrong woman, it felt groan-worthy.
Yet, it worked, because Nick is really funny, Jake Johnson is great, Zooey Deschanel took a good spill down the stairs and we got to see Robbie again. Basically, this was an ensemble episode, and the ensemble was en pointe, because this is a cast of characters that work best when they are failing. Like when Winston fails at his latest prank, which is putting a feather in Cece’s mom’s shoe. It’s no badger prank, but Prank Sinatra proved he’s not merely a hero cop.
Even after the big Bollywood number, which was probably cool if you like that sort of thing, (and Schmidt and Nick joining in was funny), Cece’s mom doesn’t approve, but the gang all joins together in approval. Now, Schmidt’s marriage Venn diagram has the key components; our core gang.
“Big Mama P” is New Girl firing on all cylinders out of the gate. Everybody was serviced, but it was all within one story, so it didn’t feel too busy. They managed a balancing of tone, hitting the serious moments well, without overloading on them, and letting comedy reign supreme. Maybe it won’t be the year of the New Girl gang, but they certainly are going to try their hardest to make it work. All the broken legs and mysterious Indian women in the world won’t stop them.
Chris Morgan is not the author of THE book on Mystery Science Theater 3000, but he is the author of A book on Mystery Science Theater 3000. He’s also on Twitter.