When is it time for a show to say goodbye?
Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer to this question. Some shows survive, even thrive, multiple cast changes (see my beloved doctors of Grey’s Anatomy). Others falter once a key character leaves (The OfficenReal).
When it’s a show about a group of friends, it becomes even more challenging. Time moves on, and at a certain point it doesn’t really make sense for characters not to evolve. This remains my main complaint with the Will & Grace reboot: There will always be something a little sad to me about the fact that they’re living in the same exact apartment, doing the exact same things they were doing more than a decade ago.
When New Girl premiered in 2011, it introduced the word “adorkable,” gave us a breakout character in Schmidt (and finally, truly launched the Max Greenfield’s career), and gave viewers catchphrases I still use to this day. (At least once a week, I have occasion to use Nick Miller’s “Checks out.”) But as the show progressed through six seasons, its appeal began to wane. The series never quite figured out what to do with Winston (Lamorne Morris), making him a series of idiosyncrasies—he has an unhealthy obsession with his cat and loves crossword puzzles—instead of a fully realized character. Nick (Jake Johnson) and Jess (Zooey Deschanel) got together in the second season. Which was great, because the comedy didn’t prolong their will-they-or-won’t-they romance. And also not so great, because then the show broke them up for artificial reasons when we all knew they should be together. It turned out a little Schmidt goes a long way, and New Girl struggled to calibrate him. There are probably other reasons my affection for the show has diminished, but it’s been off the air for more than a year and that’s like ten years in TV time.
But here’s what’s great about the show returning for a seventh and final season—the comedy is back for just eight episodes. That’s plenty of time to wrap up any unfinished business, but concise enough that nothing has to drag out. The show skips ahead three years. Cece (Hannan Simone) and Schmidt’s daughter, Ruth, is now three. Winston and Aly (Nasim Pedrad) are married and expecting their first child. Jess and Nick have returned from Nick’s European book store. Jess has a nose ring. Schmidt has a mustache (something that so reminded me of his American Crime Story character). Jess is no longer a school principal, something she can’t discuss until “one of the four civil lawsuits” is settled. Schmidt is a stay-at-home dad, while Cece’s modeling business is a thriving success.
Yes, the characters, who still share a delightful rapport, have grown up. And that’s a great thing because the audience probably has, too. Someone on the writing staff must definitely have a baby because there are moments that hit so hilariously close to home that I had to pause my screener while watching. A sleep-deprived Cece and Jess go to lunch and Cece orders a glass of wine and a pot of coffee. I’ll admit right now to rocking that same beverage combination at Easter brunch a couple of weeks ago. At one point Schmidt says to his wife, “We have a kid now. One of us should be enjoying our lives.” Schmidt throws Ruth a “feminist icon”-themed birthday party, which is kind of funny even though it’s ridiculous. There’s also a great bit about being left out of important meetings at work because you’re a woman, something Cece ascribes to “male-pattern dumbness.”
Other times, the show falters and gives Ruth the tired storylines every comedy that has children on it has done at one point or another. Schmidt is desperate to get Ruth into a prestigious pre-school, the first step on a journey that will lead her to Harvard and the Oval Office. The storyline plays out exactly as you would expect.
It appears that the dramatic thrust of these final eight episodes will center on Nick and Jess’s engagement. They don’t get engaged in the premiere like Nick had planned for reasons that only happen on TV, but Jess’s father (returning guest star Rob Reiner) puts Nick on a one-month notice to propose to his daughter or he’ll rescind his blessing. But you know what? That’s fine. We only have to deal with this for a finite amount of time. The series has to end with their marriage. There’s no way it can’t.
There’s still no hope for Winston, though: The show just keeps giving him weird tics. He’s now a detective, but he gets so flummoxed he’s unable to testify on the stand—he can’t even get his own name right when questioned. But the cast is charming, the writing for the most part sharp, and it’s kind of nice to see our friends off this way.
Did we need a final season of New Girl? Probably not. Am I glad we got one? Absolutely. It checks out.
The final season of New Girl premieres tonight at 9:30 p.m. on FOX.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and the Assistant TV Editor for Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal) or her blog .