New Girl Review: “Julie Berkman’s Older Sister”

(Episode 4.03)

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<i>New Girl</i> Review: &#8220;Julie Berkman&#8217;s Older Sister&#8221;

“Julie Berkman’s Older Sister” is titled in a similar vein as New Girl’s season two finale “Elaine’s Big Day,” wherein an obscure character gets name-checked. In fact, Ms. Berkman doesn’t even appear in this episode, but the titular older sister does (without especially inspiring results).

Rob Reiner returns as Jess’ dad, bringing the somewhat murky, not entirely interesting romantic history of Jess’ parents back to the forefront. The twist here is that the woman who Papa Day is dating (played by the typically delightful Kaitlin Olson) went to school with Jess and Cece… but that’s not the only twist. She’s also a frequenter of sexual rehab, but she swears the fourth times a charm. So, obviously, Jess is not into this, and Cece is along for the ride, so that she has somebody to interact with. And then eventually Jess gets run over by a guy on a bike.

The journey to that point is not necessarily interesting, or funny. The notion of somebody having had a bunch of sex with a bunch of people is not enough to hang comedy on, and there aren’t quite enough humorous moments here. Olson is tremendous on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but here she is merely serviceable. Eventually, Jess and her dad have a heart to heart, and before Olson’s Ashley can get away, Jess is hit by the aforementioned bike. That gets Ashley’s attention long enough for Jess’ dad to ask her to marry him. She says yes, but there is no real reason to care.

Meanwhile, in an equally uninteresting story, Schmidt is trying to get the sponge account at work. More to the point, an account for selling sponges to men, which seems odd, because gender-based sponge selling just seems like an off idea. People buy sponges because they need sponges, but the show seems to at least understand that this is kind of silly, and it really is only a MacGuffin to get the action going.

In short, Schmidt tries to use the other three dudes in the loft as an ersatz focus group, and then tries to rig his actual focus group by bringing Nick, Coach, and Winston in. Naturally, it fails. And,naturally, Nick helps Schmidt get the account anyway.

There are a couple funny things in here, such as the word association game the guys play where the first thing everybody thinks of when Schmidt says “sponge” is “sponge.” Additionally, Michaela Watkins is fantastic as Schmidt’s boss. It’s strange that she has not found some sort of project that really showcases her talent. Even in the movie They Came Together (where she may not have any actual jokes), she’s funny and interesting. Again, considering that this is not an especially fruitful role, she’s enjoyable to watch. The sponge ad at the end, however, is less enjoyable to watch.

Really, this episode is all downhill after the cold open, which involves a lot of yelling and talk of French presses and pulp bowls. That’s not to say “Julie Berkman’s Older Sister” isn’t good. It’s fine. It’s serviceable. It’s also a step down from the first couple of episodes. The stories don’t really work, but the show is strong enough that the actors can wring some laughs out of lesser stuff. Every sitcom episode can’t be gold. I mean, they could, but it just doesn’t happen. New Girl can be forgiven for merely being solid, every now and then.

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.)

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