By Aly Semigran, Hollywood.com Staff
Sitcoms, like Thanksgiving, have their own set of special little traditions. Much like how you'll spend your Turkey Day eating your standard dishes to excess, sitcoms will inevitably have one or more of their characters ruin the meal, fight with a loved one, or wear clothing only acceptable for a holiday. Okay, so sitcoms are exactly like real life in that sense.
As time goes on and the holidays get more stressful, we learn that sometimes certain traditions aren't worth keeping. The same should be true for TV around the holidays. During this week's Thanksgiving episode of New Girl, titled ""Parents,"" Jess and the gang fill up on just about every sitcom tradition and cliche in the book. When Jess invites her divorced parents (played by the great Jamie Lee Curtis and Rob Reiner) over for Thanksgiving dinner in an attempt to get them back together, things go completely awry. Meanwhile, Schmidt has his own family drama to deal with when his cousin, also named Schmidt (go-to sitcom guest star, funny man Rob Riggle), had a competition to see who is the manliest Schmidt of them all. Wackiness ensues at every corner.
Rather than our traditional weekly recap (don't worry, like New Year's resolutions, we'll go back to normal in two weeks) let's look at all the sitcom traditions New Girl abides by this and decide which ones should stay and which one should go by the way of your yearly eggnog binges. (Seriously, stop doing that.) Let us give thanks for great shows like New Girl, which is bountiful in laughs and character development for everyone but Winston. Here now, traditions that should stay or go.
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The Divorced Parents That Can't Be In The Same Room: Louis C.K. has joked that divorce is always a good thing. That no two people who no longer wantto be married to each other should stay married. Apparently, the same cannot be said for sitcom parents, who typically can't stand to even be in the same room as each other, no matter how long they've been divorced. During one episode of Friends, Rachel had to throw two different birthday parties in order to keep her sparring parents apart. During a recent episode of Parks and Recreation, Ben did his best to avoid having his bitterly divorced parents interact at all during his engagement party. Jess does the opposite during this week's New Girl when she ""accidentally"" invites her split parents to Thanksgiving. The parents inevitably come to a head and/or get along and have a brief hint at a the possibility reunion (in the case of Jess' parents, it's to make out in the bathroom.)
Verdict: Divorced parents with an ax to grind is most certainly better sitcom fodder than, say, a pair who see each other on major holidays and can tolerate each other just fine. Plus, most families are pretty damn dysfunctional, especially during parties and around the holidays. Who wants to watch a normal, happy family anyway? Keep.
Guest Stars: New Girl has three guest stars this week, including Hollywood royalty Reiner and Curtis. Curtis fits the bill perfectly as Jess' chipper, perky, huggy mom while the ""dark"" dad Reiner played well against fellow curmudgeon Nick. Guest appearances, especially as parents, is something of a double-edged sword. While the cameos are likely to earn the guest stars Emmy nominations (my money would be on Reiner here) and you're more likely to remember the characters well, you're also stuck with the celebrity connotations. From here on out, all fans will think of when they think of Jess' mom and dad are Jamie Lee Curtis and Rob Reiner.
Verdict: Use sparingly. So long as New Girl continues to use character actors and refreshingly unexpected choices like Curtis and Reiner and doesn't dive headfirst into Will & Grace guest star overload territory, they should be fine.
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Movie Plots Used As Sitcom Devices: When Jess plots and schemes to get her parents back together through a series of misadventures, including giving her mom a makeover to catch her father's eye and make him jealous, Nick (who, lest we completely ignore the fact is completely like Jess' dad, thus reigniting the theory that we all fall for someone like our parents in the end) warned against the perils of a ""makeshift Parent Trap."" It's hardly the first time a show has called upon a movie plot as their own plot device. On 30 Rock, Jenna and Tracy had to ""Elm Street Kenneth"" when he was haunting their dreams while Brad loved ""Indecent Proposal-ing"" with his wife Jane (that's rolling around on their bed of money, for the record) on Happy Endings.
Verdict: Maybe I'm just a sucker for great pop culture references, but this one is most certainly a keeper. Even if Jess' scheme isn't, as Nick points out, exactly a Parent Trap scenario, the episode makes good use of movie references. In addition to learning that Jess used to watch Rocky 4 a lot and that her fallback plan for old age is to ""Grey Gardens the crap out of Miami,"" Nick discovers that he has basically written the zombie version of Twilight.
Turkey Shenanigans: Friends set the standard for Thanksgiving sitcoms when their Turkey Day outings made for must-see TV traditions. That gang did everything from getting locked out of their apartment while their savory food was stuck inside to getting actual turkeys stuck on their heads, but it still somehow worked. Last year on New Girl, the gang put their frozen turkey in the dryer; this time around Jess, having a full-blown temper tantrum about the fact that her parents won't get back together (Zooey Deschanel's character has some growing up to do, in case you hadn't noticed), tries to put the whole turkey down the garbage disposal.
Verdict: Jeez, what did turkeys ever do to you? It's bad enough we eat a lot of them on Thanksgiving, but then we torture them on television too? This sitcom bird is officially cooked.
Hey Dude: Schmidt and Schmidt spent the entire episode attempting to one-up each other in the manliness department, doing everything from exercise routines to cooking competitions. But the whole thing was really to amuse Cece and Winston (hey, they needed some reason to be there) and break out the old gender stereotypes and use kissing a guy as the comic device to prove their masculinity. (When you're using a similar plot line to American Pie 2, you're in trouble. Don't use that movie plot as a movie device.)
Verdict: Give it a rest, dude.
What did you think of this week's New Girl? Do you think the should keep their Thanksgiving episodes a tradition? I'm game if they continue to keep Nick as their Charlie Brown and keep taking away his metaphorical life football. (""I got something bad inside of me. I ruin things."") Happy Thanksgiving!
[Photo credit: Ray Mickshaw/FOX]
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