Last week on “New Girl”, we saw the return of Coach. We watched him reintegrate with embarrassing strip club antics and a general disregard for the feelings of others, and we all tried to puzzle out what his purpose might be. Was he there as a foil for Nick? Was he there to remind us of all the character quirks we’ve grown too accustomed to? Was he there to antagonize everyone into making bad decisions? Was he there because Damon Wayans, Jr. got a favor from a friend? It was hard to tell, but it definitely seemed like the show was trying to make Coach a thing. This week the trend continued, and once again the episode’s events seemed to radiate from Coach like petals on a daisy – a daisy who’s kind of mean and judgmental. Maybe he’s there to offer fresh perspectives. But if that’s the case, then why does it feel so forced?
The only one who seemed to escape the Coach trap was Jess. She was caught in a spiralling rage when a financial injustice at school means Jess can’t fulfil her mission to broaden the horizons of young minds, and her frustration extends outwards to the local Chinese restaurant. I think we’ve all done that, haven’t we? Latched on to something we don’t actually care about as a stand-in for something we actually do? It was an opportunity for Jess’s trademark sincerity to rear it’s lovely head, which is always welcome in my books. And it was nice to see one plot independent of Coach.
In relation to Nick, Coach is kind of like a nasty funhouse mirror – when Nick looks in it, he sees everything that’s wrong with himself. His reflection is wearing a track suit and shouting at him to stop being such a loser. This week, Coach isn’t raggin’ on Nick’s girlfriend, he’s raggin’ on Nick’s body. Coach asks Nick, does he want to be a Dumpling Guy or a Doing Guy? It might be a good question, but it feels mean and shallow. As much as I resent Coach, I do see here that he’s offering a fresh perspective. We’re used to Nick as a hoodie-clad lump; maybe we need to be reminded that as expected as Nick’s behaviour is, maybe it’s not so healthy.
But just like with the strip club, Coach’s antics aren’t really about anyone but himself. He’s bummed. He’s feeling crummy. He’s doubting his talents. But he was absent for the last two seasons, so why should the audience care? There hasn’t been enough development behind Coach for us to have a personal investment in his career or his love life or his self-esteem. All his time on screen feels like it would be better spent on Winston’s pathetic exploits or on Schmidt’s desperate attempts to feel involved with the Loft Crew. Spying alarm clocks and janky wheelchairs are funny, and we understand why they’re important to the overarching concept of the characters. Schmidt is a desperate try-hard who can’t stand to be alone; Winston is a goofy screw-up who’s the butt of every joke. It makes sense. Meanwhile, I don’t understand why Coach is being mean. Each time – last week with both Jess and Nick, this week again with Nick – I don’t immediate think, “Oh, Coach is at it again – covering his sadness and insecurity with macho posturing and insults.” Instead, I just think he’s a dick. So maybe the writers are building something here, but so far it feels forced. We don’t know Coach well enough to accept his quirks and asymmetries.
With Coach around, we’re also seeing a new level of loserdom from Winston. Not that Winston was ever cool – he ends up half-naked a lot, he’s always desperate for a lady love, he spent a lot of effort trying to get his cat a girlfriend, he’s consistently an awkward fifth wheel… And now he’s in a garbage wheelchair with a duct taped tensor bandage around his ankle, and he can’t even pee by himself. Before Coach, there were three roommates who were cooler than Winston; now there are four. Why is the universe so unkind to Winston? Why is Coach so unkind to Winston? Why are the writers so unkind to Winston?
So. Maybe Coach is back to remind us of all the things we’ve begun to take for granted (Nick’s laziness, Jess’s exaggerate quirks, Schmidt’s desperate need for inclusion, Winston’s perpetual status at the bottom of the heap). Maybe he’s just there to stir the pot and cause some trouble. Or maybe he’ll actually turn into a fully-developed character with a valuable place in the “New Girl” universe, and he’s just having a bumpy start. But I can’t help feeling like he’s just a bit too mean.
So, what’s your take on this whole Coach dilemma? Have you ever injured yourself eating ice cream? Would you wear Nixon jeans? Are you a Dumpling Person or a Doing Person?
Hannah McIlveen is a freelance graphic designer and TV-obsessed writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. She grew up riding horses and reading Roald Dahl books, got an art degree, and then spent the next several years moving around the country and watching television. Her greatest goals in life are to write good stuff, produce a web series, build a house with her husband, and have six cats at once. Hannah has contributed to BitchMagazine.org and is a staff blogger for the soon-to-launch TeenSized.com. She also writes her own daily blog, Click Watch Write. Hannah can be accosted on Twitter @ClickWatchWrite.