Having famous guest stars play parents on sitcoms is a long-running tradition; most comedies use it as an opportunity to deconstruct their child by showing the audience a glimpse into the forces that formed the human being we watch every week. At times, ‘A Father’s Love’ tries to be that episode, giving definition to some of Nick Miller’s odder tendencies (like ‘angry fixing’) – but its conclusion never really hits the emotional notes it aims for, undermining the conflict for a quick, painless resolution that kind of felt like the show was shrugging its shoulders and saying “ehh… shit happens, right?”
It was nice to see Dennis Farina’s mustache on screen, a perfect bit of stunt casting for a con man father. He shows up at Nick’s doorway for a ‘visit’ – really a con to get Nick’s friends to buy him a horse for him to sell – and hijinks ensue, leading to a sweaty Nick messing up his father’s deal to sell the horse at a great profit (one of the buyers is Pasha D. Lychnikoff, best known for roles on Bent and The Big Bang Theory). In the scene, Nick finally expresses his disappointment in his father, and tells him the only thing he ever wanted was for him to say sorry… which his father never does, admitting to his mistakes but never really accepting responsibility for his shortcomings as a father.
In the final scene, Nick’s father sneaks out after promising to take him out during the day. When Jess tells him, he just shrugs and says “People don’t change”, a statement that feels out of place for both Nick’s character and the show’s tone as a whole. It’s disappointing – and not because of the lack of resolution between father and son (that note feels true to life). It’s the sudden deflation of Nick’s frustration into a depressing acceptance of his father always being his father, which means that people just don’t change. For an upbeat show like New Girl, it’s a very melancholy note to finish on.
Elsewhere, Schmidt weirdly bonded with Robby, who run into each other while stalking CeCe. This plot also kind of felt dissonant with the normal tone of New Girl – Schmidt is basically using Robby, and not just as emotional refuges. He goes as far as to tell Robbie he’s going to help get them back together, and then just break them up so he can have CeCe back. Some of the jokes are amusing, but the material never really establishes them as a good duo with Schmidt waiting to undermine him at the first open opportunity. We don’t really know Robby that well – and why he’d both keep chasing after CeCe and/or knowingly allow Schmidt to use him, it doesn’t really escape awkward interaction to become fun humor, more a cruel, passive-aggressive way for Schmidt to deflect his hurt feelings at CeCe’s rejection.
Although it has the normal range of character jokes (Nick’s sweaty back easily topping the list), ‘A Father’s Love’ is a very odd episode of New Girl, full of manipulation and repressed feelings. Ignorant versions of Nick and Schmidt don’t make for the greatest comedy, especially when dealing with some of their more important character issues, which are left on the sidelines for some wholly unsatisfying conclusions.
– Nick can’t blame all of his problems on his father: it’s a very un-Nick thing to do, a man who normally embraces his shortcomings and eccentricities.
– speaking of Nick, he does kind of look like a cross between Hilary Swank and a mad, wet dog.
– A second chance is Jess’s first favorite chance.
– Chica Go Bills is a hat logo nobody wants to wear: “Young Girl Go Bills” just doesn’t have a nice ring to it. Except Winston, of course, who attaches himself to Nick’s father since he never had one, calling him Pop Pop (which pisses Nick off every time).
– who wants to play a game of Feely Cup?