This past week, I got way more worked up than should ever be necessary over a blog post. Over at Jezebel, Kate Dries proclaimed that we’re all probably taking sitcoms too seriously. This declaration came in response to an excellent Indiewire piece by Alyssa Rosenberg, wherein Rosenberg addressed the progression of New Girl‘s Jess Day and The Mindy Project‘s Mindy Lahiri over the course of those series’ short runs. What Dries appeared to take issue with in particular was Rosenberg’s suggestion that New Girl‘s supporting characters hadn’t yet been as fleshed out as Jess. Here’s what Rosenberg wrote:
The third-season [New Girl] premiere has some weird notes reminiscent of its rocky first year, like giving Winston and obsession with puzzles and newly-diagnosed color-blindness, the kinds of traits that acted as placeholders for Jess’s actual personality before New Girl figured out who she is as a person. Three years in, you’d think they’ve have done the same work for all of her supporting characters. And Schmidt seems to have lost some of his specific anxiousness and returned to his bro-y origins as he tries to delay choosing between Elizabeth, his not-thin college girlfriend, with whom he’d recently reunited, and Cece, his newly-single model ex-girlfriend.
And here is what Dries took away from this totally reasonable suggestion that character development might be important on a TV comedy:
The multi-platform nature of television watching has demanded a much higher base quality level for the product being pushed out, which is great for television watchers and reviewers. But I wonder if that means that we’re trying to demand too much from our sitcoms, to the point where the stuff that’s good about them is being criticized because it’s not serious enough.
This is the same nonsense people have been lobbing at all critics in all media for years. It’s just a show/film/album/painting—don’t take it so seriously. But that nonsense feels especially weird coming from Jezebel, of all places, a blog that’s constantly under attack for taking representations of gender, race, and sexuality in popular culture too seriously. Holding a text in any medium accountable is vital for the health of that medium, but Dries seems to be taking the stance that creating a well-crafted story with developed characters is somehow antithetical to a sitcom being funny, as if those things are mutually exclusive (never mind that sitcoms have been telling great stories about fully-developed characters for over sixty years while still managing to be funny).
Long story short, Dries probably wouldn’t think much of my New Girl review this week, because while I found “Nerd” a laugh-out-loud hilarious episode of television, I have some bones to pick with the writers’ treatment of the Winston and Schmidt storylines this season.