Nobody Loved ‘New Girl’ As Much As Prince Loved ‘New Girl’
The Prince episode of 'New Girl' was the best celebrity cameo on television.
In 2014, when New Girl reached its third — and arguably best — season, Schmidt’s hysterical neuroticism was a well-established hallmark of the show. Winston’s weirdness was fast becoming one of his most endearing traits (which is saying something for a show built around Zooey Deschanel’s ability to run right up to the line of overbearing quirkiness without crossing it), making room for the machismo of the recently returned Coach.
And Jess — the titular New Girl, played by Zooey Deschanel — and Nick are finally officially a couple after some truly agonising will-they-won’t-they moments in the latter half of the show’s second season.
But if fans of the series thought they were invested in the success of that fictional relationship, they had no idea what was coming. Because it was then, legend has it, that Prince — yes, that Prince. Sorry, the Prince — fired up his email and asked if he could make a guest appearance on the show, of which he was apparently a big fan.
And what do you do when Prince asks if he can cameo on your show? You damn well write a bottle episode entirely built around Prince’s request to cameo on your show.
Jake Johnson, who plays loveable oddball Nick Miller on the series, told Vanity Fair in 2014 that Prince — like so many of the show’s fans — was so invested in the success of Nick and Jess’ relationship that he requested his role be a “sincere” one, that ultimately helped strengthen their union.
“He said that he is a big fan of Nick and Jess’ relationship, and he wants to make them stronger as a couple, or something like that, which is awesome. The fact that Prince even watches our show is unbelievable.”
And so it was, because only a mad man would try to push the Purple One in an alternative creative direction.
By this point, New Girl’s writers were deft at integrating celebrity cameos in a way that didn’t fawn over the athletes, musicians, models and Hollywood legends that popped up across its seven seasons. That Jamie Lee Curtis and Rob Reiner float in and out of the series as Jess Day’s divorced parents without arrogance or spectacle is a perfect example of how it just worked.
But the most endearing thing about this episode is how self-aware it is. You can almost feel the cast and writers’ disbelief that it’s happening through the screen. You feel happy for them, like when a friend tells you they got a promotion. And rather than cooly back away from it, they lean right in, leveraging the opportunity to deliver some of the episode’s — and the series’ — best moments.
In fact, it’s the catalyst for 25 seconds of the most perfect television comedy that’s ever happened (in my opinion, which is correct). Shortly after arriving at the mansion, Jess and Nick are having a conversation in the yard — Nick had just told her he loves her and she responded with finger guns, followed by a panic attack — when the legend himself appears.
After unnecessarily introducing himself, Prince acknowledges he hasn’t “given them enough time to freak out yet”, which — with his blessing — they do.
Equally, as the end credits roll, the loft gang sit in stunned silence, reckoning with the truly unbelievable experience of having attended a party at Prince’s mansion. The party had wrapped up with Jess performing a duet of Prince’s new song ‘Fallinlove2nite’ while Nick, Schmidt, Cece, Winston and Coach dance on stage with the band. For a split second, Deschanel ceases being Jess Day, the weight of debuting a Prince single alongside Prince himself written all over her face.
Knowing it was the song’s debut and that viewers would wonder how Jess could know it well enough to perform it, the writers have Coach ask, “Jess, how did you know the words?”
Her response — “I think Prince is magic” — encapsulates exactly what’s so wonderful about this episode: it doesn’t ask you to suspend your disbelief, it asks you to revel in it. It doesn’t try to ground an implausible narrative in some kind of reality where a rag-tag group of friends could actually find themselves eating pancakes with Prince at his party.
Instead, “Prince” gives the love that made it all possible back to him tenfold, making for a truly special viewing experience now that he’s gone.