This season, Tuesday is the busiest sitcom night of the year, with three of the four networks airing comedies all against each other on that night each week. Yesterday saw Fox's New Girl and The Mindy Project each celebrating the holidays as they prepare to take their winter breaks, while Happy Endings has its holiday episode set up to debut next week. Let's take a look at last night's new holiday-themed (and non-holiday-themed) episodes:
Happy Endings – "To Serb with Love"
CLAY: In "To Serb with Love" we get to meet Alex and Jane's parents, look inside Jane's joke-writing process, and watch Max try to compete with Pete for Penny's attention. The episode opens with Dave, Alex, Brad, and Jane talking about how they love being a foursome again. Max feels left out and assumes Penny will come and save him from being the fifth wheel. However, when Penny shows up still together with Pete, Max is literally pushed out of the group, onto the floor. Max decides to try to find someone who is as big of a mess as Penny, and try to help her with her life, making Penny jealous. Max shows up at the bar with his new friend Nicole (played by Who Charted? podcast host Kulap Vilaysack), reasoning "A Nickel is worth five times as much as a Penny." After hearing her complain about her dating life, Penny misreads Max's efforts and thinks she is supposed to help Nicole with her life. Just when Penny thinks she is an expert on dating, Pete finds her "List of Pete's flaws," which she makes for all of her boyfriends so that she feels better when they break up. Brad is delighted to hear the crazy story of Penny's breakup, but he realizes Penny really likes Pete. In the end, Max brings Pete back to Penny, and their relationship can continue on.
Meanwhile, Jane and Alex have been planning a 20th anniversary party for their dad's (Christopher McDonald) mattress store in the traditional Serbian style. Jane has completed everything except the toast, which she usually performs as a nice and heartfelt speech. However, this year she wants to perform some comedy instead. Jane struggles to come up with something her father will like, as his interests consist of World War II, Chicago Bears, bass fishing, and Chevy Chase (only as a talk show host). She goes to Max to help construct her joke and finally comes up with the perfect joke. To her surprise, she returns from the bathroom to find Brad telling her father her joke, which he loves. Jane ends up having to go with the only other comedy her dad enjoys, Gallagher, and hits herself in the head with a mallet. Her dad still laughs, which is all she ever wanted.
Finally, we have a Dave and Alex story. Alex tells Dave that he doesn't have to come to her dad's party, which he is fine with. Penny, however, is convinced that Alex really meant that she wanted Dave to come to the party. "Twenty years of selling mattresses. Memory foam. It never forgets, Dave." Dave shows up at the party, and Alex's mom (Julie Hagerty) asks him why he's there. Alex then explains to Dave that she hasn't exactly told her parents about them getting back together. Dave says that if she won't tell them, he will, but struggles to get up the nerve to do so. Alex's dad continues to bring up all of the money he spent on the wedding, until finally Dave interrupts Jane's comedy act. He tells everyone they are back together and that they didn't care what everyone thought of their relationship, all that matters is what Alex thinks. The episode ends with Max returning to his apartment talking on the phone with Crazy Nicole waiting there for him in the shadows. She reveals herself and they laugh and share breakup stories.
New Girl – "Santa"
SAMANTHA: How old were you when your parents gave you "the talk"? Jess still hasn't had it — because, she explains, if "someone tells me a fat man's bringing me dolls every year, I just don't question it" (we meant "the talk" about whether Santa's real, what other one is there?) Unsurprisingly, jaded Nick and Jewish Schmidt think this is ridiculous, though Winston still believes in the power of magical thinking. To beat pre-holiday depression, the gang decides to pack as much cheer as possible into one night, hitting up multiple parties with Cece and Angie in tow. First up: The Christmas Cookie-tacular, where the evening immediately falls apart — Schmidt's grumpy he has to hang with the girl who just rejected him ("I just want to spend the night making it with some fatty in an elf costume!"), and when Jess spots Sam, they make a quick exit and head to party number two. At the traditional German / textbook Eurotrash gathering, it's embarrassment all around when Schmidt refuses Cece's gift (because of his hurt feelings, and also because he doesn't celebrate "white Anglo-Saxon winter privilege night"), Nick and Angie get caught getting it on in a huge decorative sleigh (which she loves, and he admits is his actual nightmare), and Sam shows up (sending Jess into such a panic she walks into about a dozen glass doors). Though he says he wants her back, Schmidt and Winston are still suspicious, and tell Jess to stay away. On to party number three — the KQTO radio holiday jam. Jess, despite all the seasonal spirit, doesn't feel quite right about walking out on Sam (twice), which Nick picks up on; he's the only one who tells her that Sam might have truly changed. In return, Jess reminds Nick that Angie's fearless spirit is not only good for Nick, it's exactly what drew him to her in the first place.
On the way home, Jess wavers, wondering if she should go back for Sam, and she ends up getting pulled over. Rather than reason with the cop, she confesses that she's upset and almost ends up crying, but — Christmas miracle! — the Santa doppelganger ends up letting her go. Sometimes people tell the truth, he explains, which is just the on-the-nose sign she needs to trust her instinct and try again with her ex. Everyone races to the hospital (apparently Sam went there right after his second party of the evening?) and, after Angie flashes an orderly to get them in, they track the doctor down and charm him with some good old fashioned terrible caroling. Moral of the story? Santa is real, and homeboy has your back.
The Mindy Project – "Josh and Mindy's Christmas Party"
BRADFORD: Right now, The Mindy Project is in a weird transitional period between The Mindy Project 1.0 and The Mindy Project 2.0, with a flurry of casting changes and tweaks to the series' overall premise taking place over the past few and these next few episodes. There are characters that are still hanging around who we know are on the way out (like Amanda Setton's Shauna) and one who's on the way in we haven't met yet (Mary Grill's Maggie), and we're only one episode into Mindy, Danny, Jeremy's reign as heads of the practice. Still, despite all the fluctuation, "Josh and Mindy's Christmas Party" manages to be a successful episode of the show that gives everyone in the ensemble time to shine.
When it comes time to pick a location for the office holiday party, Mindy offers up her place, with the party being the first time all of her co-workers have met her boyfriend Josh (who she's getting pretty serious with because they've been dating for x episodes now). Trouble sets in when she and Danny accidentally find a voicemail from Josh's other girlfriend on his phone, sending the party into turmoil. I mean, not that the party was really destined for success in the first place anyway – few parties with only-Spanish karaoke are. Things come to a head for Mindy and Josh when his other girlfriend shows up at the party, causing a big fight in front of everyone, but things work out and lead to a feel-good Christmas ending, with Jeremy rallying the staff around Mindy and belting out a pretty spectacular version of "La Bamba." And it looks like this Mindy Lahiri/Danny Castellano will-they-or-won't-they thing will carry over into 2013.
Bradford Evans is Splitsider's Associate Editor.
Clay Sublett is a professional writer, an Emmy-winning actor, and a liar.
Samantha Pitchel writes about and watches comedy in Austin and Los Angeles.