The Perils of Winston on ‘New Girl’

Ferguson the cat, New GirlFOX

The New Girl pilot is pretty smart. A dorky girl, Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel), loses everything and moves in with three guys. Each guy represents aspects of stereotypical masculinity. Schmidt (Max Greenfield) is both the high-maintenance metro-sexual and the Dudebro douche. Nick Miller (Jake Johnson) is the slacker and curmudgeon. Coach (Damon Wayans, Jr.) is the athlete and most prototypically masculine.

When Wayans was called back for the second season of Happy Endings, rather than just recast the role of Coach, they did a 1970s sitcom change-up. It’s calls to mind horrible flashbacks of Jenilee Harrison as Cindy Snow, Chrissy’s cousin, who appeared after Suzanne Somers unceremoniously left the show. It’s unclear as to whether this choice was trying to avoid reshoots for the pilot, leave room for Wayans to return, or just poor choices. It’s worth mentioning that Merrin Dungey played Dr. Naomi Bennett in the Private Practice  back-door pilot but Audra McDonald played her in the actual series.

Because the role of Coach was out of the equation, writers had to invent a story and character for Lamorne Morris: Winston, a former Latvian basketball player was the original third roommate and moved back into the apartment. However, writers never found Winston’s voice and what happened bordered on racially insensitive. Winston was underemployed and had no real character traits except being useless. Most of his storylines were outside the apartment and didn’t involve his roommates. When he was with his roommates, they were usually making jokes at his expense. For example, in “Backslide,” Winston gets an earring and his roommates make racist-adjacent jokes like calling him “Captain Black Sparrow.”

Morris has done his best to try and integrate himself into the series including randomly singing and doing all kinds of degrading physical bits. It’s a pity because he just doesn’t seem to fit with the cast. Wayans has returned for a Season 3 story arc and has instantly re-assimilated into the show. It’s sad to see the three original cast members of the pilot with Morris continuing to be the red-headed stepchild of the series.

Sure, given the hipster nature of the series, they could have afforded to replace Wayans with an actor with more Williamsburg-street cred like Eric Andre (Don’t Trust the B- in Apartment 23) or Echo Kellum (Sean Saves the World). Regardless, the writers on the show should find a way to integrate Winston in the show, hire a writer to create a realistic character, and give him more of a personality than an obsession with his cat.