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Zooey Deschanel in "New Girl"

Zooey Deschanel in "New Girl"

John Doyle

Boyfriend angst is wrecking New Girl and Mindy Add to ...

The other day it was National Boyfriend Day. I know this because, as some of us discover every day now, the most vital information is gleaned from Twitter. National Boyfriend Day was trending on Twitter on Wednesday. Therefore, it is, as they say in the politics racket, a talking point.

Possibly it is also a sign that civilization is dead. The banal buzz of countless “Love U Babee” assertions and counter-remarks that posted photos of boyfriends merely highlighting “one ugly dude” might lead a person to believe, yet again, that undue attention is paid to the idiotic, adolescent mewling of people with a warped sense of individualism in a look-at-me culture of utter inanity. On the other hand, we could examine these Twitterverse/blogosphere phenomena with an aloof Barthesian rigour. Or, as they say in that world: LOL.

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But let’s move on to the boyfriend issue. I put it to you that the boyfriend thing is undermining the fabric of network television. Specifically comedy.

Two episodes into the second season of New Girl (Tuesdays, Fox, CITY-TV, 9 p.m.) and the comic equilibrium of the series has been utterly undone by the boyfriend thing. Time was – like, mere months ago – New Girl was a model of comic toying with the yearnings and vulnerabilities of its characters. The charm of Jess (Zooey Deschanel) was used sparingly and, well, she wasn’t chasing fellas hither and thither. Her foibles were gently mocked and the lonely-boy tetchiness of Nick (Jake Johnson) was used for absurdist laughs. It was the ridiculousness of Max Greenfield’s Schmidt (“Damn it! I can’t find my driving moccasins anywhere!”) that was mined for pure comedy gold.

Now it’s all Jess and her boyfriend, some tall, boring fella she likes to have sex with. Meanwhile, Nick delivers soliloquies about the duties of boyfriends with the sonorousness of a low-rent Hamlet.

Oh sure, there was a very smart bit on this week’s episode where Schmidt wagered that access to a nightclub and the ladies inside was best obtained by passing himself off as “Tug Romney.” What ensued was a hilarious poke at the pieties of the Mitt Romney campaign. But the boyfriend has ruined everything. Is it just me? Is it because I’m, you know, a guy and is it now the case that great swathes of prime-time TV mean nothing to male viewers? I hope not.

And then there’s The Mindy Project, which follows New Girl on Tuesday nights. One of the most original new season comedies on the evidence of the pilot, the show’s second episode was a groan-inducing slice of nothing about Mindy (Mindy Kaling) meeting a guy, going on a kind-of date and everybody discussing if he’s boyfriend material. The whimsy of the pilot had evaporated and apparently been replaced by situations and storylines lifted verbatim from one of those magazines that caters to the dating woes of teenage girls.

Excuse my rant, but is this all there is? Is the entire panoply of network comedy now reduced to an obsession with the bodaciousness of boyfriends for female characters? I mean, I wish everybody seeking a boyfriend well and all, but I’m not seeing the funny. Perhaps an aloof approach of Barthesian rigour is my best way forward. I could begin to analyze, like Roland Barthes, all mass culture as mythology and scorn its philosophy of the bourgeoisie. That’s it. And LOL to National Boyfriend Day.

Also Airing tonight

The Lang & O’Leary Exchange (CBC, 6:30 p.m.) is anxious for you to know that tonight there’s a “far-reaching interview” by Amanda Lang with Brian Mulroney – the 18th Prime Minister of Canada and former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, you will recall – on the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement. Issues will be discussed, if not dived into. And, should you be all a-tingle for more, there’s a 60-minute version of the show on Newsworld at 7 p.m.

The War of 1812: Been There, Done That (CBC, 8 p.m.), which I mentioned the other day, is worth your time. As flaky as all get-out, it allows Peter Keleghan to present an unusual guide to what actually happened during the War of 1812 and dismiss some popular myths about it. It’s an anti-Ken Burns style kind of epic about history and the better for it. Mind you, if you watch the 60-minute edition of Lang & O’Leary Exchange of the signing of the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement, by 8 p.m. you’ll be laying down with a cold cloth on your face, and you’ll miss this. Fair warning.

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