TV

‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ Meets ‘New Girl,’ And It’s Better than Late-Night NPR

Is this going to be the year of the crossover? The Flash’s stint on Supergirl was widely regarded as a better DC vehicle than Superman vs. Batman, Alf showed up on Mr. Robot, and last night FOX brought back the long-dead sitcom crossover with New Girl meets Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Could there have been more actual crossover in this two episodes? Absolutely. But as a person who’s favorite part of LOST was watching characters cross paths in flashbacks, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Give us more!

Though it featured minimal character interaction (other than a meta, on-the-nose moment of Jake trying to commandeer Jess’ SUV and her shouting “It’s a crossover!”) the Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode was, a little unsurprisingly, the stronger half-hour. We’re barely a fifth through the season and it’s already clear Brooklyn Nine-Nine has become a stronger comedy. They made the smart decision to continue picking up where they left off- here, Jake was returning to the force for the first time since getting shot in Florida, adding a cane and taking away the frosted tips (Amy: “I feel like I’m kissing Vanilla Ice.” Jake: “There’s a time you would have jumped at that chance!”). A lot has changed at the force, which the writers of “The Night Shift” handled with grace; the squad is dealing with getting used to the night shift, Jake is dealing with Boyle spending time with his adopted son Nikolaj, and Rosa is still waiting for her fiancee Agent Pimento to return from witness protection. Usually, an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine this cramped might feel thin, but even with the addition of Jess the story moves along smoothly and even has time to fit in a Twilight joke that’s still funny (Boyle thinks the movies are “an insult to the books”). Fortunately, we also got to learn a lot about Terry and Holt; Terry gets “night sassy,” Holt’s idea of a rager is hanging pieces of computer paper that just say “PARTY,” and the night shift stinks for the captain largely because “late-night NPR is garbage.” This show continues to be one of the best, and they were completely on board to up their game for the New Girl fans.

While it wasn’t as strong an episode New Girl was on board too, and I have to give them credit for crafting an episode revolving around meeting a few NYPD officers on their opposite coast. Plus, we even managed to get some fun world building! Remember way back in the Pilot, when Jess came home from a trip early to surprise her then-boyfriend Spencer, and ended up catching him cheating? Turns out, Jess came home early from a horrible trip in New York, where she fell into an open grate and witnessed a subway suicide. Just New Girl things! Despite her earlier bad Empire State experiences, Jess gets the most Brooklyn in her LA this time, running into Gina, Holt and Jake (whose dialogue and comedic beats reminded me how different these shows really are). The highlight of the three was optimistic Jess and serious Holt’s meeting, since the two are a match made in a Heaven who probably deserve a crossover episode dedicated to just the two of them. Nick and Winston running into Charles and Nikolaj was fun too, if only for the believability that Charles is super into busking, and that crowds of people would stop around two guys shouting “showtime” just to see what happens. Schmidt’s mom returned to play the quintessential Long Island mother, calling Great Neck “the real New York” and insisting that Schmidt kiss his brother, Reggie (he’s a standard poodle). The most New York moment goes to Jess’ frighteningly real experience at a packed NY Deli, but the episode ends with a huge boost from a last minute appearance by Coach. He runs into the gang on the street and scolds them for not calling him once they got to New York, and proves the point that a little Coach makes any episode better.

Overall, it was a fun hour, and a worthy experiment. I can only imagine where ABC’s family sitcoms could take this revived trope- Speechless’ Maya going toe to toe with The Real O’Neals‘s Eileen, or the black-ish gang meeting The Middle. Maybe I’m biased because I really love both New Girl and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but if you can suspend disbelief about the fact that Jess and Jake had completely different conversations when they met in each episode I think we can all acknowledge this was a pleasant way to spend a Tuesday night. Now to get a story on how Damon Wayans Jr.’s 99th precinct cop Stevie catches a perp in LA undercover as Coach. That’s a crossover I’m here for.

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TV

How Sitcom Relationships Impact Narrative Choices

Last night’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine saw Jake and Amy finally reuniting after six months without contact, and it was… a little awkward. Fortunately, it was also hilarious (Amy punched Jake in the the throat, Jake told Amy he kissed Holt right before kissing her) and short-lived; by the end of the episode, the two were back in sync, or in Jake’s case, as in-sync as you could be with someone who just shot you. If it was any other sitcom, the strain of being away from each other for half a year would be too much, and the characters would probably break up, only to have a big adorable reunion by the end of the season. But Brooklyn Nine-Nine has never written Jake and Amy that way, and don’t typically use their relationship for dramatic purposes like, for example, The Office might. Which is interesting to me, because if you look at all the 2000s/early 2010s sitcoms you’ll find that their relationships impact the plot in very different ways, whether it’s a deliberate writing choice or audience perception.

Focus On the Ensemble

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Since getting together at the end of season two, Jake and Amy have been a low-key piece of the larger ensemble puzzle. Brooklyn Nine-Nine gets away with this, since it’s a higher concept show- they’re NYPD officers, not “friends hanging out”- but it wouldn’t work on every show. Admittedly, they’re sometimes a little forgotten, which is bound to happen when there are cases to solve, jokes to tell and five additional main characters to flesh out in just twenty minutes. But Brooklyn Nine-Nine is not a particularly dramatic show, with the exceptions of season finales and recent three-parters, so there’s not a necessary weight that needs to sit on Jake and Amy’s shoulders. They’re fun together and they’re fun apart, and when we get an episode that expands on their relationship it’s usually a good one. Otherwise, I think we’re all content to just hear Gina and Holt spilling the hot goss.

It’s A Wonderful Life… Until It’s Not

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Is there a more perfect sitcom couple than The Office’s Jim and Pam? Excuse me, seasons four through seven of The Office’s Jim and Pam? PB + J was the relationship goal for young me. I recognized that they were real enough to be, well, real, yet I didn’t have the world knowledge to realize that in real life things couldn’t always be so perfect. Jim and Pam were made for each other, but the kind of couple that was still not completely happy with their lives. The Office took that to the next level, leading to some relationship drama that hurt to watch, but was almost needed in a show that was no longer featuring its lead actor and heading towards a decade of air time. Early on, The Office was about the workplace, but was really driven by the question of whether or not Jim and Pam would end up together. Once that question was answered, it was nice for a bit, but Andy chasing after Erin didn’t pack the same punch. Maybe Jim and Pam’s relationship suffered a little bit in the middle, but in the end they remained a couple you might actually know in real life.

Bring Out the Worst in One of Them

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The Mindy Project
came back to Hulu yesterday. I’m hesitant to start, and it’s because of Danny Castellano. Danny was never perfect, though from the first episode you knew he and Mindy were destined to be together. “You look nice,” “Go to Hell,” is a perfect little moment between them that sets up what will come. Mindy and Danny are both kind of terrible people, in a way that makes you love them. They say ridiculously dumb things for two accomplished doctors and often treat each other badly, and then are really sweet and make you root for their relationship. But after getting together they became an entirely new monster. Mindy is Mindy; she has the entitlement of a white man with a bad bitch attitude. She’s our protagonist, and she’s not going to change for any man. But Danny can and did change. He became kind of awful. He had always been super conservative and cartoon Italian, but after they had baby Leo he was even worse. His flaws were used to help cement Mindy’s decisions. Maybe it was just because Chris Messina had to go and shoot Live By Night, but his character became almost nonexistent, and now he’s engaged. Mindy Lahiri’s story isn’t about the men itself, and is about her journey surrounded by men, but still. This one hurts.

Bring Out the Worst in Both of Them

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I’m still rooting for New Girl’s Nick and Jess. Their slow build and first kiss were the reason I proclaimed this show to be one of the best. But after they got together the show was very different, and mostly the reason I stopped watching. They just didn’t work out. Where Mindy reacted off the obvious differences between her and Danny, Nick and Jess just flopped like two fish who were out of water but afraid to tell the other one they were dying. I guess that happens in friendships turned relationships, but it would have been nice to have them act like normal human beings. Let’s not forget that Jess is a Vice Principal and Nick was in law school, okay? Jake Johnson once made a very good point about their relationship failing on a story basis because it forced Nick into all the A stories, which doesn’t work on an ensemble show. I still have faith that the show has grown enough to bring us a Nick/Jess relationship that makes sense for the characters. And I’m not giving it up for a Jess/Robby romance.

It’s All About the Chase

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I love How I Met Your Mother. But I do not love Robin and Ted. Or let me rephrase- I love them to an extent. I loved them way back in season two when they were symbolized by the blue French Horn, and everyone thought their relationship would grow to be a great friendship. But in season nine, when telling he story of his deceased wife makes Ted realizes he’s still in love with his best friend’s ex wife, I did not love them. The Ted/Robin back-and-forth was fodder for most of the drama throughout HIMYM’s run, and almost every time it was brought up I rolled my eyes. This was a great show, with the best continuity and in-jokes I’ve ever seen, that just kept going back to a relationship that could never be. Robin wasn’t the mother! Every step of their relationship felt like a waste, because it wasn’t end game. Until it was. The finale was met with pretty widespread disappointment, myself included, because it was just not what we expected. Maybe if we all focused more on Marshall and Lilly, we wouldn’t still be upset about this.

Rely On Everyone Else For Drama

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The Parks and Recreation lineup has a lot of couples that would make a top ten list, but Ben and Leslie take the cake. Remember how nervous Leslie was to go on a date with Officer Dave because of her history of terrible first dates? Remember what a jerk Ben was when he first came to Pawnee, because his job was shutting down jobs? Remember how Leslie Knope is the future President of the United States, and Ben gave up his dreams for her? Yeah. They’re the best. Parks and Rec is a show that’s not too in your face about its idealism, but its there. It’s a show I used to describe as “The Office, except everyone likes each other and they’re all your favorite character.” It’s not going to send us through the ringer just to have Leslie and Ben be completely fine by the end. So it relies on the external relationships for drama. Ann moves away, leaving best friend Leslie behind. Leslie and Ron are totally at odds in the future. Ben and Leslie want the same job. The drama is all there, but it doesn’t interfere with them as a couple. It’s so nice to watch, it almost makes you forget you’re watching a TV couple fall in love by yourself.

Get Canceled, So Who Knows

05-happy-endings-w1200-h630This is genuinely the worst tactic. We’ll never know what happened to Happy Endings‘ Penny and Dave! Did they fall in love? Or was there a dramatic love triangle? I have nothing to say here, except that I’m still really sad this show was canceled.

 

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TV

Fall TV Week: Peak Tuesdays

Tuesday is arguably the worst day of the week. My deep-seated hate probably goes back to Tuesdays being band practice day in grade school, but you can’t deny that it’s basically Monday without the general excuse of it being a Monday. But once it hits primetime, Tuesdays are the best. All the classics have aired on Tuesdays. American Idol! House! Glee! Law & Order SVU! The Real O’Neals! Everyone agrees these are the most iconic shows!

Tuesdays are just better than Mondays.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Tuesdays at 8 on FOX
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Damn, this show has really committed. I was fully expecting to see just a little bit of the tail-end of Greg and Larry’s Jake and Holt’s new witness protection life in Florida before packing up and shipping back to Brooklyn to meet up with the rest of the gang. I was at least expecting to drop in and check on Boyle’s new adopted baby or how Amy has been doing without Jake for 6 months. But surprisingly, we got a full episode dedicated to Jake and Holt dealing with their new lives alone, without a single check in to the precinct. And it was good! Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher have one of the funniest dynamics on the show, so a whole episode starring them was not a thing to complain about. I’m excited to catch up with the rest of the squad next episode, but this week Jake had frosted tips, Jorma from The Lonely Island had a guest spot, and Jake got to call Holt “Mr. Fart” so all in all, it was a win.

New Girl, Tuesdays at 8:30 on FOX
Aw man, guys, New Girl is the best. Jess is still acting like a freakin’ nut around Nick even though she’s a grown ass woman and Winston is still doing things like buying a boat instead of hurting someone’s feelings, but I’m willing to overlook it all because it’s just so good. And truthfully, Nick has returned, without Regan thank God, looking like a human being who hasn’t eaten garbage off the ground recently, so I’d be reacting the same to him as our heartbroken Jess. It’s only the first episode, so am I getting ahead of myself if I say I’m optimistic that this season will be the one that brings Nick and Jess together and does it right this time? He dedicated his book to her! Even though we don’t know if the book is Z Is For Zombie, that was the sweetest. I’m a little sad that Cece and Schmidt are moving out of the Loft, but thankfully Winston will still be around, swallowing the gator teeth Nick brought back from New Orleans. Now I just need Apple to create an emoji that’s smiling and clutching its heart, because that’s the only emotion I have watching this show and I need to tweet about it.

Scream Queens, Tuesdays at 9 on FOX
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This premiere had almost all the elements of last season, and yet it is already somehow lightyears better. And that’s without an appearance by the best character of the 2015-2016 season, Chad Radwell. I mean yeah, it starts out with another ridiculous flashback (a doctor needs to party that badly that he would just dump a patient in a swamp on Halloween?), the ‘Green Maniac’ is yet again following the Color + Generic Villain naming scheme, and there’s another pregnant woman from the past that probably has ties to the present. But if you ever need a refresher on how to watch a Ryan Murphy production, just remember that Blaine Anderson once had a fever dream where he sang Queen with a group of puppets and was kind of okay with it. His shows are wild, and I’m obsessed with them. This episode was gross (RIP Cecily Strong!) and hilarious, which in the end is all I really want. Plus I can’t hate on anything that revives Taylor Lautner, who was apparently just recently released from the holding cell he’s been in since Twilight, because seriously where the hell has he been other than that weird appearance at the AMA’s that I’m convinced was a hologram. I’m going to need more of Lea Michele’s Hester and the aforementioned Chad, but for now I’m just going to sit back and thank God and Ryan Murphy for getting rid of Grace and her Dad. Amen.

This Is Us, Tuesdays at 10 on NBC
I really didn’t want to like this show. It was weird how the trailer got so many views, right? And it has the same title as the One Direction documentary, and all I thought it was about was having the same birthday as other people, which is obvious. But by the end I was,as the kids say, shook! I didn’t weep like everybody else on my timeline but this show really tugged at the heart strings and managed to pull off a pretty significant twist while creating a genuine connection to the characters, which is a lot to expect from one Pilot episode. Sterling K Brown doesn’t need me to remind everyone he’s a good actor, but he is good, and I can finally watch a show for Milo Ventimiglia instead of being a Gilmore Girls fan and only watching that episode where Luke pushes him into the lake. Mandy Moore deserves good things, and Justin Hartley and Chrissy Metz were the cutest family goals. This Is Me making the worst joke ever but admitting I made a mistake, fully enjoyed the show, and will watch again.

I’ll be making good use of my Hulu account when The Flash and The Mindy Project come back on October 4th. Tuesdays are lit y’all.

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I’m Glad I Started Watching New Girl Again

Sometime around September 2011, I became obsessed with FOX’s freshman show New Girl. And somewhere around April 2014, I gave up on it. I don’t think I’m alone in this. My mom, sister and our friends stopped watching then, too. This was season 3, around the time that token will they/won’t they pairing Nick & Jess broke up and then went on a couple’s cruise together. Coach had, seemingly weirdly, just returned. Cece and Schmidt weren’t together. Either I was just too busy with schoolwork to put in the effort, or it was just enough overload to give up all together. Season 4 came and went. I saw online that it ended with Cece and Schmidt getting engaged, but the only episode I actually watched was the last 15 minutes of “Spiderhunt” that I sort of left on as background noise before the finale of Parks & Recreation. I remember thinking they’re all just standing around making sauce. Now I know why I stopped watching this, as if I needed to justify why I forgot about the show that gave us panic moonwalking.

And then season 5 was pushed to a January premiere. I have next to no idea how the network executives arrange their schedules, but as a viewer this always feels like a bad sign. Glee‘s final season got a short January release, and so did Parks & Rec (even New Girl creator Liz Meriwether assumed they were going to get canceled). Even though this seemed like a bad omen, the premiere coincided with season 4 going up on Netflix, so out of pure boredom I figured I’d give it another shot.  If New Girl was going to get canceled and the season 5 finale would it be its goodbye, I’d try to catch up and see it get sent off. Turns out it wasn’t canceled, and I did catch up, and thank God.

Now that I’m all caught up and have seen Schmidt’s Long Island speech, I can say with certainty that New Girl isn’t a perfect show, but it feels really close.  My love of sitcoms might cloud my judgement a little bit, but New Girl takes the cliche and the weird and completely commits. It has everything you could ever want on a comedy (weird living arrangements! Two straight dudes who are in love with each other! A guy who’s best friend is a cat!) and yet somehow keeps coming up with ways to punch you in the gut and make you want to move in with a bunch of strangers. Last night’s double header “Wedding Eve”/”Landing Gear” was no exception. “Landing Gear” took the Doucebag Jar that was so perfectly and hilariously introduced way back in episode 1 and smashed it (literally- it was a Jewish wedding, after all) as Cece & Schmidt got married. “Wedding Eve” brought back both Tran, the mute old man who Nick has an inexplicable friendship with, and True American, the greatest game nobody knows how to play. Even Coach- Coach!- came back to celebrate and remind everyone that he really is the best. There was a naked Winston, more Zombie novels and an almost-rekindling of the Nick/Jess romance. There was Peter Gallagher, romantic gestures and classic mixups. It was everything you’d want from a finale in a season of television that gave it all.

And by the way, “Spiderhunt” was one of the best episodes of season 4. New Girl, I love you. Thanks for taking me back.

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