That’s more like it.
I spent much of last week’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine review bemoaning the show’s focus on Peralta at the expense of other characters’ development. This week’s “M.E. Time,” however, is (almost) exactly the kind of follow-up I was hoping for, an episode that highlighted the series’ outstanding ensemble cast and allowed Andy Samburg to hang back for a change. Ironically, Peralta himself has trouble hanging back this week, working a DOA as Boyle’s second in command but itching to take the reins the whole time. Boyle, not Peralta, is really the main player in this story, as he and Diaz solve the murder while Peralta’s off having weird dead-guy sex with a medical examiner. Furthermore, the B-story was a nice showcase for Andre Braugher, Melissa Fumero, and Terry Crews—not to mention Joel McKinnon Miller’s inept Detective Scully—wherein Santiago recruits Jeffords to sketch a purse-snatching suspect while also trying to discern the many mysteries and grimaces of Captain Holt. The whole cast (minus the inexplicably absent Chelsea Peretti) is well served, for once, as the episode offers a welcome glimpse of what this show looks like as an ensemble comedy rather than just a Samburg vehicle.
Every good show needs a clunker early in its run. This is especially true for sitcoms. Its rare that any comedy comes out of the gate doing everything exactly right (I would argue that only Arrested Development has ever come close to doing that). Series like The Office, Parks and Recreation, or The New Girl, which began their first seasons laden with possibility but had a dud or two at the start. Putting out an episode with big flaws—or even a few of them—early on can give a series a better sense of what is and isn’t working so that it can throw off dead weight and write to its strengths.
To my thinking, the biggest thing Brooklyn Nine-Nine could learn from “The Slump”’s failings is that it desperately needs to transition into an ensemble comedy, because it’s never a good sign when your show’s star is also its least interesting presence. There’s no denying the fact that Andy Samburg’s fratboy persona is popular with a broad swathe of the population or that Fox needs a comedy hit, given the low ratings for its other Wednesday night programs, but over these first three episodes, anything nuanced or interesting about the character of Jake Peralta has given way to the Samburg schtick; if that continues, it means that whether or not you enjoy Brooklyn Nine-Nine is going to depend on how you feel about Samburg.
“Be a yardstick of quality,” Steve Jobs apparently said or wrote or communicated via brainwaves at some point in time (words of wisdom I found on BrainyQuote.com after searching the word “leadership” when I wasn’t sure how else to start this review). “Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” Despite my pathetic means of acquiring the quote, it truly does speak to the theme of tonight’s A-story, which finds Peralta adapting to Holt’s own expectations of excellence. See, with Captain Ray Holt running things in the 99—and determined not to screw anything up in his new hard-won position of leadership—there’s no place for tazing cantaloupes or tossing your ringing phone into the toilet just because you don’t feel like waking up on a workday. In short, there’s no place for the kind of employee that Peralta, up to this point, has been. There is simply the job and doing it well.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine has already been touted by many TV critics as the best comedy of the season, and while I haven’t seen enough new pilots to make such a bold claim, I’m inclined to think those critics might be on to something. It doesn’t hurt that showrunners Michael Schur and Dan Goor have spent years helming another excellent workplace comedy, Parks and Recreation. But where Parks took a full season to find its footing and settle into a steady groove, Brooklyn Nine-Nine arrived tonight with a crystal clear sense of its characters and its humor.
The Fall 2013 television season begins in earnest this week, and as promised, I plan to review several new and returning series. Things will kick off Tuesday with the return of Fox’s New Girl and the pilot episode of the same network’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but before we begin, here’s a quick rundown of the shows I’ll be covering, the nights and times they air, and (roughly) when you can expect my reviews to go up here at Awful Art Party.
Let’s start with shows I’ll be reviewing week to week…
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Season 1 (Fox)
When it airs: Tuesdays at 8:30 PM; premieres September 17
Expect my reviews: Tuesday nights
New Girl – Season 3 (Fox)
When it airs: Tuesdays at 9:00 PM; premieres September 17
Expect my reviews: Wednesday mornings
Parks and Recreation – Season 6 (NBC)
When it airs: Thursdays at 8:00 PM; premieres September 26 (1-hour premiere)
Expect my reviews: Friday afternoons
The Michael J. Fox Show – Season 1 (NBC)
When it airs: Thursdays at 9:30 PM; premieres at 9:00 PM September 26 (1-hour premiere)
Expect my reviews: Thursday nights
Parenthood – Season 5 (NBC)
When it airs: Thursdays at 10:00 PM; premieres September 26
Expect my reviews: Saturday mornings
I simply lack the time to cover all of the shows I’d like to on a weekly basis, so there are four additional shows premiering this Fall that I plan to drop in on 3-4 times throughout their seasons’ runs. Here’s the info on those…
Bob’s Burgers – Season 4 (Fox): Airs Sundays at 8:30 PM; premieres September 29
Homeland – Season 3 (Showtime): Airs Sundays at 9:00 PM; premieres September 29
Masters of Sex – Season 1 (Showtime): Airs Sundays at 10 PM; premieres September 29
American Horror Story: Coven (FX): Airs Wednesdays at 10 PM; premieres October 9
Given that 1) reviewing television is hard work, 2) I also have a real job to attend to, and 3) any new shows may very well be canceled due to poor ratings (although I don’t foresee either Brooklyn Nine-Nine or The Michael J. Fox Show, series for which there’s been a sizable amount of critical and promotional buzz, facing this problem), I reserve the right to revise this schedule at any time. In fact, because so many more excellent shows that I’d like to review return in early 2014, there will likely be some significant changes to my review schedule (and how I review particular shows) after we reach the mid-season point in December. I’ll keep readers abreast of these changes, however, and I look forward to getting things started tomorrow night. Happy viewing, everyone!
The fall TV season kicks off soon–very, very, very soon)–and, having been in a bit of a rut writing-wise the past couple of months, it occurred to me that this TV season might be as good as any to start a project I’ve wanted to take on for quite some time: writing weekly episode reviews. Of course, anybody who knows me knows that I keep up with waaaay too many television shows during the calendar year to ever review all of them, so I thought starting with just 3-5 shows for the time being would be a good plan.
The question then becomes, which shows do I review? Since most of my readers at the moment are friends, family, and curious acquaintances, I thought I’d put that question to you guys. Ideally, I would like to focus more on new shows than on veteran ones, given that it’s a good policy to get in on the ground floor, but I’m open to seeing which shows others would like to read about.
So, if you don’t mind, please take a second to respond to the three poll questions below. I’ve limited the answers to things I’m already watching, in the case of veteran programs, or, in the case of new shows, things I was planning to watch anyway. However, if there are other shows returning this Fall that you’d be interested in reading about, you can let me know in the “Other” slot. Thanks, friends!
***A QUICK NOTE: In the case of returning dramas, I just realized that the Sherlock season 3 return date hasn’t been officially set yet. I’d read somewhere that it would be late fall, but it’s looking like that is no longer happening and that an early 2014 premiere will be more likely (poor Sherlock fans really never catch a break, do they?). I will probably review it whenever it airs, given that it’s only 3 episodes, so your choice might be better spent on a different show.