Review: ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ & ‘New Girl’ stage a half-hearted crossover

10.11.16 10 months ago 23 Comments

Fox

Some thoughts on tonight’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine/New Girl crossover – and why it only occasionally lived up to the idea of being a crossover – coming up just as soon as we watch five full seasons of The A-Team together…

There are two basic types of TV crossover: 1)When the shows share a creative team and/or universe, and 2)When the network and/or studio wants to make it happen. The first tend to involve spin-offs, from Richie and Fonzie running into Laverne and Shirley at a dude ranch to Green Arrow going to Central City to enlist the Flash’s help, and they’re generally more natural, though they can also be clunky. (The Berlanti crossovers often seem to be made under the belief that the same people are watching all of the shows, when varying ratings levels suggest otherwise.) Though there are some strong examples of the second – notably the Homicide/Law & Order crossovers, which put the casts of each show in unexpected lights, and which eventually led to John Munch moving to New York for Law & Order: SVU – more often than not they feel as forced in execution as they are in inspiration.

Though Brooklyn and New Girl air on the same network, and have been on the same night for much of their respective runs, they come from different creative teams and different studios, and have different tones and aesthetics despite both being goofy single-camera comedies. So it always felt odd that they would do a crossover, even as I looked forward to the idea of, say, Schmidt and Rosa Diaz being in a room together (which did not happen), or Jess running into Captain Holt (which did happen, albeit briefly). That Brooklyn has become more serialized over the last half-season or so made it seem like even more trouble than it might be worth, since a New Girl plot would have to be shoehorned into whatever continuing idea the cops of the 99 were dealing with.

The end result: a mixed bag, with an otherwise good Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode pausing for a couple of minutes so that Jess and Jake could participate in a high-speed chase together, and a New Girl episode that devoted a bit more time to showing more of its crossover-mate’s cast, but where the best stuff also involved the regulars interacting with one another.

“The Night Shift”(*) had fun with the squad’s frustration at being reassigned to nights, even if I don’t quite understand how Holt lacks the power to undo this now that he’s also returned to active duty. Jake’s dismay at seeing Lohank be happy, healthy, and wise on the day shift was a good running gag (Jake, apparently a fan of Stranger Things, suggests, “We’re in the Upside Down!”), and I’m not sure I will ever tire of hearing Boyle pronounce the name of his son Nikolaj. Holt’s forced smile seemed to go against previous characterization, where his smile was imperceptible from his usual expression, but hearing Andre Braugher say the phrase, “John Phillip Souza – the Skrillex of his day” made up for everything else.

(*) If it’s been a week since you last looked at this, I’m here for you.

When “The Night Shift” was just being an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it was perfectly fine and amusing. When it paused for a couple of minutes to put Jake and Jess in a car together for the chase – which necessitated daytime action because the crossover was happening in this particular week – the show ironically ground to a halt, and in the process briefly made me really annoyed with Jess. On her show, her quirks are a perfect match for her insane roommates, and more often than not, she comes across as the normal one. Here, even though Jake is among the show’s goofier detectives, she came across as a weird complainer who had stumbled into the story without explanation.

New Girl‘s “Homecoming” did a better job incorporating the Brooklyn characters, and used enough of them – Holt, Gina, Boyle, and even Nikolaj, who had to be there for the timeline to even vaguely make sense(*) – for it to feel more genuinely crossover-y than “Night Shift.” But Jess wasn’t quite crazy enough, nor Holt robotic enough, for their brief encounter to live up to its full potential, and the episode’s best parts tended to be what New Girl does best these days: step back, don’t worry about logic or characterization, and just let people get weird. Nick and Winston’s endless subway vamping, or Jess finally learning how to handle New York after being pushed around too much at the deli, worked much better than the crossover material, and the closing scene managed to work in Coach without making the crossover too messy, since Damon Wayans Jr. has played roles on both shows.

(*) Though Gina and Holt are for some reason still at the precinct during the day shift, and not presented as simply there working overtime.

I still think there are some character combinations across the two series that would make a full-throated crossover really entertaining. This, unfortunately, had the feeling of something handed down by the network that the respective creative teams tried to do their best with.

What did everybody else think?

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