It’s morning round-up time, with thoughts on last night’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Trophy Wife” and “New Girl” coming up just as soon as I like yoga, Tuvan throat singers and NASCAR…
The Halloween installment of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” wasn’t perfect, but it inched very, very close to a set-up that maximized the strengths of the series. We had lots of interaction among the entire cast – including several pairings (Boyle/Santiago, Diaz/Terry) we haven’t seen much of before – and, more importantly, Peralta finally got to get one over on Captain Holt. The formula of Jake ignoring Holt’s advice for 20 minutes and finally listening at the end had already gotten very old (and made Jake seem both dumber and more immature than I suspect the writers want him to be), and while this wasn’t exactly an inversion of that, he needed a victory by now, and I was pleased that the “Ocean’s Eleven”-style explanation at the end attributed most of his absurd-looking schemes to misdirection, but not all of them. It’s a tricky balance, because you also don’t want to make Holt look stupid, and Andre Braugher’s deadpan disapproval is probably the show’s greatest comic weapon, but for as long as they’re sticking with this adversarial relationship, the victory tally can’t be one-sided. Last night, it wasn’t, and that was enjoyable.
Even better was Charles’ attempts to get Amy to enjoy Halloween, not just because the run of jokes about Charles’ Mario Batali costume were the best of its type that “Brooklyn” has done (and very reminiscent of the better parts of “Happy Endings”), but Charles’ relentless enthusiasm about things that almost any other person would feel miserable about marks him as a very strong character (he’s more than just this show’s Jerry Gergich) and someone who plays well opposite anyone else in the ensemble. A great job by the writers and Joe Lo Truglio.
I haven’t written about “Trophy Wife” since it debuted, in part because my opinion hadn’t changed all that much. I liked most of the individual pieces – though Michaela Watkins’ Jackie kept straying too far over the human/cartoon divide – but felt like the creative team didn’t quite have them in harmony yet, having to either skimp on each individual story to include all the characters, or marginalizing some of them. The Halloween episode had to do again without Natalie Morales (who, in fairness, got a great showcase last week), but in the process, we got two fully-cooked stories about Pete’s trouble saying no to Diane and the kids trying to help Jackie make a better video dating profile. This is definitely the most three-dimensional Jackie has been, particularly in the scene where she reassured Bert, yet Watkins still had plenty of ridiculous things to do and say. And the Whitford/Akerman/Harden triangle – not so much about love as about attention – remains a bountiful source of comedy. Fold in a non-cliché ’80s costume in Kate’s “Working Girl” get-up, the Phyllis Smith character’s terrified and terrible intro of Diane and Bert doing Bert things, and you’ve got a real winner of an episode. More like this, please.
“New Girl,” meanwhile, demonstrated its gift for using an absurd idea in service of an emotional story. Schmidt being duped into believing he’s been pen pals with Michael Keaton since childhood is insane even by the standards of a show that features Crazy Winston (who, admittedly, has been a bit saner the last two weeks), but it eventually led to one of those terrific Nick/Schmidt scenes the show does so well, in a way that makes the origin of the story not matter at all. We may not believe that Schmidt was duped for so long, but Schmidt does, and it leads to that conversation, so good enough. Every Schmidt story this season before now has been a trainwreck that’s made me hate the character, and I hope this is the start of a turnaround, even if he’s living down the hall(*) for the time being.
(*) There is now a vacant spot in the loft. Paging Coach… Coach to the courtesy phone, please.
Beyond that, Keaton was a funny episode of “New Girl,” giving us Jess’ terrible Batman impression (and insistence on “Batmanmobile”), Nick throwing himself deeply into character as Keaton and Winston knowing nothing about “The Truman Show,” among other gags. “The Captain” made me laugh more but also depended on several of the characters being idiots and/or evil. “Keaton” made me laugh and also felt like it understood who these people are supposed to be.
What did everybody else think?