Review: ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ – ‘Operation: Broken Feather’

Senior Television Writer
02.03.14 23 Comments

A review of last night’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” coming up just as soon as I’m starring in an Albanian remake of “The Cosby Show”…

It’s a tradition for post-Super Bowl episodes of sitcoms to load up on guest stars – think “Friends” with Julia Roberts, Brooke Shields and Jean-Claude Van Damme, or “3rd Rock from the Sun” with Cindy Crawford and a bunch of other ’90s supermodels – to the point where the regulars become almost irrelevant. But “New Girl” managed to do an episode about Prince where the main characters also got a lot to do, and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” welcomed a whole lot of guest stars – the biggest of them kept out of the promos as a surprise – but managed to weave them into an episode that showcased what makes each member of this ensemble so funny.

Other than the return of Dean Winters as the Vulture, every guest star was limited to a single scene, often there to set up one joke and then get off the stage. So Patton Oswalt’s just there for the football game teaser, which is mainly a showcase for the incredible manliness and dancing ability of Terry, Fred Armisen returns as Mlepnos to do a goofy dance with Jake, and Joe Theismann was there for the only reason any comedy would use Joe Theismann. (And I would strongly recommend against watching the video of his actual leg injury.) Even Adam Sandler – whom I’m guessing agreed to do it as a favor to his former co-star Andy Samberg on the same conditions George Clooney had to go back to “ER” (“I’ll do it if you don’t put me in any of the ads”) – did a couple of jokes at the expense of his own hacky movies, commandeered the stage to mock Jake, and then also went away quickly.

Still, those cameos took up time, and I’m impressed “Operation: Broken Feather” was able to squeeze them in and still tell a pair of strong, funny stories about the core cast, how the larger squad relates to each other, and how Peralta and Santiago are getting along of late. Any newcomers to the show who happened to keep FOX on both after the game and after “New Girl”(*) would get the basics of all the characters – Diaz’s anger issues, Boyle’s clumsiness and foodie obsessions, Gina’s snark, even Hitchcock’s penchant for taking off his shirt – even as the Peralta/Santiago story nicely advanced their friendship (and continued to lay the groundwork for the romance to come). As a fan of both Andre Braugher and sabermetrics, I found Holt’s tearful reaction to “Moneyball” incredibly funny, and the writers have gone all-in on the idea of Holt as a socially-awkward robot, trusting that Braugher can deliver those lines in a way that’s funny without turning the character into a cartoon. As soon as Terry started talking about Icarus, it was clear that Holt’s plan would go up in metaphorical flames, but I was impressed with how literal they wound up being to poor Boyle’s fringed jacket.

(*) Because the Super Bowl was such a blowout, FOX’s postgame show ended 7 minutes early, which was a boon to people watching live, but a lousy development for anyone who was DVRing one or both of the comedy episodes while doing something else.

And “Operation: Broken Feather” continued the upswing in the material that Golden Globe Winner Andy Samberg is getting lately. He’s still goofy and immature, but in a way that doesn’t make you wonder how on earth this guy became and remains a cop. (Jake falling off the ladder while failing to dunk was the funniest non-Holt moment of the episode.) The writers have also done a good job of very slowly and carefully advancing the idea of Jake being attracted to Amy (and vice versa), so that it comes up when relevant and interesting, but isn’t shoehorned into every episode and every moment so that no one in the audience could possibly miss the idea that they are destined to wind up together.

Airing after the Super Bowl isn’t as big a showcase as it used to be – especially when you’re already airing after another show that’s airing directly after the Super Bowl – but this will almost certainly be the highest-rated “Brooklyn” episode to date, and “Operation: Broken Feather” did its job for both the newcomers and the viewers who have been there all along. Hopefully at least a few members of the former group will come back on Tuesday (when the show moves to 9:30, after “New Girl”).

What did everybody else think?

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