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Saturday, February 8, 2014

"Party" With BROOKLYN NINE-NINE

Article first published as "Party" With BROOKLYN NINE-NINE on TheTVKing.

FOX's Brooklyn Nine-Nine got the sort-of cushy show-after-the-show-after-the-Super Bowl-slot this week, meaning a new episode aired following New Girl late Sunday night. Unfortunately, by then many viewers were going to bed and turning off their television sets, so the ratings weren't as over-the-top better than a typical week as one might expect. But hopefully it still got the program a few new viewers. It's original, charming, and creative, and deserves the eyeballs.

Last night, Brooklyn Nine-Nine aired their second fresh episode of the week. Called "The Party," Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) and his husband, Kevin (Marc Evan Jackson, Parks and Recreation), host a fancy gathering at their home and invite the squad to attend. Granted, the 9-9ers aren't the most dignified of people, which leads to some awkwardness, but the main problem isn't Kevin's stuffy academic colleagues, nor Holt's eccentric ones. It's that Kevin doesn't want them there, and makes that pretty clear, even if he isn't overtly rude.

Kevin is introduced as an unlikable character from the start, which is weird, since Holt is such a well-developed person himself. It's sweet to see Kevin and Holt interact, but when Kevin looks down his nose at the cops, it becomes downright uncomfortable. Had "The Party" left the situation at that, I would have been confused as to how the relationship worked, and disappointed at Brooklyn Nine-Nine's choice. I also didn't want to believe that Kevin really thought Jake (Andy Samberg) had read The New Yorker because the man doesn't seem that gullible.

But Jake sees what no one else, including the viewers, see - Kevin hates the NYPD because of how they've treated Holt. In retrospect, it makes total sense, and once that piece of the puzzle is revealed late in the half hour, the episode really comes together. Besides being funny, Brooklyn Nine-Nine sneaks in a pro-gay rights agenda where one might least expect it, a definite check mark in the plus column for it. Perhaps the show could have been a little more obvious about the plot, rather than allowing it to come out so subtly. But I appreciate that they don't make Kevin a stereotype, didn't necessarily copy the tale from other series, and in the end, Kevin seems a worthy companion for Holt.

That's why I'm diggin' Brooklyn Nine-Nine; it brings something new to the table. There are classic sitcom elements, to be sure, but it also has a unique voice you can't find in any other program currently running. It does things its own way, celebrating oddity and embracing skewed perspective. Holt's husband, Kevin, is only a small element, having just been introduced, but "The Party" is in keeping with the larger tone and spirit of the show.

"The Party" is also great because it gets to showcase the rest of the ensemble, who have terrific chemistry, and can each stand on their own. Jake craves approval but acts like he doesn't, his target in this episode being Kevin. Gina (Chelsea Peretti) is certifiably insane, earning her a crowd of head docs gleefully analyzing her. Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) is more cultured than his fellows, and so clicks well with Kevin's foodie friend (Marilu Henner, Evening Shade, Taxi). Terry (Terry Crews) is the father figure who tries to make them all behave. And Santiago (Melissa Fumero) likes to believe she's the well-adjusted one, but her sneaky antics to get to know Holt better prove otherwise. Even Scully's (Joel McKinnon Miller) talent for opera and his weirdly close relationship with Hitchcock (Dirk Blocker) gets screen time.

Only Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz) is not highlighted in "The Party," but that's OK because there's a big cast to serve. It's impressive how all of these people can get their moments and subplots in such a short running time, each more than pulling their weight. They're oddballs, but they're specific oddballs who exist in a well-fleshed out world and have found their place. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is tightly written and knows how to effectively use its people.

Another cool thing about "The Party" is that Kevin's friends come to see the value of the squad, too. At first, there's a definite divide in the house, but once our heroes split up and interact, there is acceptance and appreciation for them. They may not have earned any new best friends, but Kevin's teacher pals don't look down on them, either, which is heartening to see. While some shows might go for the easy conflict in the clash of worlds, Brooklyn Nine-Nine plays something smarter, teaching us about human nature and the individuals themselves who star in the piece.

Overall, I'm highly impressed with Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I'm not a fan of dumb, base comedy, and while some commercials may lead one to believe that's what this show is, it couldn't be further from the truth. The fact that I could write a similar glowing review about basically any episode that's aired recently in their run is even better. I chose this one for convenience, having missed the window post-Super Bowl, but it really doesn't matter; the series consistently delivers. It definitely deserves the Golden Globes it recently brought home.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on FOX. If you haven't done so yet, do yourself a favor and check it out.

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