Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: “M.E. Time”

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When Men Of A Certain Age started airing on TNT, its base of loyal fans—I was unabashedly one of them—kept going on about Andre Braugher’s seemingly untapped comedic talent. Here was this much-lauded actor, known entirely for his seriousness (TV’s current crop of difficult geniuses/uber-dicks: Bow down at the altar of Frank Pembleton), who was all of a sudden funny. While Braugher’s Owen Thoreau was the most stable of the show’s central trio, that did not stop him from going toe-to-toe with Ray Romano, a guy who had anchored a sitcom for nine seasons. Owen was looser than Captain Ray Holt, more of settler (at least in the beginning) than a striver, the type of guy Holt would scoff at. Yet, both characters telegraph this great sense of disbelief in the actions of those around them. Not out of a sense of pretension, but a genuine confusion for the actions of their associates. He’s still the straight man, yet one whose actions make him a part of the joke as well.

When Men Of A Certain Age was canceled (sob!), I was disappointed that Braugher chose a project, Last Resort, that showcased the qualities that were familiar to us, rather than that little-seen comedic side. In Holt, we get yet another layer to his sheer genius as an actor. If Braugher played dry before, it was nothing like tonight’s episode where he was so dry he chafed—in the best possible ways. Santiago spends her portion of the episode trying to get on the same page with Holt, only to find that no one is ever on Holt’s page (save for his husband, whom I’m so looking forward to meeting later in the series’ run). It’s not so much a storyline as a running gag. Others in the precinct try to read Holt, only to find that he’s unreadable. “I went to Barbados with my husband. We wove hats of palm fronds. We swam with the stingrays. I’ve never been happier,” he says in response to Diaz’s inquiry about a possibly rough weekend. (His response to Scully, and Scully’s reaction, were equally amazing.) It’s not until the end of the episode, when Santiago understands what he really wants—no frills, good policework—that he shows his cards. It works because Braugher stays at such an even tone throughout, and only breaks in the slightest.

While Santiago spends her time being too eager, Peralta has problems letting go so Boyle can take control. As the Greatest Cop Ever, he just knows that this episode’s perp vic was killed by clogged arteries, and not by a jilted wife (as is really the case). Instead of supporting Boyle, he goes ahead and bangs the medical examiner (Mary Elizabeth Ellis, better known to some as The Waitress), who possibly likes her work a little too much (wink wink, nudge nudge). In the pilot, the main case involved a murder, but Michael Shur and Dan Goor were careful never to make jokes about the victim. In “M.E. Time,” however, Peralta gets a certain amount of glee making as many fat jokes as he can. The jokes aren’t offensive, yet they are still jokes about a dead guy, no matter how fictional.

“M.E. Time” is the first episode where the pairings are shifted so Holt and Peralta don’t work together, and I didn’t think Samberg’s Peralta was as strong by his lonesome. It’s also the first episode where the B-story was considerably funnier than the main plot. It’s Diaz who is proving the most problematic character, but that doesn’t mean she’s a bad character. If anything, it’s a backhanded compliment to the show as a whole. Diaz is just underdeveloped, a character trait rather than a character. The rest of the cast, meanwhile, has broadened from types even with only four episodes under their belt. When Peralta asks Santiago and Diaz about whether his dalliances with the M.E. are sexy or creepy, he wants to know if they can keep a secret. “Do you know anything about my life?” Diaz says. That’s a question for both Peralta and the audience. She grew up tough and has remained tough. That’s about it. Diaz feels inconsistent. Sometimes she’s ice-cold, complete with looks of perma-disgust, but she spends the bulk of this episode helping out a fellow coworker, whom she treats inconsistently. Actress Stephanie Beatriz can be funny, and she gave me one of my favorite laugh lines in “The Slump,” but Diaz isn’t there yet. Once again, that’s okay for a young series, but her lack of development is juxtaposed in an episode where everyone else seems to expand. Santiago and Peralta are given (limited) romantic interests, Holt mentions his husband, Terry is an artist. But Diaz is still just the pissed off-looking chick.

Stray observations:

  • Come back, Gina! I missed you!
  • “Yes! My fantasy threesome.”
  • “Scully, you can just write ‘I didn’t close any’ on a piece of paper.”
  • “It’s no big deal, like holding open slimy elevator doors. For a family of aliens.”
  • The face Terry makes after he says “Get me my oils!” is worth whatever he’s making, times a lot more.
  • “I hate small talk. Let’s drink in silence.”