October 15, 2019

Fox and the Comedy Hat Trick

There was a period from approximately 2009 through the end of 30 Rock's run last year when NBC was the undisputed queen of Thursday nights. Between Tina Fey's smart skewering of her own genre, Amy Poehler's hilarious turn as the too-perky, scarily driven Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation and Dan Harmon's years at the helm of Community there was a solid ninety minutes of excellent, hilarious television on offer every week, and fans of smart, cerebral comedy rejoiced. Harmon's firing made Community unwatchable– he's obviously awful to work with and apparently deeply misogynist but there is no denying that the man is something of a genius at his work– and in January of this year 30 Rock aired its final episode. Now Harmon's back for Community's fifth season and Parks and Rec is losing a few of its beloved minor characters and in any event they're both old guard, established and critically beloved but unlikely to become the ratings juggernauts that execs are always on the hunt for.

So stepping up to take on that mantle is Fox's Tuesday lineup, another lady-heavy arrary of half-hour comedies. The fall season kicked off last night with the series premiere of Brooklyn Nine Nine starring Andy Samberg as a boyish cop who can't take anything seriously, and the pilot was as incredibly dumb as previews had suggested it might be. If the hour-long pilot tends to be bad the half hour is usually approximately this awful, full of broad strokes at establishing character and not much else, so I'll give it a few weeks to improve, but oh my god is it not looking promising. After that was the third season premiere of New Girl, one of my favorite shows currently airing– I could sometimes live without Zooey Deschanel's Jess Day but all three of the main male cast members are so, so perfect at what they do that it hardly matters. Now that Jess and Nick (Jake Johnson) are officially a couple their storyline floundered a little bit, but that was expected as far as I'm concerned– after a season's worth of will-they-won't-they it's always hard to figure out how to handle, okay, yeah, they totally will– and Schmidt (Max Greenfield) forcing Winston (Lamorne Morris) to be his best friend while Winston tried to solve jigsaw puzzles in his bathrobe was exactly the kind of all-in character-centric humor that New Girl excels at. I already wrote about the first episode of The Mindy Project's second season, which was available as a sneak peak on Hulu last week,