By now, it's no secret that Fox's Brooklyn Nine-Nine is cut from the same cloth as Parks and Recreation. Parks creator Michael Schur created BK99 with Parks executive producer Dan Goor and the similarities between the ensembles in undeniable, from Chelsea Peretti's clear role as the Tom Haverford of the precinct to Andy Samberg's designation as the Leslie Knope and Andre Braugher's place as the Ron Swanson. But for the most part, the crossover has been stuck in circumstantial details until now.
Tuesday's episode "The Party" delivered a simple, heart-melting little vignette worthy of Leslie Knope and Co. While we were all atwitter about finally meeting Captain Holt's husband, Kevin, the true nugget of delight in the episode was the mini drama that unfolds as a result of that meeting. And it was so perfect it hurts.
The entire precinct assumes that when Holt says his husband invited them to his birthday party at the last minute that the invite is an empty gesture and that Holt is basically begging them not to come. Because they're a tight-knit group of weirdos, they all attend the fancy party in what appears to be a posh Brooklyn Heights single family home (to non-Brooklyn folks: that is quite literally THE DREAM) with Terry on hand to make sure none of them commits an embarrassing fancy party faux-pas. This plan fails when every member of the group fails in their own personal way, resulting in Santiago, Terry, and Peralta hiding in Holt's bathroom while he fights with his husband. As it turns out, Holt is the one who invited them to the party against Kevin's wishes. He says he likes his coworkers just as Santiago gives away her hiding spot and proves judgmental Kevin right.
Later, Jake solves the mystery of Kevin's reservations about the BK99 crew: Holt has been the subject of derision and ridicule throughout his career as a cop because he's openly gay and Kevin's aversion to cops and cop talk is a protective measure against his husband's aggressors. And if that sweet dedication to a husband who's stood up against prejudice over his sexual orientation his entire life wasn't enough, Jake ups the ante and pulls a completely Leslie Knope: he throws the perfect birthday dinner for Holt and Kevin with the help of the entire precinct and proves to Kevin that he and his coworkers really are different and that Holt finally has a real home on the force.
What makes this episode great on a Parks and Recreation level isn't just the circumstances of bringing the whole team together to do something nice for Holt or the fact that Jake showed his heart; it's the unpretentious and earnest manner in which the entire affair occurred. Somehow, in the middle of Brooklyn — the city of Lena Dunham's GIRLS, Hipsterdom, half of the bands you know and love, the MTV VMAs, Jay-Z, and a whole host of cool things you'll be hearing about in six months — Brooklyn Nine-Nine has created a community that feels as genuine, small, and sweet as Parks and Rec's Pawnee Parks Department.
So, this lovely, heart-warming gesture isn't just a plot line about friendship or a message about acceptance and the progress we've made in accepting that love is love, no matter what it looks like. It's also a way of showing that the seemingly unattainable sweetness of a fictional small town like Pawnee isn't confined to tiny communities and cities that move at a slower pace. That feeling can be found among the officers of a seedy Brooklyn police precinct, the folks in an Indiana municipal office, or where ever strong friendships are formed: it's universal.
People who dislike Parks have often mocked its earnestness and its wholesome approach to feelings and relationships, but while other series may deliver the grim realities and psychological issues that plague us all with blinding realism, there's plenty of room for a show that balances that out with the more pleasant realities we all experience. We need a show that delivers moments of genuine — not manufactured or saccharine — experiences like the time we said goodbye to a friend we loved with our whole heart, or the time you were inspired by a friend whose tenacity was unceasing, or — like on Brooklyn Nine-Nine — the time you realized your work friends are your insane second family.
These moments all exist, and for a while, we were lucky enough to have a show that helped to remind us of that. And now, thanks to Brooklyn Nine-Nine, we have two.
Images: FOX (2)