"Thank you, thank you, simmer down!" Jake made a calm down gesture at the audience, grinning as he did so. He adjusted the mic stand next to him and pulled off the wireless microphone from the clip. "You guys are so amazing, it's really great to be back. I can't believe how long it's been! I mean, the last time I was here, I was dressed up like a giant baby and when I smacked Charles Boyle -- who was playing my dad in that sketch, you know -- I ended up breaking the giant rattle the prop guys had made, except it turned out that they'd filled it with those, you know, toy insects because they were papier-mâché-ing it together almost literally up to dress rehearsal.
"Anyway, Charles screamed so loud and jumped up into my arms and there was this long pause and then I lost it for about five minutes aaaaaand I haven't been invited back since." He paused for a beat, allowing time for some chuckles, before continuing. "Anyway, I begged and pleaded with the network brass... who also kept saying no. It wasn't until Buzzfeed pointed out that the gif of Charles jumping into my arms was the top-downloaded animated gif -- and by the way, who calls it a jif? Those people are the worst -- of the year that I got to come back. And it's good to be back here, in Studio 3R." He paused as if in thought. "Maybe I'll find more of those plastic roaches." He grinned.
"We got a great show for you tonight -- my girlfriend, Camila Ferrarezi, is the musi--"
"What are you doing, weirdo?"
He fumbled the mic, then caught it and snapped it back into the clip. "Practicing my opening monologue for when I host The Nine-Nine after I leave the show."
Amy Santiago, dressed in dark-wash jeans, a salmon shirt, and a gray blazer, shook her head. "Get it together, man, we've got the first pitch meeting of the season in ten."
"Yeah, okay." He jumped down from the low stage and shoved his hands into the pockets of his hoodie, following her off set and into the back hallways. They took an elevator up to the 19th floor.
"You already know Live from New York, it's Saturday Night because Don Pardo's been shouting that at you since before you were born. Those guys, they're it, the big time, right? A variety show, some Sonny-and-Cher, Carol Burnett, Letterman shit, with sketches and musical guests and famous actors.
"This isn't that show.
"This is Brooklyn, see, and we do things a bit differently. This here? It's the last stand, the cutting edge of cool. This is The Nine-Nine."
-- Chris Rock, the very first guest on The 99th Hour revival in 1999
The large rectangular table dominated the writers' room. Half of them had Starbucks cups in front of them, blinking blearily as they sipped and tapped at their smartphones. The other half had cups from various indie coffee shops from around the area. Jake's was from some Greek diner he passed on the way in, the gold lettering cautioning the contents were hot. "I can't believe you spent your summer in Jersey."
Amy shot him a dirty look. "Seriously, we've been over this. I did a three-month gig in Atlantic City."
"They have comedy there?" Rosa Diaz's lips twitching was the only sign of her amusement.
Amy sighed. "It was a paying job and I got a lot out of it."
"That's no way to talk about porn," Jake deadpanned. A couple of the others chuckled, looking up from their Twitter streams. The conversation shifted to catching up on each other's summers, a few mentioning movies they'd filmed, while others ran through some snappy patter from their stand-up work.
Terry Jeffords walked in and everyone stopped to whistle and clap. Scully and Boyle burst into an improvised Pomp & Circumstance parody. "Heaaaaaaaaad wriiiiiiiiter, heaaaaaaaaad wriiiiiiiter," they droned, laughing as Terry glowered at them in mock outrage before breaking and joining them, adding a low harmony. They finished out a repeat before bowing theatrically as the writing and repertory clapped, a few featured players sneaking in during the distraction.
"Okay, okay, everybody settle down." Terry settled into his usual seat at the head of the table. "We've got a lot to go over today."
"Wait, wait, what about the new showrunner?" Gina stopped filing her nails and leaned forward. "Is he going to be a sensuous representation of peak masculinity like you?" Gina was practically purring, brandishing her emery board like a scepter of judgment.
Terry shifted uncomfortably. "First, I'm married." Gina shrugged and resumed filing her nails. "Second, the suits are currently getting him settled in. He'll be by later, I'm sure."
"Nah, tell us about the guy!" Rosa tilted her head up slightly. Somehow, despite the crowded room, she had her feet up on the table.
Terry shrugged. "I'm sure Holt will want to introduce himself. First, I've got a memo from S&P."
Half an hour later, Terry stood, shuffling his papers. "That's it for now. Welcome back to The Nine-Nine, everyone." The room applauded. "Hang around for a while," Terry continued, raising his voice over the sound of chairs and papers shuffling. "I'll have Gina order everyone lunch."
"You will?" Rosa's eyebrow rose and she tilted her head towards the redhead.
Gina was snoring softly in a corner, passed out in a nest made of crash pads, spare coats, and the inexplicable giant teddy bear that predated just about everyone, named Theo.
After a few moments, Amy turned to Jake, sitting on the edge of the writers' table, one foot on the ground. "Hey, have you heard anything about the new showrunner?"
Jake swiveled in his chair, fingers laced on his abdomen. "Uh, no, and I don't care." He sighed. "I wish McGinley hadn't been forced to retire by the network. He was the best."
Amy scoffed. "He was terrible! You just liked him because he would put on the laziest of your sketches. You didn't even have to try."
"Hey, I'll have you know Office Olympics was an awesome series. 'Desk Chair Derby' is a total classic."
"Whatever, it was literally one joke done eight times."
"What's your point?"
She sighed and shut her laptop, setting it on the table behind her. "If I'm ever going to run my own sitcom one day, I need a good mentor. I need my rabbi!"
"Sorry, dude, but this new guy's gonna be another washed-up suit who's only concerned with the weekly Nielsen numbers and what corporate thinks of our show and," he paused, stiffening his arms at right angles and altering his voice. Santiago's eyes flicked to the space above his head and she straightened, folding her arms across her chest. "Following every rule in the FCC guide, meep morp zeep. Robot showrunner engage." He smirked.
"Is that what you think?" A deep voice sounded from behind Jake's head.
"Heeeey, new showrunner alert." He swiveled around and stood. The rest of the room snickered behind their hands. "You must be the new EP, I'm Jake Peralta. Welcome to the writers room--"
"No, no, don't let me interrupt," he interrupted. "You were doing an impression of the kind of showrunner I'm going to be. I'd like you to continue." He wore a temporary building badge sticker with the name RAY HOLT on it.
"That's---that's not really necessary."
Holt's expression remained unchanged. "I insist. Do the robot voice."
"The robot voice you were doing to imply I'm a rule-following robot. I want to hear it again." Holt's eyebrow rose slightly. "You're a professional comedian, you should be able to do impressions. Impress me."
Jake fidgeted. Behind him, Amy looked smug. Jake sighed and raised his arms in the stiff right angles he had been using before. "Meep, morp, zarp," he intoned flatly, clearly uncomfortable. "Ro-bot," he ended, voice weak.
Holt tilted his head to the side. "That's a terrible robot voice."
"Yup," Jake agreed immediately.
Holt turned to the room. "Everyone, I'm your new showrunner, Ray Holt."
"Speech!" Santiago called.
"That was my speech."
"Short and sweet," Amy replied, not missing a beat, and flashed a thumbs-up gesture. Behind her, Jake rolled his eyes.
"Jeffords, a word please?" He waved over Terry and the two of them walked to Terry's office, in the back of the writers' room.
Santiago sighed, pressing her clasped hands to her chest. "I love that guy."
Jake smiled sarcastically. "Same!"
Gina pulled herself out of her nap-nest and shook out her hair. "Does anyone get a little bit of a gay vibe?" The rest of the room stared back at her blankly.
"These are all the guest stars we've had over the years," said FOX Vice President of Programs, D.C. Podolski. The hallway is lined with rows and rows of framed and signed headshots, in black and white and, later, color. There's a notable gap, which I ask about.
"That's the revival," he responds, any warmth in his voice dissipating. "The show was taken off the air for a decade, and we leave ten years' space so that we don't forget."
I can't help but think that it's as much a memorial as it is a warning to the cast: the show could still get canceled at any time. Be funny or else.
-- "Where Brooklyn At?!: A Look Behind the Scenes of The 99th Hour Revival" by Alan Sepinwall for The New York Times Magazine
"Tell me about the repertory," Holt said, standing beside Terry at the window from the Head Writer's office that oversaw the writers' room. Sprawled about are the repertory players.
"Well, Hitchcock and Scully have been on since the revival started. They've got a Punch-and-Judy routine that we use to signal the show's halfway through." Terry frowned. "Aside from that, they make good coffee and don't mind waiting in line for Shake Shack."
"Now the good ones," Terry said, and shifted. "Rosa Diaz. She cut her teeth in stand-up, but she's got a thing for props. Her motto is, 'Less talking, more hitting.'"
In the room beyond, Rosa shook her Macbook and smacked the table surface.
"Charles Boyle comes out of Second City. He's my best physical comedy guy, but that unfortunately means he's not that gifted in the day-to-day. He works best supporting one of the others. You put him in a sketch, he will make it funnier just by standing there." In the writing room, Charles dropped his muffin and muttered to himself. When he reached down to pick it up, he banged his head on the desk and started cursing, clutching his head.
"Amy Santiago, from the People's Improv Theater. She's bright, she's young, she's expressive. The audience loves her. She's game for anything. She has seven brothers, and she's always trying to prove she's tough." In the bullpen, Amy slowly rotated a multi-colored rubber band ball in her left hand while reading over something on her laptop.
"And what about Jake Peralta?" Holt asked, nodding his chin at Jake, who was just then shimmying past Amy and gloating about something.
"Jake Peralta is my star performer. He comes out of the UCB machine. He's been part of the repertory for eight years, and he was the youngest addition to the cast at the time. He writes or co-writes half the show and stars in almost every sketch, the digital short, and several of the long-form improv games. He loves finding the perfect joke. I just wish he could find the perfect work ethic."
Holt turned to Terry. "That was... very well put."
"Thank you, sir. I talk about Jake a lot in my network-mandated therapy sessions." At Holt's slightly altered expression, Terry explained. "After the last Head Writer quit after throwing her laptop out the window and taking all the sandwiches home with her, upstairs suggested I meet with a professional regularly to ensure my stability."
"Has it helped?"
"It hasn't hurt."
The opening credits are shots from Brooklyn, the camera moving along until it finds a cast member and frames them in shot.
Jake Peralta leads the cast, the obvious star. His picture is him sitting on the railing of the Brooklyn Promenade, fixed-gear bike beside him, eating a pretzel.
Amy Santiago is on the steps of Borough Hall, beaming as the camera essentially walks up to her and taps her on the shoulder.
Rosa Diaz is ascending the steps at Barclays Center, smirking at the camera, her leather jacket tinged blue under the lights, and her hair in riotous curls.
Charles Boyle is lounging outside of a Van Leeuwen ice cream shop, wearing sunglasses that he pulls off to beam into the lens.
Terry Jeffords jogs up and meets the camera under the arch at Grand Army Plaza, swiping at his forehead and posing, arms akimbo.
Last are Scully and Hitchcock, known onstage by their surnames alone. They are credited together, pictured playing chess in Prospect Park.
All of these scenes are punctuated by music -- a hip-hop remix of the classic Nine-Nine theme song, which was itself a funky remix of "I Love New York." However, now the sax features more prominently and the percussion is a beatboxer spitting into the mic, with sections punctuated with record scratches. The emcee hollers out each performer's name as it appears on-screen, sliding onto a band of color that dashes across like a carpet being unrolled.
After the repertory are the featured players -- Paul KZ, Deetmore, Kearns, Lohank, Nanda, Casey, Hong, Cherry, Ikeda, and Halint -- and the show cuts back to the studio, where the emcee is spinning like it's the end times. A local high school's drill team is stepping hard, their t-shirts stenciled with their high school's initials.
It feels more like a pep rally or a parody segment than a professional television show. Maybe that's the problem.
-- "When Does the 100th Hour Arrive?" by Linda Stasi for The New York Post
"Wait, you were one of the original cast of The Nine-Nine?!" Jake smacked himself in the forehead. "Raymond Holt! You were Disco Roller Yo-Yo! I loved those sketches."
Holt smiled faintly. "Yes, those were indeed... cherished times."
Jake sobered. "All due respect, sir, you're a comedic genius, and you were the obvious star at the time. Why'd it take you so long to get an EP title?"
"Because I'm gay."
"Haha, that's--hold up, seriously?"
"I'm surprised you didn't know, I don't try to hide it."
Jake stared off blankly into the distance for a moment before shaking his head. "I am not that observant."
Beside him in the sticky diner booth, Amy smirked and rotated her coffee mug. The waitress brought them their orders -- soup for Holt, an English muffin for Amy, and a lumberjack breakfast for Jake -- before whirling off. "When did you come out?" she asked, stirring sugar into the mug.
"About 25 years ago. The industry wasn't ready for an openly gay producer, not in the 80s. But then the old execs died out, and suddenly FOX couldn't wait to show off that they had a gay man on staff in a decision-making position. I managed the PR teams for years. I was loyal, because I felt I owed FOX a lot. But all I ever wanted was my own show." He paused. "My old show," Holt added dryly, watching Jake cover his pancakes in syrup, his eggs in salt and pepper. "And now that I finally got it, I'm not going to screw it up."
Jake and Amy sat side-by-side, both of them nodding silently.
"Boss, I'm sorry. I feel like a real jackass." Beside him, Amy's smirk widened, if that were possible. Jake reached into his pocket and pulled out his buzzing phone. He tapped at the screen for a moment before beaming and turning it to Holt. "But, on the flip side, Ratko just agreed to be the musical guest for our season premiere again. Humility over, I'm amazing," Jake declared, digging into his shortstack.
Amy sighed, and Holt took a careful sip of his soup, expression clearly amused, albeit in an understated way.
"Performers, writers, and featured players alike are 'locked in' the Bell Telephone Building's 19th floor on Tuesday nights to write sketches, suggest new games, and pitch new segments for the show. Fans of Saturday Night Live will recognize the basic process. This isn't an accident. Just as a former SNL cast member went on to start In Living Color, so was The Nine-Nine rooted in SNL.
'It's hard to escape that history. I mean, it's The Big One, you know? SNL's been on since before half these kids was born. At this point, sketch comedy and SNL are synonymous. We're trying to push our audiences beyond that, to explore the other sides of comedy. We can't compete directly, that's insanity. So, instead, we differentiate.'
That's the voice of John McGinley, Executive Producer of The Nine-Nine. He's been leading the show for almost fifteen years, and is set to retire at the end of this season."
-- Voice of Brian Williams, narrating "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn: Behind the Scenes of The 99th Hour"
"You've haven't written a sketch that made it on air in two weeks," Terry said slowly. A hush fell over the room. "I think you might be--"
"Don't say it!" Jake shouted.
"In a slump," Holt finished, walking into the room. "Yes, I've seen it before."
"I do not slump!" Jake insisted, still shouting. "I--I--I reverse slump! I p-muls!"
Behind him, Amy wrinkled her nose.
"Just give me something fresh to work with, a new bit. Let me do some improv!"
"This is getting… sad," Holt commented, gesturing vaguely at Jake's entire everything. "Finish a sketch -- and make it funny -- and I'll consider adding you to the Hat Scenes game."
"Hat Scenes?!" Jake slumped back in his chair. "This is so unfair."
"Not as unfair as me having to share an office with you," Amy muttered.
"I heard that!"
J: Welcome to my office.
R: Isn't this….a bathroom?
J: Well, we can't all brag about having a throne in one's corner office, now can we?
-- Cue card from S15E03 of The 99th Hour. Sketch was an involved parody of The Fonz as a hardboiled noir detective, which is undercut by him operating out of a bathroom that has seen better days.
They're drunk, it's well past 2AM, and they've just finished wrapping Pembroke's motorcycle in Saran Wrap instead of writing sketches for the show that's airing in three days. Terry's not at the office because Holt took him to dinner with the suits, but if they aren't back by three there's going to be hell to pay either way.
"We're taking the bus!" Jake called, and they all filed to the bus stop together. Jake was sitting on the B12 by a window, facing Amy who was giving him that you-fucked-up look he was accustomed to seeing from her.
"None of this would have happened if you'd just asked us for help finishing the monologue, you know." Her mouth twisted into a frown and Jake noticed that her hair was coming out of its clip.
He was buzzed and tired and it was late and there was still work to do. It was the only thing that explained his response: "I know, I just, I get so excited about comedy, you know? Writing jokes and testing them out and getting the timing and the punchline just right--"
"I get it," she said, interrupting him, and her voice was placating, which was new. "You wanna be the best. We all get that way, too. You just... don't have to be a butthead about it."
He stared at her for a long moment.
She resumed frowning. "What?"
"I just can't believe you called me a butthead."
She rolled her eyes, but she was smiling. "Shut up."
"That's just so harsh," and then he broke, grinning at her.
She socked him on the shoulder.
"Last night's episode of The Nine-Nine was their best-rated this season. While numbers have been shaky moving into the holiday season, the quirky underdog comedy show has been steadily gaining viewers since the show's return to its 11:30pm Friday slot. Their sketches have been getting better, their improvising is tighter, and even their audiences are smarter. Who'd have guessed?"
-- The A.V. Club's Weekend Wrapup
"Why do you admire Brogan and his pals so much?"
"Because they were amazing comedians." Jake turned THE PLAYERS over in his hands. "The 70s were awesome! You could say whatever you wanted, there were drugs everywhere, everyone had thick juicy moustaches, and half the sketches had break-apart furniture and gongs."
Holt frowned. "They were also a time when comedy was openly racist, sexist, and homophobic. Brooklyn had a lot of unrest, and FOX would never have let a gay, black man like me run the show. You wouldn't have had Santiago or Diaz in the cast either."
"Yeah, but Brogan and those guys were legit. Brogan had that recurring sketch as Mayor Koch, and he was amazing."
"It was lazy, flat writing, and half the time Brogan was going on-air drunk or stoned." Holt gave him a steady look. "Your hero-worship is built on a catchphrase and pandering."
"Brogan is what made me want to do comedy in the first place. Him, his book, and this show. Brogan's a part of my history."
"Mine, too," Holt added. "Don't forget, he outed me before I was ready to come out."
Amy was doing a dramatic reading of Jake's texts from the night before. For his part, Jake was trying to evolve into a turtle as fast as humanly possible.
"'Why scotch burn so good?' 'Was his name in Serpico?' And, last, a photo of Jake eating Chinese Chicken salad shirtless on a JMZ platform."
"Ugh, halt your mouth-siren, for the love of all that is holy."
Amy grinned toothily.
"I couldn't handle my brown."
Holt shot him an incredulous look.
"I know, it grosses me out, too."
"Get out, and take the rest of the day off."
"You don't have to defend that homo."
Jake felt his mouth twist downwards. "I wish you hadn't said that."
"What, homo? That's what he is, isn't he?"
Jake felt his fist connect with Brogan's face before he realized what had happened.
"You can ignore that, Santiago."
Holt stood in the entryway of their office. Jake and Amy swiveled in their chairs to face him, wearing very different expressions. Amy held the Metro New York paper in her hands, folded back to the feature article Brogan had written.
"Jimmy Brogan wouldn't know a talented comedian if he punched him in the face." Holt tipped his chin at Jake slightly before continuing on down the hall.
"The Nine-Nine is now just a bunch of hairbag posers, and the biggest hairbag of them all is none other than Jake Peralta. Why, the old crew would have eaten a milquetoast, millennial hipster waif like that for breakfast and unloaded him for lunch. Aside from being unable to handle his brown like a man, he commits the cardinal sin of comedy weekly: he's just not &*%$+@# funny."
-- "Take One Down, Pass it Around" by Jimmy Brogan for Metro New York
"So, did Handsome Luke text you back?"
Amy sighed and sat back, tossing her half-eaten pie on her desk, atop several sheets of paper and narrowly missing her mouse. They were in their shared office, desks facing each other. Jake was trying to pull out a single blueberry from his slice of pie. "No, because it's impossible to be repertory and date because God knows what my schedule will be like week to week." She blew out a frustrated breath and took off her glasses, rubbing tiredly at an eye with the heel of a palm.
Above them, the clock ticked, minute hand sliding past four. The table read with D.U.S.T.Y. inched closer.
"Look, Amy, somewhere out there is a guy who's right for you, with a super weird soul patch, maybe wearing a knit hat."
In spite of herself, she laughed, hand covering her eyes.
"Hey, c'mon," he said, and poked her leg with the toe of his shoe.
"What?" she asked, dropping her hand and looking at him.
He held up the grainy security camera picture of Dustin Whitman's roadie -- the entire reason they were rewriting the entire show two days before it went to air and the reason they were pulling their second all-nighter of the week -- in front of his face. "Amy," he said, making a gravelly voice. She laughed, a bright and startled sound, and came around her desk to perch on the edge of his. "My patch tingles for you," he pushed on, trying not to laugh and ruin it. "We shall wed on the isle of New Jersey, and our first dance will be to 'Jesse's Girl' because my name is definitely Jesse."
"Oh, how romantic," she cooed between giggles. He heard more than saw her reach out and scratch at the picture's soul patch with her index finger. He wondered what her face would look like if he dropped the photo right then.
"I see you two are having fun," came Holt's flat voice from the door.
Jake dropped the picture and the both of them swiveled to the door.
"It's over a million views and counting."
-- Memo to The Nine Nine from FOX executives reporting Hulu view numbers for the Dustin "D.U.S.T.Y." Whitman comedic rap battle about pie
It was time for the annual Christmas Episode Character Showdown. They drew names from a box, because that was tradition, and Jake got pulled along with Holt.
"Sweet," Jake said, smirking.
Offside, Amy sighed and shook her head. "Typical," she muttered. Rosa elbowed her roughly.
Jake and Holt did a series of short-form improv bits, riffing on topics that the audience had supplied prior to the live taping, such as "Rejected Presidential Memoir Titles" and "Worst See-n-Say Options".
Then they entered the lightning round. The teleprompter displayed a prompt, which the audience saw as a subtitle.
Jake went first, his subtitle reading POSSESSED GIRL SCOUT. He grinned and then stiffened up. "And out of the ashes shall rise Morlock the Destroyer of Worlds, and, with his rising, blood shall run in the streets," he said in falsetto, voice an eerie monotone. "All hail Morlock," he cried, arms spread-eagle and slowly revolving in place. "Purveyor of Thin Miiiiints," he finished. From the skybox (where Holt usually observed the show, running the production side) Terry signaled for the buzzing sound effect to go off, and Jake relaxed while the audience cheered.
The camera cut to Holt, standing four feet to Jake's left. His prompt read, UNENTHUSIASTIC NFL COMMENTATOR. Holt's lips twitched, before he spoke deadpan into the camera. "It's all down to this. Fourth down, the 35-yard line. Galecki gets the ball, throws it to Cuomo. He's going. The thirty. The twenty-five. The twenty. The ten. He. Could. Go. All. The. Way." Holt's voice remained a perfect monotone, zero enthusiasm in his voice, while the audience laughed at his utterly nonplussed expression. The buzzer sounded, and Holt beamed, a rare smile that was bright under the lights.
The feed cut to Jake. THINKS FEAR FACTOR IS A DATING GAME read the text, and Jake made a face at the camera before making a dismissive gesture. "Bachelor Number One," he said, affecting a Valley Girl timbre. "What is your ideal first daaaaa--" He mimed a fall from a great height, ducking out of frame and fading out his voice as if he were falling. He fell with a thump on the studio floor, and the buzzer sounded.
Holt: STARBUCKS BARISTA TRAPPED IN BLINDS. The audience chuckled and Holt handed his jacket to Charles, who beamed from offsides. He contorted his body, like a marionette, and make sound effects with each step or gesture he made. "Grande pumpkin spice latte, extra pump, skim milk, no foam? Coming right up." He mimed taking steps and punctuated each movement with sound effects, then mimicked the sounds of the coffee machine and the blinds crumpling as the tried to get free of them. As the bit kept going, more and more sounds kept being produced -- the metal milk jug clattering to the floor, the ever-present metal blinds scraping against each other, the steamer hissing. The audience applauded loudly when the buzzer sounded.
They did several more of the lightning round, each sketch running 90 seconds or less. Jake had the audience in stitches during PENGUIN GUITARIST, but Holt seemed to pull ahead with BRITISH BASEBALL FAN which was rife with malapropisms.
The last bit was The Two-Headed Soloist act, a fan favorite, which was an improvised song where the two performers linked arms and improvised a song one word at a time, accompanied by the house band. The cheery intro led to Jake taking the lead, and they ended up singing an 80s-era sitcom theme for an odd-couple detective pairing called Barley and Gimes. It ended with Gimes singing a heartfelt entreaty to not fight with family, and the entire studio audience -- all 300 people, who fit by some miracle -- stood and clapped as the camera panned over them and Terry cut to commercial.
During the commercial break, one of the featured players ran his stand-up set while the repertory changed clothes backstage.
"That was awesome," Jake whisper-shouted at Holt, who was eyeing a yellow sweater on a far rack suspiciously.
"Thrilling," Holt said without inflection.
"I don't think I've ever seen you emote that much," Jake continued, pulling his shirt over his head and pulling on the Santa suit a PA was holding out to him.
"I am glad to see you took my advice and let up on the manscaping."
"What?" Jake retorted unthinkingly. He tugged on the boots and the PA snapped the elastic beard in place. "Ow! Watch it, Susan, that's my hair."
"Sorry," she replied, clearly not sorry, and shoved the Santa hat on his head, then hustled him to stage right.
Holt stood alone for a moment. "That was... enjoyable." And then he smiled to himself slightly.
"We'd argue that The Nine-Nine is so good, it's worth staying in for -- and we don't say that lightly. Jake Peralta continues to be the standout player in a stellar cast, but the recent return of Raymond Holt to the stage [Holt was a repertory player on the first generation of The 99th Hour, back in the late 70s and early 80s. --Ed.] proved that not only does Holt still got it, but also that it's clearly his influence that is bringing this show back into pop culture consciousness.
"We would be remiss, however, to skip past the others. Amy Santiago as a Met Opera Diva who brings a gun to knife fight had us in stitches. Charles Boyle as a boom mic operator in a shower gel commercial where the shower stall gets too packed was terrific -- standout moments include him tripping over a piece of equipment he had mimed placing on the ground and that the rest of us had forgotten about until he turned it into a gag. Even Head Writer Terry Jeffords, missing in action since the start of the season, got in on the game. His DDR Dance-Off bit was better than anything in the opening half hour of SNL last week.
"The stealth win, though, goes to Rosa Diaz. If the other three are joke assassins, she's a punchline axe murderer. Her perfectly straight delivery all through the Muppet Babies sendup sketch was nothing short of masterful. We can't wait to see her do musical comedy or even more short-form improv in the back half of the season."
-- Jacob Clifton for Gawker's Morning After TV Recap blog
"The Ebony Falcon flies again!" Charles declared, beaming. "His feathers are muscles," he added.
"We want to bring back the Late Night News segment," Jake explained to Holt. "I know Terry's been out of it for a while, but you saw him out there at Christmas! He's still got it, he just has to get over his camera shyness."
"If you're sure he can handle it, then you have my full support." Holt made a dismissive gesture, and the two of them left his office on the 20th floor, taking the fire stair back down to the writers' and players' floor.
Of course it was later that same day, when Terry was Facetiming with his daughters, the rehearsal notes in front of him, that Jake had second thoughts. "I'm worried about Terry," Jake had said, wide-eyed and a note of panic in his voice.
The rest of the rehearsal had gone poorly, mostly because Jake kept changing the lines last minute and Terry kept disagreeing with the changes, or Jake would jump into the shot and ruin it. If Jake could find a way to throw off the rehearsal, he did.
Dress rehearsal was an hour away when Terry barreled up to Jake and grabbed him, dragging him to the LNN set. "Let's dance," he said, folding his arms across his sizeable chest.
"Okay, but I should warn you: I took three years of tap." Jake smiled nervously at Terry who simply rolled his eyes.
"Why are you trying to sabotage my return?"
"Because I'm an attention whore who can't share the spotlight?"
Terry slapped him.
"Ow! My lucky face! What the hell?!"
"The truth this time?"
"The camera adds ten pounds and you're looking kinda tubby?"
Terry raised his left hand to smack Jake again, who held up his hands in surrender.
"Okay, okay! I want you to set a good example for your daughters, and pretending to be an anchorman and telling dick jokes seems like... not that."
Terry relaxed. "Jake, my girls aren't going to see the show for at least ten more years, and by then who knows what I'll be doing."
"Wait, how old are they again?"
"Did you forget they're toddlers?"
"Well you never bring them to set!" Jake gasped. "Because of all the heavy stuff and danger!"
On the side, Charles shook his head and rewrote the word "bogey" on a cue card, trying to think of a penis-related pun involving bogeys, Humphrey Bogart, and Transatlantic accents.
INT OFFICE. At a DESK, seated across from each other, are CHARLES and ROSA. Charles is in a suit and looks nervous. Rosa stares impassively back, some papers in front of her. The desk clearly is hers.
Thank you so much for taking
the time to interview me today.
This is kind of my dream job.
Rosa taps the papers to organize them.
Enough chit-chat. Let us get down to
the business of monies and crunching.
Tell me: how do we minimize
managerial overhead costs?
Charles looks taken aback.
Uh, I guess we'd look at the
financial statements and maybe
dig into the bookkeeping?
And then, to minimize?
I guess we could see if there's fat to trim
in the staff. (sees Rosa looking at him
with a blank expression) Or we could
replace them with robots ...?
(she attempts to smile, it is a baring of teeth)
Excellent answer. Robots are popular in the
money culture. Perhaps we, I mean, they
should be in more movies and TV shows.
Uh, say, what kind of accent is that? I
haven't heard it before.
It is very unique. My mother was a
robot and my father, he was a
caveman. It made for some very
hilarious cultural clashes. Shall I
tell you some amusing anecdotes
from my childhood? Say one for
yes or zero for no.
-- Page from the script of S15E12 of The 99th Hour.
depth of field
"Amy Santiago," Jake said loudly, down on one knee in the middle of the stage. The audience was cheering, loud enough to be deafening. There was a banner that had been lowered from the rafters declaring JAKE WINS in blue bubble letters that looked like it had been made during dress rehearsal -- probably because it had.
Someone had turned on "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang on a cherry-red stereo hidden behind the set. Amy wanted to smash it with a hammer.
Jake was still grinning up at her. "You have made me the happiest man on Earth." He opened up the heart-shaped ring box to reveal a surprisingly realistic plastic diamond ring. "I spent one whole dollar on this ring. Will you go on the worst date ever with me? You have to say yes."
He looked up at her, all earnestness and superiority, and Amy was certain she'd never hated his stupid face more in her life. "Yes," she muttered.
"SHE SAID YES," he shouted, and the cheering redoubled anew. "That's for you," he added, tossing her the ring, and moonwalked (poorly) away from her.
Here was how it had started:
A year ago, in the middle of the show's 14th season, Amy and Jake had gotten into a shouting match in the writers' room. Amy had been frustrated that she'd been partnered up with the coasting slacker who was just going to hold her back, who got every sketch he wrote to air even when half of them weren't even done by the first table reading of the week. She hadn't worked her ass off to make repertory for this.
"I'm a better comedian than you any day of the week, and twice on Fridays." The room had collectively gasped at that.
Jake smirked. "So why do you only average one sketch and one showcase? Hey, did the last episode have any sketches you wrote in it? Oh wait, no it didn't."
"Aw, shit, son," one of the featured players called out. Amy glared at him until he sank back.
Amy reddened. "I'm still better, even if you have McGinley as a crutch." She folded her arms across her chest. "I could get more of my sketches on air than you in the next year, McGinley be damned."
Amy's competitive streak had gotten her mouth ahead of her brain. "What are the stakes? And don't say 'money' because I know you're in debt."
"If you really knew anything about me, you'd say crushing debt," he said, pinkies raised, his favored Greek diner coffeecup in his right hand. "And I'll bet whatever because there's no way I'll lose."
"How about your car?" Rosa smirked, and Amy shot her a grateful look.
"Don't do it!" Charles cried. "That thing is a date magnet. I mean, how many girls have you kissed in there? Six?"
"Well, I'm gonna win, so sure, let's bet the car." He shot her a look as if to say, 'What now?'
"No, Jakey! Cap would never wager his shield. Gordon Ramsey would never wager his sense of taste." Charles shook his head. "Losing that car would be the worst thing in the world for you."
"And what would be the worst thing in the world for you, Amy?" Gina cut in, already smirking.
Amy frowned. "Being one of those girls in Jake's car."
The room exploded with noise, and Jake mouthed, 'You wish," at her. She barely resisted the urge to gag.
"It's settled," Terry called, standing up. The room quieted instantly. "If Peralta loses, Santiago gets his car. If Santiago loses, she goes on a date in said car."
"Game on," Jake said, setting the cup on the table and standing, holding out a hand.
"Game on," she'd echoed, and shook his hand.
He had frowned. "Your handshake is really firm."
"I took a seminar."
This was the part that Amy didn't know about:
The cast was at Shaw's after the show. It was just past three in the morning, and the date had already started, promising to run until dawn. Jake was telling Charles (who was basking in the glow of his Emmy nod, an honor that kept getting outshone by the fact that he was least likely to win in his category, not that he cared) about the date he had planned.
"...And then at 9am, I've arranged for a youth choir to serenade us in the middle of the Barclays Center entrance. She and 150 drunk Brooklyn College kids doing the walk of shame will treasure that moment forever." Jake beamed, clearly proud of himself.
Charles was less impressed. "Jake, do you know why little boys pull little girls' pigtails?"
"They're right there, just asking to be pulled." He looked at Charles like this was the obvious answer.
Charles suddenly felt old. "Because they like her and don't know how to express it. All of this teasing, this elaborate date. Somewhere deep inside, you like Amy. Like, like her like her."
"That's crazy," Jake said, but he sounded doubtful.
"Maybe you should just sit down, have an honest conversation with her, get to know each other better--"
"Okay, you're insane," Jake said, and Charles knew his window of opportunity had slammed shut. "I'm not taking advice from someone who lives in his ex-wife's new boyfriend's basement." With a 'hyup' he clambered off the barstool and walked away.
"I'm ashamed of my living situation," Charles shouted after him, drunk enough to not care.
One more thing:
Holt had turned to Jake and said, "I have to go home to my husband. I need you to go back to the studio and wait for a call from Joaquin Phoenix for me."
Holt stared back impassively.
Jake sighed. "Fine, but I'm taking Santiago with me." He pivoted. "Darling!"
Amy extricated herself from Scully's surprisingly spry Irish dancing.
"Duty calls," he said, offering her his arm.
"Oh, thank god," she said, and they walked out of Shaw's arm in arm, Jake avoiding Charles's gaze.
Of course, later, when they were sprawled out in Holt's office, the two of them tossing peanut M&Ms at each other in a game of candy basketball and trading bad first-date stories for every shot they made, Holt's text message was clear. "JP unlikely to call, you both are free to go."
Jake texted back, "we'll be around if he changes his mind" and tucked his phone back into his pocket. He stood and stretched, missing the appraising look Amy gave him, before turning to her. "Hey, come on, I wanna show you something."
Amy, who had long since changed into jeans and a comfy sweater and was sporting Chucks more beat than his own, stood up. She held up the bag of candy. "Should I bring this?"
They took the fire stair up eight flights -- "Seriously, Peralta? You know there's elevators, right?" -- until they took a turn into a small nook in the stairwell. Jake pressed a hidden bar on a door that looked too nondescript, and Amy joked, "You're not gonna kill me, are you?"
He rolled his eyes and pushed the door open, standing aside to let her through.
They were on the roof of the Bell Telephone building, the view unobstructed on every side. "Whoa," she said quietly, rubbing her arms in the predawn chill. "How did you know about this?"
"Found it one night during a write-in. Been keeping it a secret 'cause I think if too many people know they'll lock the doors." He shrugged and leaned against the cement railing. "Sun's about to come up," he added, and pointed at the brightening light towards true east.
She came up to the railing next to him and mimicked his pose. They touched, shoulder to shoulder. "Why is that car so important to you?"
"You really wanna know?" She turned to him and nodded. "It was my first season on The Nine-Nine. I was super nervous. Walked out of Shaw's after my first show and fell asleep on that car." She grinned at that. "Thus began the debt."
"Crushing debt," she corrected.
"You do know me."
The sun began to rise over the horizon, throwing the western edge of all the buildings into shadow.
"Look, Simba," Amy said, deepening her voice. "Everything the light touches is our kingdom."
"Wow," Jake said, not even pretending to be genuine.
"A king's time as ruler rises and falls like the sun. One day, Simba, the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king."
"And this'll all be mine?" he replied, sarcastic gratitude in his voice.
"Everything." She was starting to crack up.
"Everything the light touches," he marveled caustically. "But about the shadowy place over there?" He pointed at the western side of the building.
"That is beyond our borders. You must never go there, Simba." She burst into giggles and bumped his shoulder. "Think we could turn it into a bit?"
"Only if we were on ABC and not FOX," he replied, and she laughed.
"Sorry tonight didn't go as planned. Guess that's a 51-way tie for worst date ever, huh?"
"Nah," he replied blythely. "It still goes on the good date list."
"We thought #JakePeralta was gonna propose to us tonight, turns out it was just a bet! #whew #ladiesssss /@jorjorpeele"
-- Keegan-Michael Key (@KM_Key) January 18th, 2014
They were reviewing sketches from a few seasons ago, to see if there were any characters or improv showcases they wanted to bring back, when Amy sat back in her chair and fiddled with the ties of her hoodie. "I have something I need to talk to you about."
"Is it the shitty state of our archives, because seriously Hulu looks better than these DVDs."
"No, um." She swallowed, and Jake felt his danger sense start making the klaxon sound. "Major Crush asked me to come in for an interview."
"Wait, you mean The Vulture's sitcom wants you to write for them?" Jake sat up in his chair, fingers tapping on the arms of the chair.
"Not exactly," she said, shifting in her chair. It squeaked. "They want me to come in as a story editor."
"Not even a writer?" He laughed. "Oh! It's just a lousy proofreader role. Okay. No way you're taking that." He stood up. "Here's the plan. We're going to write three amazing sketches for the show, they're all going to air, and you're going to remember how good that feels and forget all about Major Crush. And that's a Peralta Guarantee."
"Your last Peralta Guarantee was that you could dunk a basketball. I ended up taking you to the hospital for stitches."
"I never said I couldn't use a ladder. Either way, the subtext of the guarantee was that you'd be entertained. Peralta Guarantee achieved." He strode out of the room, one arm extended with the finger pointing in the air. "Lezzgo!"
"Come with me, Amy, to the Dumpster, me and Amy going diving in the Dumpster," he sang, pulling out a banker box labeled "The Dumpster," where rejected sketch ideas went to die. "Ooh, remember this? 'Out of Breath Jogger from 1987'? Total classic." He handed her a stapled-together packet of papers.
Amy took the packet and flipped through it while Jake continued to rifle through the box, pulling out packets and sheafs of clipped-together papers. "Why do you care so much about me taking this job?"
"Because Pembroke is the worst. The Vulture is the worst! That entire show is the worst! They steal jokes and go for the easy laugh every time, it's the lowest of the low."
"So if I were going to another sitcom, you wouldn't care?"
He shot her a look and focused his attention on the files in the box. "No. I mean, it's your life, do whatever you want."
She felt herself frowning.
Jake pulled out a file folder. "Ah ha! It's that musical group sketch based on a 98 Degrees song that got passed over." He tossed it to her.
She flipped through it. "Hey, this is actually pretty good."
"We could update it--"
"And do a read-through with Boyle?" She grinned at him.
"Now you're feeling it!" He brandished his index finger at her. "Yeah!"
Their updated sketch -- a parody of a One Direction song, complete with choreography and phone app tribute -- got the coveted pre-LNN slot, the last one most "normal" people watched before finishing LNN and going to bed.
"See, I knew we could do it," Jake said, beaming beatifically. His other sketch, about the winner of a radio contest who runs an antiquities auction very poorly, was set to be one of the last sketches of the night. "Why would you ever leave?"
Amy stopped in the hallway to their office. "Jake, I'm still going to do the interview."
"Wait, what? But I thought--" He frowned. "Don't."
"It's a really good opportunity for me--"
"It's a step down for you!" he burst out. "You're better than that, you're better than Major Crush."
"Why can't you be supportive?"
"Because you're being a bad partner." He gestured between them. "We're a team. I can't believe you're letting me down like this. Would Amy Poehler leave Seth Meyers in the lurch? Jane Curtin leave Dan Aykroyd?"
"They never wro--"
"Whatever. I guess if you join that menagerie, I'm gonna have to start calling you The Cheetah, because they're scavengers and really cool and I kind of regret giving you that name now." He stomped off down the hallway and missed the hurt look she wore as she watched him walk away.
"Can you believe Amy is just going to interview for Major Crush, for The Vulture?!" Jake was pacing back and forth in their office, papers strewn all over the room and his hands tufting his hair. It was Wednesday, and the table read with the show's host was in three hours.
"Yes, she told me about it herself." Holt observed Jake's agitation stoically, as he was wont to do.
"What? And you let her go?" Jake looked incredulously at Holt, his hands on his hips.
Holt frowned. "Santiago wants to be a showrunner one day. Being a story editor is an important job, and it will give her a look at how sitcoms are put together." He paused. "Good colleagues -- good writing teams -- support each other in their career choices, even if they don't always agree with them." He nodded up at the photo on the wall and walked down the hallway.
Jake pivoted to look at what Holt had nodded to -- a photo of them accepting a Golden Globe for Best Short, Comedy or Musical, the both of them beaming onstage. Jake had bought the photo from Getty Images, had even gotten it framed.
He pursed his lips and looked at it for a long moment.
She turned away from the EA's desk. "Jake!" Her expression turned suspicious. "What are you doing here?"
"Look, there's something I have to say." He took a breath to brace himself. "I'm sorry. You weren't the bad partner. I was. I should have been more supportive. If this is really what you want to do next, then I'm behind you one hundred percent. Look." He reached back and pulled out a sealed envelope. "I even wrote you a letter of recommendation." He paused. "Which is riddled with spelling errors, by the way. There's no way there's four Ms in 'recommendation' right--?"
She held up her hands, a grin slowly spreading across her face. "I already turned down the job."
It was his turn to be shocked. "Really?"
"Yeah." She shrugged. "You were right, it isn't the right move for me. And, right now, I like where I am."
"Oh," he said, and he felt his nerves buzzing, like something electric was in the air.
Her grin widened. "But thanks for thinking I'm great."
"Nope, I take it all back. Everything I said." He shook his head and stuffed the envelope in the breast pocket of his signature leather jacket.
She shook her head, still beaming. "Nuh-uh, you said I was great, and you were nice," she teased.
"This is my nightmare."
"Rumours about one of The Nine-Nine's main cast leaving have been greatly exaggerated, says a source on the inside. According to them, Amy Santiago was eyeing a behind-the-scenes role at FOX's smash hit sitcom Major Crush, but it's not to be. Miss Santiago is contracted to remain on The Nine-Nine for at least four more years, with the option to extend. She and her fellow castmate Jake Peralta just won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy Short for their inspired send-up of musical theater tropes, an upset over the perennial favorites at SNL and The Daily Show ."
-- "Shaking Up The Nine-Nine?" by Kristen Baldwin for Inside TV (Entertainment Weekly)
"It's like we're in some kind of crazy alternate universe. Kevin thinks I'm not funny, everyone thinks Holt's lame dad-jokes are hilarious, and I am flummoxed. That's a word I learned for this party and I am it." Jake looked indignant.
"It's their home, it's their rules," Terry pointed out. "If Kevin doesn't want us riffing and talking about comedy for five hours, that's his prerogative."
Beside Jake, Amy shrugged. "Well, I think I'm doing fine."
"Really?" Jake raised an eyebrow at her, then added in falsetto, "Raymond! Those slacks are a knockout." He shot her a flat look.
She winced. "Did everyone hear that?"
"Only because you yelled it."
"Okay," Terry said, trying to regain control of the situation and wishing (not for the first time) that his grown-up kids weren't so damn helpless. "Regroup. Amy, you studied art history, talk about that. And no more rifling through cabinets, do I make myself clear?"
"Yes," she muttered.
"Rosa, keep an eye on Gina, make sure she doesn't steal anything."
"Too late," Gina declared, holding up a purse that wasn't hers, which was stuffed with clothing and accessories that weren't hers either.
"I'll make her put those back," Rosa added.
"Jake, don't say anything. Just smile and nod politely and listen to other people talk. No riffing, no sarcastic quips, just observe."
"Right, right okay-- hey wait! You're Hitchcocking me?!"
"We're practically the same!" Hitchcock declared, beaming.
Jake shook his head. Beside him, Amy hid her smirk behind her wineglass.
Terry looked around. "Has anyone seen Boyle?"
In the Holt-Cozner coat closet, Vivian Ludley and Charles were making out passionately.
They broke apart with a wet smacking sound. "Here," Charles said, pressing a leaf against her lips. "Take this shisho leaf. It'll give our kissing umami flavor."
Vivian groaned and brought the leaf into her mouth with her tongue, a move that had Charles mesmerized. They resumed making out ardently.
Spotted leaving an Upper West Side brownstone in dishabille: The Nine-Nine cast member Charles Boyle and noted paleo diet expert and Columbia professor Vivian Ludley. We can't say for sure, but we believe her lipstick was smeared liberally on his face, and both of them were in a notable state of undress. Could romance be in the air?
-- TMZ Blurbs
Jake and Amy stood just off-stage, watching as Boyle proposed to Vivian on-air. Jake had been given the last ten minutes of the show, where the strangest and most experimental sketches usually went, for his bit about a woman with a troll-child, but he had redone it last-minute. Jake watched Vivian's expression morph from self-consciousness to surprise. Arms folded across his chest, Jake felt elated and exhausted in equal measure.
The studio audience gasped along with Vivian when Charles got down on one knee.
Amy's eyes flicked between the stage and the monitors, where she could see Vivian's overjoyed expression as Charles slipped the ring on her finger and they kissed passionately, the audience cheering and whistling as the curtain came down and the monitors cut to commercial. "Jake! Charles is engaged!" She watched the stage with her hands clasped in front of her, still wearing the outfit she had worn in the previous sketch. "You did something amazing here. I take back what I said about you being immature."
Jake grinned, wide and toothy, his real smile. "Thanks, fartmonster," he replied, raising his eyebrows slightly.
Amy rolled her eyes. "And moment over. Butthead."
Onstage, behind the curtain, Charles and Vivian were starting to paw at each others' clothes, Vivian pulling Charles's belt out from its loops in one smooth stroke.
"Oh, this is turning into a live sex show. We should--"
"Well, I mean, they can't see us--"
"Jake!" She tugged at his arm.
"What? It's not like--"
"FOX is the big winner for Friday night. The 99th Hour's last-minute proposal -- which they teased all episode -- meant viewers stayed tuned longer than average, for a season-high 18.6, unprecedented for their time slot."
-- Neilsen Reporting for the week of February 10 to February 16, 2014
"Amy Santiago," came a voice from the door to their green room at the SVA Theater.
Amy looked up from where she and Rosa were going through the schedule for the festival, and it was like her entire face lit from the inside. "Teddy!" She stood up and hugged him, stepping over Rosa and Terry. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm with the B-82s now. Quick: An escalator can never break: it can only become stairs. You would never see an Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order sign, just Escalator Temporarily Stairs."
She sucked in a hissing breath through her teeth. "Sorry for the convenience." She grinned at him.
"Whaaat is going on here?" Jake asked, walking up to them.
"Oh!" Amy started. "Jake, this is Teddy. We did a Mitch Hedberg tribute show last year."
Tribute Show? Jake mouthed, clearly confused.
"Some long nights of intense improvising." Amy's expression was fixed on Teddy, an odd note in her voice. The moment passed. "It was pretty dope," she added, rocking back on her heels.
"Well, good luck, man," Jake said, patting Teddy on the arm, and walked back to where Boyle was flipping through the list of performers.
Teddy walked back to his team's green room, and Rosa tipped her chin at Amy. "Who was that?"
"Just Teddy, you know. We went on, like, five dates last year, but he was touring and it kind of fizzled out."
"Oh yeah," Rosa said, recognition dawning in her voice. "He's that guy you said all that lame stuff about, like how he's a good listener."
Amy frowned. "I'm sorry, and what do you look for in a guy?"
"I dunno. Real stuff. Shape of his ass."
Across the room, Jake took the list of performers from Charles. "That's so weird that Amy used to date that guy."
"Why do you care so much about it?"
"Okay, first of all, your insinuating voice needs a lot of work."
"I don't know--" Charles cleared his throat and dropped out of falsetto. "Oh yeah, you're right, I sound like Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia."
After the Del Close Marathon closing show -- a special, star-studded performance of ASSSCAT 3000, with all of the original UCB performers -- The Nine-Nine's repertory gathered their stuff in the green room. When Jake walked in, everyone cheered, and he ducked his head, embarrassed.
"C'mon, c'mon." He reached down and grabbed his backpack. "It was a team effort."
Terry was beaming like a proud mama hen. "That's the most focused I've seen you in a Harold since you auditioned."
"Yeah, I mean, it was great. It makes me want to play straight all the time, but then I'm like, 'boobs, fart, boobs, whatever' and well, you know." Terry laughed and thumped Jake on the back, which made Jake stumble forward. "Right, yeah, okay! First round's on me." They all cheered and filed out of the green room.
"Actually," Amy said, looking apologetic. "Teddy already asked if I could grab a late dinner with him. But, I'll catch up with you guys at Peter McManus?"
Jake blinked. "Right. Yeah, sure. That sounds good." He turned away and muttered, "Boobs, fart, boobs, whatever."
But the standout performance of the weekend (aside from the closer, of course) was the two-hour Harold featuring the writing staffs and repertory teams of all the major late night comedy shows. Groups of 5-7 performers from SNL, The Nine-Nine, Late Night, The Late-Late Show, The Tonight Show, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Last Week Tonight, and Letterman performed the UCB's signature long-form improv style. While the teams include alums of all the major comedy powerhouses -- UCB, The PIT, and Groundlings were best-represented -- the UCB performers were clearly in their element.
Of particular mention were Connor O'Malley, of Late Night with Seth Meyers, whose particular brand of absurdism and, frankly, incoherent shouting had us in stitches. Theodore Wells, of the B-52s and a Magnet alum, slayed with a frat boy character dropped in the middle of hipster central. Keisha Zollar, representing both the PIT and an upcoming Netflix sketch comedy show, brought her usual brand of dry observational humor and used it to great effect.
But far and away the breakout was a surprising turn by The Nine-Nine's own Jake Peralta. An alum of the UCB and longtime repertory performer for The 99th Hour, he dropped his usual man-boy stage schtick to play the Only Sane Man amidst a gaggle of crazed weirdos on a deserted island. It was a Gilligan's Island send-up that didn't run long enough. It's a new dimension to Peralta's comedic angle, and we're curious to see if it translates to the show as well. We'll know for sure when they come back from hiatus next month.
-- The Village Voice, "DCM16: Bigger, Better, Funnier Than Ever"
"No," Terry said, and pointed at Jake. They were seated at Shaw's, and Jake was in the corner, rotating his Pilsner glass on its base and not talking to anyone. The entire cast and crew were rowdy, riding the adrenaline high of finishing another show. "You wrote half the show this week. You starred in nearly every sketch and showcase. You've had a record month."
"Maybe I should be writing more, or performing against more seasoned pros."
"That's not it, and we both know it." Terry paused. "Something is bothering you, and until you deal with it, no amount of sketches going to air will make you happy."
Jake's mouth turned downward at the corners, and he looked past Terry. "Yeah, well, maybe I... can't... deal with it right now."
Terry's brow furrowed and he looked over his shoulder, following Jake's line of sight to where she and Teddy were sitting at the bar. Amy was laughing at something Teddy was saying. "Oh," Terry said, and turned back to face Jake. "Yeah, that's a lot tougher than a stubborn sketch."
"You said it," Jake muttered, downing the rest of his pilsner glass.
Terry smirked and leaned forward conspiratorially. "So, Amy, huh?"
Jake rolled his eyes. "I'm gonna need some shots."
Half an hour later, he, Terry, and Charles were doing a full lip-sync battle to En Vogue's Greatest Hits album.
"They always come back around," Charles shouted over the cheering of the players and crew. It was last call, and everyone was shitfaced.
"I hate myself right now!" Jake shouted back.
Last night's episode was the strongest ep of The 99th Hour we've seen in five years. Somehow, this show just keeps getting better and better, and we're not sure how.
That's a lie, we do know how -- Jake Peralta has stepped up his game considerably. It's increasingly obvious he's the powerhouse behind the upstart ne'er-do-well comedy show from that much-maligned hipster enclave across the East River.
The most recent episode was penned almost entirely by him, say sources inside the show. Which makes this week's effort even more impressive: every single repertory player (and a number of the featured cast) got a knockout line over the course of the show.
Some people have been calling him the new Phil Hartman. While the comparison is premature, we're for sure keeping an eye on our favorite plaid-wearing perpetual little brother.
-- The Hollywood Reporter, "Comedy Roundtable: Summer 2014"
Boyle and Vivian broke up.
"Life is a pit," Charles declared, taking off his late 90s sunglasses. He pointed at Rosa. "I definitely get you, now."
The pitch meeting, needless to say, was less fruitful than usual. Terry banished everyone back to their offices, telling all the pairs to come up with at least three sketches before they regrouped for dinner.
"So much for being Charles's farmlover, huh?" Amy said, tilting in her office chair and rotating a pen in her fingers.
"It's still forlover, and yeah." Jake was tossing the mini-basketball -- one of about two dozen toys he had scattered over his L-shaped desk -- in the air, feet on his desk and chair tilted as far back as it would go. "But Vivian was going to move to suburban Ottawa, and The Kids in the Hall was based in Toronto and ended like twenty years ago."
She sighed. "I just hope I never have to find someone again."
Jake caught the ball and sat up. "You really think you'll spend the rest of your life with Teddy?"
Amy fumbled her pen. "Maybe? I don't know." She fidgeted. "It's too soon to tell."
"There's something I do when I... feel." Rosa crossed her arms over her chest.
Charles lifted his head from his desk. "Really? What?"
Of course, this only resulted in getting scorch marks on the most-hidden corner of the building's edifice and giving Charles a third-degree burn on his dominant hand.
"I can't let you out of your contract," Holt said slowly. "I don't care how good of a reason it is, it's impossible."
Jake frowned. Beside him, he heard Amy take in a deep breath.
"Boss, I'm Amy Santiago and I have something to say," she said in a rush. "I think you're wrong, I think this is an incredible opportunity for Jake and that you should find a way for him to do the movie and return to The Nine-Nine. I'm Amy Santiago and I'm finished now." Jake knew he was openly gaping at her. For her part, Amy looked like she was going to throw up.
"Thank you," Holt said, voice devoid of inflection. "If you're both done, you're dismissed."
"Yes, Boss," they both muttered.
Turned out, Jake's last contract extension had been for five years, of which he had completed three. The clause was pretty straightforward: if he voluntarily quit the show, the noncompete meant he couldn't do movies, television, or anything but stand-up with the UCB for at least a year. Normally the clause wasn't enforced, but because Jake had been driving the press for the show lately, and because the ratings for The 99th Hour were the highest they'd been in a decade, Vice-President Podolski was refusing to let Jake out.
"Officially, we're firing you," Holt said. The repertory players (sans Scully and Hitchcock) were all crammed into Holt's office, having just taken their bows after finishing the season finale episode. Jake was beaming. "But, you're part of The Nine-Nine for as long as you want to be. When production on the movie wraps in six months, there will be a place for you here." He looked at the others. "However, for this to work, it has to stay between us and the movie studio. The network made their position very clear. This information... doesn't leave this office."
"I'm really going to miss you guys," Jake said, looking at all of them in turn. "Charles, I want you to have my desk. Rosa, you can have my locker in the building gym."
"Sweet," she replied.
"Amy, you get all of my remaining sketches."
She smiled at him. In the corner, Terry's expression was beyond words, half laughing and half crying.
"None of that is true," Holt cut in. "Sketches and desks will be assigned normally."
"Amy!" She turned around, headed to the subway, and saw Jake walking out of the building, the packed-up contents of his desk fitting neatly into one banker box. "I was worried I missed you."
She reached out and picked up his Hoberman sphere. "This is really happening, huh?"
"Yeah, it's kind of surreal. I never thought I'd get offered a lead in an Apatow movie." He shook his head. "I never thought I'd get fired from The Nine-Nine."
Amy shrugged. "You only stepped up your game in the second half of the season. You probably could have ridden out your contract no problem if you hadn't gotten better."
"Yeah, but if I hadn't gotten better, I wouldn't have been cast in this movie." He sighed and tapped his fingers against the side of the box. "This is a really good opportunity."
"Yeah." Amy agreed. "Not gonna lie, I'm kinda jealous." She set the toy back in the box and adjusted her bag on her shoulder.
Jake blew out a breath. "Look, um, I don't want to be a jerk. I know you're dating Teddy and it's going really well. It's just..." He trailed off and shifted his weight from foot to foot.
She tilted her head slightly. "What's going on?"
The orange lights outside the Bell Telephone building made everything look a little surreal. "I don't know if I'll get to come back when this is over, or even what'll happen while I'm gone, and if... well I know I'd be pissed at myself if I didn't say this." He took a steadying breath. "I kinda wish something... could happen. Between us. Romantic stylez. And I know you can't 'cause you're with Teddy and I'm going on location and... that's just how it is, but--"
The front of the building opened, and some of the obnoxious startup kids on the fifth floor stumbled out, already tipsy and laughing. Jake looked over at them, cutting himself off. Amy felt like the earth was sliding out from under her.
"Anyway, we're supposed to be on media blackout and so I can't have any contact, so I should go." He forced a smile. "Universal Studios needs me! Bye." And he walked past her.
Amy stood rooted to the spot, gaping after him for a long moment.
Rumours are swirling around our favorite late-night comedy show. A major face of the show was canned, leaving questions about the future of the program -- even as it comes off a record year and an upset award. There's whispers this person forced TPTB to fire them so that they could work on a high-profile film project.
But that's not the only thing! Word on the street is that a behind-the-scenes romantic plotline has just turned into a triangle! One cast member, rumored to be in love with another performer, was seen leaving the social media manager's apartment in classic walk-of-shame attire the morning (afternoon, really) after the cast and crew celebrated wrapping the season finale.
Last but not least: the show hasn't had its next season officially announced yet. Will there be more to come? Speculate in comments and we'll run the best guesses in our follow-up next week.
-- Blind Item posted in Oh No They Didn't