The post-Super Bowl episodes of New Girl and Brooklyn Nine-Nine were not revolutionary—except for the fact that we now have a duet between Zooey Deschanel and Prince on record–but they were both highly amusing antidotes to all that football that preceded them.
Both episodes abided by the unspoken rule that post-Super Bowl episodes must have bits of stunt casting. But while Brooklyn Nine-Nine just threw in cameos from Andy Samberg's buddy Adam Sandler and football star Joe Theismann, who showed up as attendees of an antiquities auction, New Girl went big and purple.
Yes, Prince—apparently a fan of the show—was present to help coach Jess after she responded to Nick's declaration of love with finger guns. The show's writers didn't try to make much sense of Prince's presence, and nor did they have to. It goes as such: Jess and Cece almost get run over by a person in a black SUV, said person invites them to a party at Prince's house. Just before Jess and Cece drive off in a limo to go cavort at His Purpleness's pad, Nick tells Jess he loves her and she responds with pointed finger guns. Both Nick and Jess are obviously distressed by this reaction, Nick and the rest of the loft decide to break in to the party, Nick and Jess have a slight row and then are greeted by Prince. They react as one would when reacting to Prince.
Prince, naturally, tells Nick to go away so he can feed Jess pancakes, dress her like Stevie Nicks, play ping pong with her, and instruct her in the ways of love. Obviously, Prince saves the day, Jess and Nick exchange "I love yous," and then Prince invites Jess on stage to sing with him. Jess, obviously, sings like Zooey Deschanel.
The show didn't waste any effort pretending like their super famous guest star wasn't the biggest thing in the episode; instead, it used Prince's presence to actually advance the story of Nick and Jess' romance. (The Ford Fusion product placement did not run quite so seamlessly.) And it's not like these characters haven't listened to the advice of celebrities in the past; Schmidt relied on Michael Keaton's letters in his childhood, after all, even if Schmidt's Michael Keaton was not the real Michael Keaton. Prince was most definitely real.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine's post-Super Bowl episode didn't quite have the flash of the New Girl episode—really, it's hard to match Prince when it comes to flash—but as a freshman show that wasn't its job. Here the police comedy got a high profile chance to do what it's been doing well, and it delivered.
The episode gave us the on-the-ground hijinks as Samberg's Jake Peralta tried to convince Melissa Fumero's Amy Santiago not to interview for a job in Major Crimes, under Dean Winters' The Vulture. (Winters continues his streak of playing hilarious creeps on TV.) Back in the office, Andre Braugher's deadpan captain schemes with Terry Crews' sergeant to make the staff more efficient.
Of course, there was a bit of stunt casting when Sandler and Theismann played versions of themselves who are really into collecting antiquities, but their cameos were the least funny parts of the episode. No, the episode was best when it was playing with the characters that have been developed over the course of fifteen episodes. Some of its greatest moments include: Santiago looking like "a demon dogs at the end of Ghostbusters" after a tear gas incident, the captain crying over the beauty of the statistical analysis in Moneyball, and the toaster-related disaster involving Joe Lo Truglio's Detective Boyle.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine made it clear, even if the show's Golden Globes win was a bit premature, this is a team that can consistently put out funny stuff. Measured against a crap-tastic Super Bowl and a good New Girl, Brooklyn's finest won the night.