'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' Season 7 Episode 13 pays homage to childbirth episodes from 'Friends' and 'Community'
Spoilers for ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ Season 7 Episode 13, ‘Lights Out’
Unlike the 2016 horror-thriller of the same name, ‘Lights Out’, the 13th episode of ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ Season 7 was much less dark -- metaphorically. The miracle-of-birth episode saw a citywide blackout, trapped officers, chaos, dance moves and childbirth.
The episode was oddly reminiscent of two other miracle-of-birth episodes in American sitcoms. One of them has an iconic place in the history of sitcoms, and the other is a genuinely good episode from a show with a niche-but-cult following. And to use the popular internet adage, both of these episodes walked so that ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ Season 7 Episode 13 could run.
The first one from ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S’, Episode 23 of Season 1, ‘The One With The Birth’, aired almost 25 years ago. And while TV tropes exist because they serve as the easiest way to tell a good story, this episode had a story arc that has had a lasting impact on such episodes. Ross (David Schwimmer) and his ex-wife’s now gay partner Susan (Jessica Hecht), while bickering, found themselves locked in a janitor’s closet. This parallels ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ in terms of how Terry (Terry Crews) and Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) found themselves in a similarly claustrophobic situation.
The experience of being locked up with no chance of escaping led to the four (two in each show) gaining more perspective and becoming more helpful to the mothers in labor -- Carol (Jane Sibbett) in ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S’ and Amy (Melissa Fumero) in ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’.
The other parallel is somewhat mixed with this: the trope of the father being absent from the bedside because of a comically-implausible situation. In ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S’, as we have already established, Ross was stuck in a closet. In the NBC cop comedy, however, Jake (Andy Samberg) was stuck in a traffic jam, followed by getting stuck with helping multiple people who were injured or scared, followed by getting stuck trying to catch bank robbers. Busy day, eh?
Ultimately, both fathers make it in time, leading to a moment of satisfaction for viewers who root for them to be there by the soon-to-be mother’s side.
The second sitcom that has a part to play in shaping this story and its many tropes is episode 22 of the second season of ‘Community’ -- ‘Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts’. The episode sees Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) go into labor while stuck in the Greendale Community College, thanks to a race riot that had broken out on the college campus. This isn't very unlike Amy, who is stuck at the precinct because of the blackout.
There are two important character parallels in this. One is that of Britta (Gillian Jacobs) with Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz). The other is that of Chang (Ken Jeong) with Hitchcock and Scully (Dirk Blocker and Joel McKinnon Miller).
In ‘Community’, Britta, who was a big proponent of “natural birth”, gets cold feet when she has to actually help Shirley with the process. And when she tries, she even throws up at the sight of the actual birthing process. But ultimately, she finds her confidence and even pushes aside the real paramedics to take charge. Similarly, Rosa, who was very squeamish about the idea of afterbirth, placenta and the other icky-sounding things, finds her feet firmly on the ground when she’s needed.
Likewise, in ‘Community’, no one expected Chang, the deranged Spanish teacher-turned-college student to be of any help. Least of all Shirley, who did not want to consider the possibility of Chang being the father of her child. But when push came to shove, she found solace, even confidence, in Chang’s craziness. Hitchcock and Scully, similarly, managed to provide a perfect birthing room for Amy, and she never expected them to be of any use, especially during an emergency.
‘Lights Out’ was a pretty remarkable episode in an otherwise boring season of ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’. But one has to wonder if it would have been so without the aforementioned trailblazers who, if not created, perfected certain TV tropes?
'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' Season 7 airs on Thursdays at 8.30 pm only on NBC.