We've seen DC Comics' TV superheroes band together to defeat a common foe—and boost ratings in the process. Now, Fox is hoping that a team-up of its own comedy stars can help turn around its season.
Tonight, the network is airing a crossover event for its two Tuesday night comedies, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and New Girl. It begins during the Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode at 8 p.m., when New Girl's Jess (Zooey Deschanel) crosses paths with Nine-Nine detective Jake (Andy Samberg). The crossover continues during New Girl at 8:30 where the whole New Girl cast flies from Los Angeles to New York and stumbles upon several Nine-Nine characters.
The crossover comes as Fox has stumbled out of the gate this fall. Last season, the network rose to third place in adults 18-49, but has already fallen back to fourth, trailing ABC both in the 18-49 demo (Fox's 1.4 average so far this season is a full ratings point behind NBC's, and down 17 percent from its 1.7 rating one year ago) and total viewers. The network's double-digit declines in the new season are due in part to the anemic performance of its Tuesday night lineup: New Girl and Brooklyn have both averaged just 1.0 in the past two weeks, and Scream Queens plunged to a 0.7 in its most recent episode.
Last October, Fox engineered an unlikely, but successful crossover between two of its dramas, Bones and Sleepy Hollow. The crossover gave both episodes a ratings boost, which persuaded Fox to look for other crossover possibilities this season.
"We are constantly challenging our creators to look for opportunities to eventize programs," said Fox Television Studios co-chairman and co-CEO Gary Newman. "The world is so competitive, and I think it's a reward to the audience. The audience wants to get excited about events and episodes, so in the course of a long season, to have a few episodes during the year that feel a little special, I think is great for television."
The crossover "definitely is an idea that the network is very in favor of," said Brooklyn Nine-Nine co-creator Dan Goor, who added that there wasn't much debate over which other Fox comedy to partner with. "From the start, it was focused on New Girl, because of the time slots and because there's a similar comic energy to the two of them."
Goor said that the writers' rooms of both shows pitched ideas, and then the respective executive producers met to discuss the best storylines. "We all pitched ideas back and forth and found these areas that overlapped where we could make it work," he said.
Added Brooklyn Nine-Nine co-creator Michael Schur: "And there's a little bit of, what's going on in your show in the first few episodes, what's going on in our show, so we could figure out something that logically makes sense because the worst version of this would be where for no reason at all, completely out of character, all of one show is suddenly in the other. They don't take place in the same city, and it's pretty fortunate; there were certain storylines that dovetailed in a way that made it more logical than it might otherwise have been."
When the team-up was announced in August, Fox's press release included a tongue-in-cheek statement from New Girl creator Elizabeth Meriwether, which referenced some of TV's most notoriously awful crossovers: "The crossover episode has historically been the artistic high point of any show that has dared to attempt it. Maybe you remember 'Blackout Thursday' on NBC or, even further back, the infamous Alf-Gilligan's Island crossover of the late 1980s. New Girl and Brooklyn Nine-Nine will proudly and humbly go where few shows have gone since the 1990s. We know we have big shoes to fill, and we look forward to disappointing everyone."
Goor said that he wasn't actually thinking about other great or terrible TV crossovers when putting together tonight's episodes. "I don't know that we're looking at history so much as just trying to make sure that we did whatever was best for both shows and felt like it brought something extra to both shows," said Goor.
Now that both shows exist in the same universe, what's next? Goor and Schur brainstormed a few ideas on the spot for Adweek, incorporating other Fox shows into their master plan:
Schur: "I think the endgame is that the two shows just merge into one super-show, that's an hour long. Half of it takes place in the [New Girl] loft, half of it takes place in the [Nine-Nine] police precinct. [New Girl's] Winston's a cop. He goes to work at the Nine-Nine, maybe [Nine-Nine's] Rosa or Gina just moves into the loft."
Goor: "[MasterChef judge] Gordon Ramsey shows up with like 15 wannabe chefs."
Schur: "There you go. And then the whole thing is in the Gotham universe. So it's a turducken: It's a show within a show within a larger show. That's what I think we're aiming at, ultimately."
Goor: "And wouldn't it be funny if both shows just appeared on a television screen in Gotham…"
Schur: "…In the mind of an autistic child in a hospital in Gotham. Yeah. That's the finale."