Your March Madness Sweet 16: Brooklyn Nine-Nine vs. Baskets

What’s March Madness without Cinderella stories and the ethereal, surreal (and often simply beautiful) freshman Zach Galifianakis clown sit(?)com Baskets definitely qualifies. Brooklyn Nine-Nine itself is a bit of a surprise, but the third season of the NYC cop ensemble comedy anchored by Andy Samberg has continued to build its clever, panoramic world, including an insane (even by his standards) Jason Mantzoukas as a PTSD-ing detective coming out of a 12-year mob assignment.

With Baskets, Zach Galifianakis takes that asocial misfit character of his and tips in on its ear. In its opening episode, Chip Baskets has returned to his home of Bakersfield, after a stretch at French Clown College, meets his awkward equal, Martha (acting debut of comic Martha Kelly) and leads her through a fast food drive-thru where he attempts to order obscure sodas like Tangerine Fanta, and is truly mystified and angered when they are unavailable. Between that opening and the casting of Louie Anderson as Chip’s oblivious mom, it’s hard to envision the warmly mystical show that ultimately unfolds, as its steady camel-speed pacing allows the characters to reveal unimaginable depths.

The comedy of Brooklyn Nine-Nine is certainly much more on the surface, but don’t mistake its intricate farce for its being any less intelligent or deep. While Peralta may seem simply childishly mischievous, Boyle an epicurean dork, Holt priggish and tight, Rosa closed off and tight, and so on, the antics of the 9-9 force have slowly revealed the humanity behind even ancillary characters like the bumbling duo of Hitchcock and Scully. Further, the show has build rich yearly traditions, from the Halloween one-upsmanship games between Holt and Peralta — elaborate variations on Escape the Room-type events — to Peralta’s eternal coyote-and-roadrunner match with Craig Robinson’s jubilant petty thief Doug Judy.

Whichever clever skillful 30 minute comedy you select, there is no wrong choice, but you can only pick one. Also, quick observation that this is the third consecutive east coast/west coast beef.

Anyway, Baskets pops up on Thursdays on FX, while Brooklyn Nine-Nine is perched on the Tuesday FOX line-up. Click on the titles for some online episodes.

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