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'Brooklyn Nine-Nine,' Tim Meadows, And How To Do Guest Stars Right

By Tori Preston | Think Pieces | October 18, 2017 |

By Tori Preston | Think Pieces | October 18, 2017 |

So I was brushing my teeth and thinking about Brooklyn Nine-Nine this morning (don’t you judge how I morning!) and it suddenly struck me: I’m going to really miss seeing Caleb on the show! For those of you who aren’t following the 5th season return of the precinct comedy created by Dan Goor and Mike Schur, Caleb was a character played by Tim Meadows, who bunked with Andy Samberg’s Jake Peralta during his brief stint in prison. It only lasted for 2 episodes, but their dynamic was delightful.

Oh, also? Caleb was a cannibal.

And it occurred to me that Caleb isn’t the only bit character played by a recognizable guest star that I’ve taken a liking to over the years. What Brooklyn Nine-Nine has a knack for is bringing in funny, talented actors and giving them small parts that seem fleshed out and intriguing while also fitting into the larger picture. The show is an ensemble anyway, with a talented cast — a cast that is overshadowed by how interesting and fully-formed their characters are. Even Terry Crews, playing Terry Jeffords, is… Terry Jeffords. He’s muscular and has great timing, but he’s also a concerned father and reliable sergeant and a lover of yogurt.

And the same goes with the show’s guest stars, only it’s achieved in a mere episode or two. We can probably rely on Craig Robinson’s hysterical Doug Judy AKA The Pontiac Bandit to pop up each season (fingers crossed the trend continues!).


Gina Gershon’s villainous Lt. Melanie Hawkins stuck around long enough to be a thorn in the Nine-Nine’s side. Hell, she’s the reason Peralta and Diaz went to prison! And Lou Diamond Phillips played the ramen-loving, stab-happy tough guy Jake had to get tight with to survive his prison stay.

Over the years the show has brought in an impressive number of guest stars who have left their stamp on the legacy of the show — not because of their familiar faces, but because of the roles they played so well. Jason Mantzoukas as Adrian Pimento, who had such insane chemistry with Stephanie Beatriz’s Diaz. Kyra Sedgwick’s Deputy Chief Wuntch was the perfect foil for Andre Braugher’s Captain Holt. And Marc Evan Jackson, who will forever be Sparks Nevada to me, is a delight as Holt’s similarly stiff husband Kevin Cozner (oh, how that name never ceases to amuse me).

There have been short-lived Holt replacements who step in to run the Nine-Nine from time to time (Bill Hader, Dean Winters, Ken Marino). There have been love interests (Eva Longoria) and family members (Stephen Root, Sandra Bernhard, Bradley Whitford). Look, I’m just scratching the surface but you catch my drift. The show brings in some serious fire power when it wants to, but more importantly, it knows how to use them. The characters never feel like a stunt, an excuse to bring in a big name just for shits and giggles (ok, maybe that one time with Nathan Fillion but c’mon, it was worth it). Rather than hijacking the story, they serve the narrative, and they’re memorable because of how seamlessly the character blends into the already eclectic dynamic of the show. They never make you sit back and think “Oh, it must be Sweeps again.”

Tim Meadows is great. But I am not going to miss him — I’m going to miss his Caleb. The sorta/maybe nice guy who ate a lot of people, but still stood up for Jake. And then immediately regretted it. Seeing their jail yard friendship blossom made me want to watch more of them together. Made me wonder what might happen if they met again on the outside (Caleb would probably eat more people, obviously, but you get my point). Perhaps, like the Pontiac Bandit, we will see some of those guest stars again. Maybe not. But the fact that I can sit back and imagine more adventures with Doug Judy, or Wuntch, or any of the replacement captains is a testament to how well written this show is.

Plenty of shows have guest stars. But Brooklyn Nine-Nine? I’d say it has guest parts.

What do you think? Who was your favorite Brooklyn Nine-Nine guest part? It’s ok to say “Cheddar”:


Or do you think there are other shows that feature guest performers even better? Be forewarned though — whatever you say to that last part, my answer will be:


Tori Preston is the managing editor of Pajiba. She tweets here. You can also listen to her weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.