Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013) – Created by Dan Goor and Michael Schur – Episodes 1 and 2: “Pilot” and “The Tagger” – Starring Andy Samberg, Andre Braugher, Stephanie Beatriz, Terry Crews, Melissa Fumero, Joe Lo Truglio, and Chelsea Peretti.
I’m really not one for sitcoms. I don’t know when this happened, exactly, because I used to watch sitcoms aplenty growing up: Cheers, Family Ties, The Cosby Show, then Seinfeld and Friends when I was a little older. At some point, though, probably deep into the Friends run (though I don’t blame Friends for this), I stopped watching them. I will still watch and adore the occasional sitcom, but they tend to be just plain comedies instead of the traditional sitcom – shows like South Park, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Arrested Development, Don’t Trust the B—– in Apartment 23, and Ben and Kate. I don’t understand the appeal of The Big Bang Theory. I watch New Girl and I can’t imagine anyone liking it, yet almost everybody does. The comedies I favor are The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, and a bunch of British comedies.
Heck, even comedies that I’m sure I’d like – 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, and Modern Family – can’t get me to hit play on Netflix.
But if I am going to watch a comedy, it’s because Hulu either delivers it to me every week or because I can watch an entire season, but even then, unless it’s something really special, I’m not going to commit to a long-term relationship.
All of which serves as prelude to my thoughts on BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, the new Andy Samberg vehicle from FOX that is hopefully paying Andre Braugher a crapton of money.
Two episodes in and I’m enjoying what I’ve seen, but I can’t say I’ll be around five episodes from now, let alone twenty episodes from now. Samberg plays Detective Jake Peralta, an overgrown man-child who plays a detective but abhors rules. There’s a squad room of cops around him, but the main foil to Samberg’s fear of maturity is Andre Braugher’s Captain Ray Holt, a super serious cop who wants everything done by the book because this is his first command.
There’s plenty of jokes between the two of them, but the set-up is largely the same: Holt asks Peralta to adhere to a departmental policy, Peralta takes it to the extreme, Holt makes him look foolish, Peralta semi-steps in line.
It’s formula, but that’s what most sitcoms are, after all – a comfortable, repeating patten of predictability that makes us laugh on occasion, chuckle at times, and smile more than frown. BROOKLYN NINE-NINE is already comfortable in its rhythms and Samberg and Braugher make an effective comedic team. It’s a standard formula, the silly one and the serious one, but there are reasons why formulas become standard; BROOKLYN NINE-NINE isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel here, it’s trying to be a wheel we recognize and feel comfortable with.
I was a bit surprised when Samberg left Saturday Night Live because I didn’t think he’d really emerged as the definitive star of the show the way Kristen Wiig did. I like Samberg well enough but he doesn’t scream STAR to me, and when he appeared as Adam Sandler’s son in whatever that season’s Adam Sandler movie was I had hopes he’d stick around to develop his acting chops a bit more than he had. The shelf life of big screen comedians tends to burn hot and fast (Sandler being a notable exception) and I wondered if Samberg’s career was going to flame out before it had even started. When I first heard of BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, I thought it was a smart move on Samberg’s part – he strikes me as a TV personality and this show puts him in a comfortable place where he can shine.
BROOKLYN NINE-NINE is a classic sitcom, though. Unlike the far superior THE JOB from a decade ago (not really a slam since THE JOB was superior to almost every other network comedy – if you haven’t seen THE JOB, just watch this clip), BROOKLYN has no grit to it. This isn’t a show about cops, it’s a show about easily recognizable personalities.
That’s not a bad thing, if it works, and it works. There’s two shows here, so far: the Samberg/Braugher bits and the Everyone Else bits. Joe Lo Truglio and Terry Crews provide the best laughs, the former playing a nervous detective and the latter playing a cop who’s lost his spine. The show wisely (if predictably) creates depth in its characters as quickly and painlessly as possible: Truglio is nervous but a hard worker and Crews is a large, muscled man who’s a fraidy cat. It’s the thinnest depth possible, but at least it’s something for the writers to work with.
Melissa Fumero plays Detective Amy Santiago, Peralta’s normal partner with whom she has a bet to see who can solve the most cases. She’s more career-driven than Peralta and it will be interesting to see if BROOKLYN settles into a pattern established in the first episode, where it’s primarily the Peralta and Santiago Show, or if it will follow the pattern of the second and utilize Braugher as Samberg’s foil.
The character that has the most breakout potential is Chelsea Peretti’s Gina Linetti, a civilian administrator who likes to ignore orders from Peralta and give Truglio’s character a hard time. What I like most about her is that you can see that Gina thinks this is her show, that she’s the most important and interesting person at the precinct. It gives her character a real bite her interactions.
I don’t know how long this show will keep my attention, but I do like what I’ve seen. It’s in my Hulu queue and as long as the writers keep putting these actors and characters into positions that will allow them to shine, I’ll stick around. The Samberg/Braugher chemistry is strong and that’s enough to keep me interested for now. The little touches – like how Samberg’s character wears a tie in the second episode after that being a plot point in the first episode – gets my hopes up that the writers will find ways to reward loyal watchers. If they continue doing this, I just may stick around for the whole season.
Please check out my published works.
The Haunting of Kraken Moor (horror)
Gunfighter Gothic (weird western)
Stuffed Animals for Hire: The Christmas Operation (children lit)
Dreamer’s Syndrome: Into the New World (urban fantasy)
Rise of the First Woman: A Dreamer’s Syndrome Anthology (urban fantasy)
Harpsichord and the Wormhole Witches (cosmic pulp)
Adventures of the Five (children lit)
Marvel Comics on Film