Brooklyn Nine-Nine Series Premiere Review: A (Cop) Case for Comedy

By Tim Surette

Sep 18, 2013

Brooklyn Nine-Nine S01E01: "Pilot"

One of the biggest problems with network comedy is predictability. You got your family sitcoms where the dad is like, "Get me outta here!" and the daughter wants to date bad boys and the mom cocks her head and puts her hands on her hips and the son is stupid. You got your generational rom-coms, where a group of young friends navigates the dating world and hooks up with more people than is sanitary and one of the friends is stupid. You got your "workplace" comedies where the weird guy, the charming guy, the sweet girl, the macho dude, the uptight cat lady, and someone who is stupid all work together. Network comedies don't go much further than those three formulas, so it's no wonder that the genre has shown little innovation in the last five years.

But one comedy genre that we haven't really seen much of is the half-hour action comedy (Fox's 2010 The Good Guys never got a fair shake, Breaking In had some sleuthy stuff going on, and Chuck was an hour-long dramedy), and that's what gives Fox's new series Brooklyn Nine-Nine the appearance of freshness. Set in a New York police precinct and on the crime-ridden streets of the city, Brooklyn Nine-Nine dips its toe into the action-comedy genre and that's enough to make it stand out from the rest of this season's new laffers and the omniscient trend of parents moving in with their adult children or divorcees hitting the dating scene again. And that was enough to make me like it and get over my irrational hatred of star Andy Samberg. 

As a safety net, Brooklyn Nine-Nine also functions as a workplace comedy with the usual suspects. Samberg is hotshot detective Jacob Peralta, Melissa Fumero (One Life to Live) is the uptight, competitive, sexy detective—not to mention the object of Peralta's loins—Amy Santiago. Andre Braugher is fantastic as stoic new-to-the-precinct captain Ray Holt. Frequent TV sidekick Joe Lo Truglio is the office idiot. Stephanie Beatriz is the Aubrey Plaza type using lethal force as scary detective Rose Diaz. Terry Crews is the nervous bag of muscles as Sergeant Terry Jeffords. And Chelsea Peretti is the early scene-stealer as administrator Gina Linetti. That's a solid cast right off the bat, and many of them act like they've been doing this for years.


It appears that Brooklyn Nine-Nine will crack a case each week in addition to serving up workplace comedy hijinks, and that's fine by me because the show has found a tone that works, combining a slight parody of the cop drama with a complete lack of seriousness that recalls the humor of the '80s and '90s comedy golden age. And if nothing else, cases-of-the-week get the cops out of the office and into a world full of buffoonish criminals and goofy witnesses, where the jokes are endless. Fred Armisen's Kaufman-esque cameo as "M-L-E-cray" was the funniest bit in the pilot, and it's easy to see Brooklyn Nine-Nine using this sort of drop-in gag to its advantage moving forward. But there's also something consistently amusing about cops cracking wise while hovering over a dead bodyor trashing a deli in pursuit of a ham-hawker. This type of formula works great in feature films, why can't it work on television? Well, if Brooklyn Nine-Nine keeps doing what it did in the premiere, it should succeed.

I wouldn't say the pilot was non-stop hilarity, and it often relied on Samberg showing some skin for cheap laughs (OMG he's not wearing pants!), but there's an good cast here that's very likable and will improve. As we get to know the rest of the characters, I'm counting on the series to tone Samberg down a little. And what makes Brooklyn Nine-Nine probably the best new comedy of the fall season is that its formula is just different enough from everything else on the schedule to break it apart from the pack. 



CASE NOTES

– Fumero probably could use a little more time getting used to this comedy thing. She looks like she's about to laugh during every scene. Also, let's hope her character becomes more than just a device to set up Peralta's zingers. 

– I loved the "twist" that Ray was gay. And I love that it was played like, "So what?" Very unexpected, but also very matter-of-fact. 

– One problem with the structure of bouncing back and forth between police work and the office is that Gina won't be out in the field, and she's arguably the funniest character of the bunch. 

– "We got a 10-tie situation." 


What'd you think of the pilot? Will you be back for Episode 2?

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  • CharlieFurtek Oct 19, 2013

    I'm sorry, but Chelsea Peretti is just awful. Her character isn't funny at all. She's the only one that really feels out of place here.

  • abcborges Oct 10, 2013

    Is this the new "The Office"? I hope so!

  • Lefin Sep 28, 2013

    While Samberg's character is obviously a bit of a caricature, this is really fun and enjoyable so far. I look forward to seeing how it grows over time.

  • liisterinen Sep 24, 2013

    andy samberg is kind of annoying but the rest of the show is good enough for me to get over that.

  • pierresund Sep 22, 2013

    There has only been a handful of US comedies that I am proud to declare myself a fan of (Arrested Development, Friends, MASH, Louie, Community...) and just some more that I've found a decent way to turn off the outside (Modern Family, Scrubs, Veep, Malcolm in the Middle, The Office, The Golden Girls (yeah, yeah.. I know)...) so I'm not saying that my opinion is worth anything, but I actually found the pilot quite good, if not great. I can see myself enjoying and caring for most of the characters - only detective Santiago seemed rather meh.

  • rye06p Sep 22, 2013

    Fred Armisen's cameo was the funniest part of the pilot, but the show has potential and needs time (like all comedies) to find it's footing and make a few changes. Can we begin with Samberg's character being less of an absolute douche?

  • deepwaters5 Sep 22, 2013

    I liked the first episode, hope the rest are as good. It reminded me of The Unusuals, which was a great comedy that didn't last very long.

  • Savvytvfan91 Sep 22, 2013

    i liked now i just have to get someone in my family to watch it with me because it was funny!!!

  • ben45tpy Sep 22, 2013

    Pretty good. I also wouldn't mind if Samberg toned it down. I didn't like the resolution to the tie story and I think Braugher was WAY too tolerant but otherwise it was funny and watchable.

  • MayLinMartin Sep 21, 2013

    I see that the most popular posts are from people who detested the show. Is it because it was so hyped? Personally I thought it was ok, in a silly, borderline Naked Gun sort of way, but funny is so subjective. I hope it's not the best new show this season has to offer, but I'll definitely give it a few more episodes.

    And the people who think this is the height of comedy aren't wrong, they just find different things funny. It's much easier to compare the qualities of dramas, but a comedy is judged on werther it makes people laugh. Just because I don't laugh at 2 1/2 men, doesn't mean it's a bad comedy - millions of people apparently think is hilarious. Do I wish they would watch Happy Endings instead - sure, but all I can do is watch what makes me laugh and ignore what doesn't.

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