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.
– 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?