In Fox’s new Tuesday comedy lineup, Andy Samberg returns to network TV in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, created by Parks and Recreation producers Dan Goor and Michael “Mose” Schur. Will the new fall season start off strong for Fox, or will SNL’s former star be headed to cancellation?
Brooklyn Nine-Nine stars Andy Samberg as Det. Jake Peralta, a skilled but (extremely) immature member of the force. Joining Samberg in this docu-style comedy is Melissa Fumero as Det. Amy Santiago, Jake’s (adult) partner; Terry Crews as Sgt. Terry Jeffords, the squad leader; Chelsea Peretti as Gina Linetti, the precinct administrator; Joe Lo Truglio as Det. Charles Boyle, the quirky one; and Andre Braugher as Capt. Ray Holt, the new Captain.
At its core, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a charming police comedy which provides a platform for Samberg to step into the world of the NYPD and, for the first time in quite a while, inject some humor back in to the boys in blue. But unlike previous series which touched upon similar subjects, such as Denis Leary’s The Job or even Showtime’s Nurse Jackie, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is extremely family-friendly and lighthearted, to the extent that, when the characters are at a crime scene, the focus of the scene (and camera lens) was on the conversation that the detectives were having, not the murder that was (said to have been) committed.
This aspect of the series, however, both helps and hurts it. Sure, it’s nice to see police depicted on television in an earnest comedy which airs on network television in the 8 o'clock block. But then again, there’s something of a Night Court-scenario that occurs when you sterilize such inherently dramatic environment for the purpose of comedy. It’s not that it doesn’t work or isn’t funny; it’s that, at some point while watching, viewers will begin to wonder why they’re still watching it, and it’s doubtful that a few quips and some unnecessary flashbacks will be enough to keep most tuned in when there isn’t actually a plot.
Still, the lack of plot or purpose isn’t really the biggest issue as there aren’t many comedies set outside of the home which really make sense of their settings. The biggest issue that Brooklyn Nine-Nine faces is that, in the comedic jungle gym that has been constructed for Samberg, almost all of the cast has a difficult time standing next to him in a scene, as he’ll either steal the entire scene himself or be so comically over-the-top that everyone else is forced to pull back the personality of their characters in order to balance it. And yes, sadly, everyone’s favorite, Terry Crews, is included in this. However, the one actor who is able to hold his own against Samberg is Andre Braugher, who plays Captain Holt.
As the new boss of the 99th, Braugher brings a certain grace and elegance to his performance that helps to elevate the series beyond that of typical comedy pilot and, ultimately, gives those hopefully viewers a sign that the series could very well become very funny in the future. But will it ever reach those levels? That’s the question that must be answered.
If everything goes as it should, the pilot of any comedy should be its worst, and hopefully that’s the case for Brooklyn Nine-Nine. As with any pilot, it’s more about seeing the potential in the series than trying to figure out if it’s going to win an Emmy for Comedy with its first episode (though The Cosby Show and Roseanne could put up a good fight with theirs). While it’s undeniable that Brooklyn Nine-Nine has the talent on both sides of the camera to pull off something truly funny, right now, it’s only holding on by its potential – of which there is quite of bit of, fortunately.
_____Brooklyn Nine-Nine returns next Tuesday with “The Tagger” @9pm on Fox.