Brooklyn Nine Nine Review
Police shows have been around pretty much ever since TV itself. Actually police shows have been around longer than TV as dramas about the boys in blue go all the way to the days of radio. (Dragnet, anyone?) The idea of doing a weekly show about the police and detectives makes sense. Like doctors and lawyers, it is very easy to write "case of the week" scenarios, and as the years have gone by, police shows have given more attention to the men and women's lives outside the force as well.
While police work is serious business, Brooklyn Nine Nine is not the first police/detective show to have a comedic tone to it. Car 54, Where Are You? was very popular in the sixties. Carl Winslow was a police officer on Family Matters. Rowan Atkinson starred on The Thin Blue Line, and even though it was a drama first, Monk had a lot of funny moments. So what makes Brooklyn Nine Nine so special?
To begin with, even the premise is nothing too new. Det. Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) is a childish detective. He is surrounded by other detectives such as his partner Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) who is a little more uptight and serious than he is, as well as Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio), the typical, down on his luck, neurotic loser. The squad has a new leader - Sgt. Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews). It practically goes without saying that Jeffords is a by-the-book officer who does not approve of Peralta's joie de vivre - Disapproving of Peralta's fire extinguisher races and demanding he wear a tie. Even though the two's conflict plays a major part in the series, the focus is on how the characters' police work. Though a show does not have to be 100% new to be good, and Brooklyn Nine Nine is very good.
Reviewing the humor of this show is a little tough because humor is so subjective. To quote Roger Ebert, "you report that either you laughed or you didn't." And to be honest, I laughed while watching Brooklyn Nine Nine. To explain where I am coming from, maybe I should explain my background a bit. The show was created by Michael Shur and Daniel J. Goor who created Parks and Recreations and did some writing for shows like the American Office (Shur more than Goor). That dry, awkward humor that focuses on eccentric characters is present here. And I must confess, I do not always go for that sort of thing. It is not that I do not hate dry humor. This is Spinal Tap is one of my favorite movies, and I do enjoy The American Office (albeit not as much as most people). However, at times, it can be a little tedious, and I generally believe that comedy should be swift and hard-hitting.
Brooklyn Nine Nine does fall into that trap a few times. There were a few jokes that clanged and garnered few laughs. For example, the jokes involving hard luck Boyle were pretty boring and tedious. The pilot involves him chasing an attractive co-worker who is out of his league. Basically all this leads to, is Boyle being unable to please his fastidious co-worker. Also, while the revelation that Jeffords is gay gives him some character, treating it like a punchline feels like a little contrived.
I was not fond of the cutaway jokes either. When The New Girl came out, I lamented how cutaway jokes are becoming too much of a cliché... two years ago. To be fair, the cutaway jokes that were present were not annoying and, on their face, they were funny jokes. I also do like the fact that they are showing instead of telling. The problem is that they interrupt the flow of the story. Doing it a few times to have a scene play out instead of just having a character describe something would be okay, but it feels a little much like the writers are following the leader.
Though to be fair, even if those parts were irksome, the good more than outweighed the bad. I can honestly say that several jokes in the pilot made me laugh loud and made me laugh hard. Samberg's antics are pretty funny on their own, but being detectives in Brooklyn give the leads a few opportunities to meet a wide array of colorful, eccentric characters. It may sound like I am being negative on the humor, but going into detail about the stuff that made me laugh would be giving too much away. Some of the true laugh out loud moments really need to be seen.
Even if it is not entirely new, homicide detectives still seem like an unlikely subject for a sitcom. After all, murder is a serious subject. Surprisingly, the discussion of murder does not come off as too mean spiritied or make the show a downer. The tone the characters give is that they are used to it by now - I am not a cop, but I imagine a lot of police feel that way. The characters' inability to take what they do seriously is pretty funny without coming off as too dark. The show can be described as The Office at a police station, and that is a unique approach. Yeah, they have encounter some gruesome stuff, but this is their nine-to-five. They have to meet a lot of crazy people on the job, but at the end of the day, they still joke around and have interests outside of their job.
Lead actor Andy Samberg is someone I am glad to see finally receiving a big break. Not only was he funny on Saturday Night Live, and his major starring role in Hot Rod was absolutely hilarious. Here, he plays a character that could very easily be unlikable. This is after all a homicide detective who constantly goofs off on the job. However, he comes off less childish, more child-like. He still does his job, and even has creative ways of solving the crimes - such as installing a nanny cam in a store. He just has a joyous love of life and wants to have a little fun in between his harsh job. Samberg is just such a likable personality that it flows into the character. Terry Crews is enjoyable as Sgt. Jeffords. True, he is by the book and a little strict, but he gives off the vibe of someone just doing his job. He comes off as someone who really cares about what he is doing, and is just trying to do what is right for his department.
I will give the other actors credit. A common mistake in comedy acting - especially sitcoms - is that actors read their lines like they know that they're funny. These people sound like people talking amongst each other who just live in a crazy world and do not just act like they are waiting for a laugh track that is never going to come - and in turn, real laughter is garnered.
Overall, Brooklyn Nine Nine comes highly recommended. This show is clearly in the same tune as shows such as The Office and Parks and Recreation, and to be honest... I like this better. Without a doubt, this is one of the funniest new shows of the season. True, every joke is not a hit, but there are enough home runs that we can forgive the bunts. Fox has a genuine hit on their hits, hopefully they will not let this one go.
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