October 8, 2013

A Precinct Grows in Brooklyn

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By JASON GOLDBERG

From showrunner Michael Schur, responsible for The Office and Parks and Recreation, the new Fox sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a show reminiscent of its predecessors. Mock-umentary-style? Check. Energetic employee desperate to satisfy boss? Check. Office romances? Check. Basically, the formula for Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been done before, and unsurprisingly, the show feels a bit derivative of Schur’s previous work. But in a pretty poor fall season for comedies and strong lead performances by Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine sticks out from the bunch as the show with the most potential for growth.

The pilot episode throws us into the crazy world of New York Police Department Precinct 99, where those enforcing the law barely play by any rules. The chaos of the workplace is led by Detective Jake Peralta (Samberg), a laid-back detective whose main goal of the year is to crack more cases than his female-counterpart Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero). However, Peralta’s easy-going lifestyle is shaken up by the arrival of a new captain, the stern Captain Ray Holt (Braugher). Holt’s no-nonsense rules puts him head-to-head with the juvenile Peralta, who realizes he will have to be more mature if he wants to keep his job.

Samberg carries the show quite well. His absurd comedy-style combined with his boyish charm makes him one of the most likeable leads this season. It’ll be interesting to see if Samberg can handle the more dramatic moments of the show that are inevitable before season’s end.

Andre Braugher is wonderfully dry and sardonic as Captain Ray Holt. He and Samberg play off each other excellently and their relationship is one of the strongest elements of the show so far. The reveal of Holt’s homosexuality plays as a punchline in the first episode, but Braugher gives Holt the necessary depth to allow his sexuality to be a compelling plot-point (plus having an LGBT person-of-color as a lead on a network show is pretty impressive). When watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it’s hard not to think of recent mentor boss/crazy employee pairs like Ron Swanson and Leslie Knope and Jack Donaghy and Liz Lemon. Still, it seems like Captain Ray Holt and Jake Peralta could one day join the ranks.

The supporting players are mostly top-notch. Chelsea Peretti is a standout as sex-crazed civilian administrator Gina Linetti, who seems to do nothing all day but torture her coworkers. Terry Crews continues his great work in television comedy as the adorably gigantic Terry Jiffords, who has a shining moment in the third episode building and destroying a dollhouse for his cleverly-named daughters, Cagney and Lacey. My only complaint about the cast is that Melissa Fumero is a little too icy as Santiago, and her chemistry with Samberg isn’t quite believable yet. Hopefully, in future episodes Fumero and the writers will loosen Santiago up to allow her to mesh better with the kooky cast.

So far, however, the storylines have been hit or miss. For every wonderful plot-line with a kid spray-painting dicks on every police car in Brooklyn, we get a pretty dull story about Peralta’s recent slump in solving crimes. Though the show has some very funny gags (anything involving the old captain ignoring everyone is aces), it needs to do a better job in coming up with interesting 23-minute arcs. The episodes will have to be more consistent if they expect viewers to stay on board.

However, like Peralta, Brooklyn Nine-Nine deserves a chance to mature. The beginnings of most network comedies are very shaky and the pilot of a series could be quite different from where the show will go in the future. If you look back on the first seasons of Parks and Recreation and The Office, you’ll find very strange and almost unfunny sitcoms. Comedies need a little while to find their footing and build characters that audiences actually like. Brooklyn Nine-Nine isn’t quite great yet, but it absolutely has the makings of a great show.

Jason Goldberg is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He can be reached at jgoldberg@cornellsun.com. 

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