A comedy about cops seems like a no-brainer, and yet, the concept has been barely explored by most networks. With uniforms, a strict code of conduct and regular exposure to the nutjobs of a modern-day American city, the police force, it appears to me, could be a lucrative comedy goldmine. So props to Brooklyn Nine-Nine, certainly the best new offering from FOX this fall, for entertaining the audience on its own terms, with its well-cast crop of actors and immediately distinctive spin on the workplace comedy.
There are some familiar parts at work at the precinct in Brooklyn Nine-Nine – the show nimbly lifts some of the same character archetypes that worked so well for NBC shows The Office and Parks and Recreation. We’ve got an Andy Dwyer-style manchild of a protagonist in Andy Samberg’s doggedly goofy Detective Peralta, and office gossip Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti), made in the mold of The Office‘s Kelly Kapoor, to name just two. Luckily, the show demonstrates enough ingenuity of its own to mean that some of its less-than-original characters never feel that way.
For a guy who rose to fame with nerd catnip like “Lazy Sunday” (“We love the Chronic -what! – cles of Narnia!”), Samberg has exhibited surprising longevity, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine was clearly designed as his starring vehicle. He brings the same manic, self-referential kicks to the role that endeared him to millions back in his SNL days, but Peralta is undoubtedly more than a one-note goofball. There are layers behind his cheekily charismatic exterior that I’d be interested to explore down the road with this show.
Equally good is Andre Braugher as Capt. Ray Holt, a new, by-the-books leader for the precinct who cracks down on Peralta’s office shenanigans with rules about uniform and discipline that the loose-cannon detective can’t even fathom. Part of what makes the stone-faced character so immediately interesting and likable is Braugher’s wry self-awareness. He acts serious around his new charges, but one gets the sense that there’s a broad grin hiding behind his impeccably-fitted uniform. Holt also represents what I like best about Brookyln Nine-Nine; though presented as the show’s ‘straight-man’ character, he soon reveals himself to be not only gay but also a great lover of tongue-in-cheek workplace intimidation. Watching him match wits with Peralta, whom he is forcing to re-examine everything about himself by the pilot’s end, should be a tremendously enjoyable experience. With such a willingness to simultaneously wink at and play off genre tropes, I can predict great things for Brooklyn Nine-Nine.