I have a confession: I have not yet written about my favorite new show of the Fall 2013 season. Part of it was because I was torn between three shows: Back in the Game, Trophy Wife, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Sadly, one of those shows has been cancelled (I’ll miss you, Back in the Game! You were just getting good!) but the other two were picked up for full seasons. Mary is already talking about Trophy Wife every week (she has a thing for Bradley Whitford… but then again, who doesn’t?) so the absence of Brooklyn Nine-Nine on our blog was starting to feel conspicuous. How could I proclaim it as my favorite new show if I’m not even writing about it?
So now, what I want to do is convince you to watch this show. I’ve talked to countless people whose responses are always, “Oh, it has Andy Samberg? He’s funny but I don’t know if I want to watch a show where he’s the star…” I guess Samberg built a reputation as being a bit of a ham, a guy whose characters are always dominating scenes. That’s fair, no one wants to tune in to a show where a guy runs around being cartoonish and talking loudly, but I’m telling you, this show is not like that. I’m a fan of Samberg, and even I was surprised by his restraint in the pilot. If he’s your main reason for not giving this show a shot, I’m begging you, please give it at least an episode. Preferably two. Or all of them, if you have the time.
The show is set in the fictional 99th precinct of Brooklyn, one which had been a bit of a zoo before the new captain, Ray Holt, arrives at the precinct to whip everyone into shape. The police work is secondary to the character interactions, but not in a way that demeans actual police officers; rather, it focuses on the lighthearted side of being an investigator. The criminals are often funny, but not too cartoonish, and the episodes never feel too procedural.
Let’s meet the characters!
First, there’s Detective Jake Peralta, played by Andy Samberg. He’s pretty young for a detective (so are Santiago and Diaz, for that matter) and he’s good at his job, which also makes him cocky. He’s been pretty open about his father leaving his mother when he was young, which plays into his need to always be the best at everything.
Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher) is the new captain of the 99th, a rank that took him a long time to attain thanks to prejudice in the department about gay officers. He’s married to a man named Kevin, and besides acknowledging that he’s gay, Holt is very private about his personal life. He’s intent on making the 99 the best precinct in Brooklyn, which means he has to try to rein in Peralta when he gets too ridiculous.
Peralta’s direct competition is Detective Amy Santiago, an unapologetic brownnoser who has seven brothers, so she’s always trying to prove how tough she is. Somehow, Santiago is charming instead of annoying, probably because she’s so earnest in her desire to be Holt’s favorite, and she never does it in such a way that she has to sabotage other detectives in order to be recognized. She is played by Melissa Fumero.
Detective Rosa Diaz, played by Stephanie Beatriz, is tough-as-nails and no-nonsense. She only smiles when someone screws up, otherwise she goes about her work as a bit of a loner. She’s often abrasive and lacks the people skills to carry on any sort of small talk, but she often shows compassion in small ways.
The hilarious Joe Lo Truglio plays Detective Charles Boyle, who is Jake’s hype man (oftentimes he’ll walk by and cheer “Go Jake!” without any sort of context) and a divorcee who is nursing a major crush on Rosa. He runs a foodie blog, where he ranks Brooklyn’s top pizza places (among other things) and his readership includes Captain Holt himself. He’s teased by Gina, the administrator, for being out of Rosa’s league, but that doesn’t stop Boyle from hoping. His best scenes are with Jake and with Sergeant Jeffords.
Terry Crews plays Sergeant Terry Jeffords, who is on light duty for the first half of the season due to a nervous breakdown shortly before the show started. He has twin baby girls, Cagney and Lacey, and ever since they were born, he’s lost his edge. He also used to be overweight when he worked with Captain Holt at another precinct, where he’d earned the name “Terry Titties.” These days, he’s got an alter ego known as “Scary Terry,” who always says what real Terry is thinking. Terry is arguably the most quotable character on the show.
Chelsea Peretti plays Gina Linetti, administrator-turned-assistant. She has a lot of good lines, but she has vocal fry (or her character has vocal fry, it’s hard to tell) which makes her irritating to listen to. She’s frequently mean, and even when she seems to do nice things (like in the Thanksgiving episode) it turns out that she was trying to do something mean and wasn’t expecting a good outcome. The fact that she’s hard to listen to and that she seemingly possesses no redeeming qualities (other than being funny) makes her seem expendable. Her brand of humor is at the expense of other characters, which is effective for bit scenes, but not as a cornerstone of an episode. I think people were fans of her before the show (she has a successful podcast and has worked on other TV shows) so maybe that’s part of her appeal. I hope she grows on me, but I think something’s gotta change.
Hitchcock and Sully are two incredibly ineffective (and often disgusting) veteran detectives, played by Dirk Blocker and Joel McKinnon Miller, respectively. They’re both pretty great in their own ways, especially when they’re together.
This show decided early on that it was going to rotate the character interactions from episode to episode. The relationship between Holt and Peralta is central, but not dominant, as they deliver some consistently funny and real moments together. Holt was actually a lot like Peralta when he was a young detective–brash, braggy, and overconfident–which is why he works so hard to keep Peralta in line now. Peralta, conversely, works to break through Holt’s professional barrier just because he likes a challenge. It creates an interesting push and pull between the two.
The tentative friendship between Rosa and Amy is my second favorite dynamic of this show. These two ladies are talented, intuitive, and wildly different in personality, but their one shared trait is that they’re both women in a male-dominated profession (and precinct). Early on, Amy competed with Rosa the same way she competed with everyone else (and thank goodness they haven’t competed over a man, I hope this show never stoops to that level) but eventually Rosa pointed out that they should have each other’s backs. I think that’s wonderful, and I look forward to seeing more of their odd friendship.
It’s possible that Jake is in love with Amy. The great thing about them is that most of their scenes focus on professional collaboration, and any of their bickering or teasing usually stems from their personal competition. They have some cute scenes together, but it’s nothing too overbearing or bordering on the “will-they-won’t-they” that a lot of other shows would’ve leaned on by now. I think the main appeal of this show is that it’s a half-hour sitcom that doesn’t depend on a central romance to propel the storylines.
Boyle has great interactions with everyone: he’s Jake’s #1 fan, he’s in love with Rosa, he’s a good collaborator with Amy, and his conversations with Terry are highlights.
Terry, similarly, has great scenes with everyone, even Gina, who openly lusts after him.
Finally, the cases themselves are competent without being too dark or serious. The best part are the callbacks to Holt’s early days as a detective in the 70’s, when he caught killers with great names, such as “The Disco Strangler” and “The Freestyle Killer.” A handful of cases require Peralta to ask the team for help, resulting in some pretty great group scenes.
I can’t recommend this show enough. Have I convinced you to watch it? If not…