It may seem like Andy Samberg is just doing one extended SNL sketch when his new FOX cop comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine starts. He's a slightly disheveled detective quoting cop movies, cracking jokes, and busting his partner's chops for not being as talented as he is at solving cases. Yeah, his character's a little bit of a cocky kid, and many viewers will instantly love him for that-- or be turned off because of it from the jump. But if you stick with it past that potentially polarizing opening scene, you will see that Samberg-- along with everyone in the Brooklyn Nine-Nine cast-- is a complex and colorful character, not a one-note stereotype. It's a rare thing for a large network comedy to be able to flesh out its ensemble so fully in the pilot alone, especially without being at the expense of the humor, but Brooklyn Nine-Nine does it effortlessly, making it easily climb to the top of the list as one of fall's best new comedies.
Samberg's character, Detective Jake Peralta, is always up for fun and games in the police precinct, which admittedly made me wonder just how serious he takes his job at first. He rails really hard against even the smallest little change like wearing a tie to work, and he never hesitates to cheer himself on even if it means ragging on his fellow officers. He's the kind of guy who quite frankly no one would want to work with if this was a drama. But we get swift insight into why he is the way he is that not only allows us to understand him but also to relate.
Peralta is not the kind of guy who seems to feel challenged when we first meet him (his old captain let him get away with everything, clearly marking him as something of a golden boy around those parts), and he has resorted to making a wager with his partner (Melissa Fumero) on who can solve more cases. It's the kind of game you usually give yourself in a boring desk job to keep yourself showing up everyday and feigning like it's more interesting than it really is. But he's a New York City detective working everything from robbery (opening scene of the pilot) to homicide (the case for the rest of the pilot), so he shouldn't need anything other than the work to keep it interesting for himself. Yet Brooklyn Nine-Nine gives him something in the form of a new captain (Andre Braugher).
With Captain Holt coming in as the older, wiser, more stern, but still caring police dog, Peralta is allowed to show off a spectrum to his character that shows he can certainly be silly, but he knows what seriousness is, too. The relationship between these men will be the key one to watch (despite the pilot already setting up potential interoffice romance). Peralta may have thought he nailed procedure and investigative skills, but the introduction of Holt shows him there is so much more than that involved, and even he can still be taught a thing or two. And most importantly, he's willing to take in those lessons.
Looking back at the opening scene of Brooklyn Nine-Nine with more insight into Peralta after he has not quite been humbled but at least actually had to learn something, he does appear to be the kind of detective a network procedural would depict and then take way too seriously. Neither Brooklyn Nine-Nine nor Samberg treats the role like he's off-limits to being the jerk or the joke, despite going the extra mile to prove he's not just the jerk or the joke.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine doesn't shy away from blending dramas by showing the lighter side to police work, nor does it limit itself in tone. Already in the pilot alone, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has a great balance of the kinds of comedy it will be providing, too. There are the more cartoonish moments (flashbacks into the kinds of problems cops Terry Crews and Joe Lo Truglio have had); there is some dryer humor (provided by delivery and dialogue from Chelsea Peretti and Stephanie Beatriz), and there is some real warmth and sentiment, too (mostly from Braugher but also Fumero). The balance is on point already, and the pilot definitely left me wanting to see more from everyone involved. That, too, is rare but oh so welcome when it comes!
Brooklyn Nine-Nine premieres on FOX on September 17 2013 at 8:30 p.m.
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