Brooklyn Nine Nine
S1, E1: ‘Pilot’
Of mice and man-children
Brooklyn Nine Nine is a sweet, beautifully-observed workplace comedy. Its ensemble is fantastic and every single member of its cast has chemistry with every single other member. It’s a delight, but be warned that there are a few kinks to iron out along the way.
Not that many, though. The show is confident and breezy right out of the gate, trusting in its crackerjack ensemble and unashamed sincerity right from the off. It lays out its main themes and conflicts briskly, and then gets on with the job of making you laugh.
Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) is a talented man-child, a detective at Brooklyn’s Ninety-ninth Precinct. He’s used to having a drunk and apathetic boss, but there’s a new sheriff in town. Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) is a deep-voiced, deadpan straight arrow who has no time for Jake’s seat-of-the-pants oafishness. The two butt heads immediately over whether Jake wears a tie, and Holt puts him in his place quietly but firmly. It drives Jake crazy that he isn’t allowed to do whatever he wants so long as he’s putting away bad guys – at which, to be fair, he seems to be really good. Jake keeps trying to clown at, along or through the rules – until he figures out why it’s so important to Holt that the precinct be perfect. Holt, you see, is an openly gay police officer, and after a lifetime of discrimination despite a stellar record, has been given command of his own precinct. Ensuring that his team works as a team is important, and Jake’s showboating maverick tendencies undermine that.
The scenes where Jake Learns His Lesson are a bit wince-inducing, but also charming in their earnestness. And I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoy the interplay between the great Andre Braugher’s resolute deadpan and Andy Samberg’s manic energy. Also, it’s kind of awesome that you have a gay character where the gayness isn’t his entire deal. Also also, this is a pretty diverse cast, in a cheerful, no-nonsense way. Let’s meet them:
- Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews): the archetypal gentle giant, with two new baby daughters and therefore a terror of getting hurt in the field.
- Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti): the spacey-but-sharp office administrator
- Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz): she is tough but scary. That’s all we’ve got to go on right now.
- Charles Boyle (Joe LoTruglio): the puppy-faced foodie with a doomed crush on Rosa and a tendency to overshare. Oh yeah, and he’s supposed to be fantastically clumsy. LoTruglio’s physical comedy is on point, of course.
- Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumeiro): the goody-two-shoes who wants Holt to be her ‘rabbi’, and who has an ongoing bet with Peralta. If she notches more arrests than he does, she gets his car. If he gets more than she does, she goes on a date with him. I confess this element made me groan out loud when I first saw it.
- Scully (Joel McKinnon Miller) and Hitchcock (Dirk Blocker): incompetent, but ‘they make good coffee’.
Odds and sods
- Words cannot adequately convey the pure pleasure of hearing Andre Braugher’s magisterial voice intone the words ‘titties’ and ‘they have adorable chubby cheeks’.
- ‘[Jake] loves putting away bad guys and solving puzzles. The only puzzle he hasn’t solved…is how to grow up.’ Show, it doesn’t really help if you hang a lantern on how on-the-nose it is.
- ‘Santiago struck out with a 92-year-old.’ ‘That is not accurate, sir.’ ‘Wait, you hooked up with him? Ugh.’
- Boyle always plays the victim when Peralta and he role-play. Seems about right.
- I like the opening credits. They are gleeful pop-culture mashups of Beastie Boys videos and somehow spaghetti Westerns. Great fun.