What ever happened to Andy Samberg? Since his departure in 2012, Samberg has had the same mixed bag of film choices that has cursed many a “Saturday Night Live” alum. For every “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” there was a “That’s My Boy,” a crude, immature comedy that, perhaps unfairly, set Samberg back.
So when Fox announced “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” for the fall season, I was ready for a stiff, sobering attempt at a comeback. With the amount of marketing that was focused on Samberg’s presence in the show, it seemed like a total vanity move.
But you know what? I was dead wrong.
What show creators Dan Goor and Michael Schur (also a creator of “Parks and Recreation”) have brought to the table is a smart, riotous workplace comedy that never takes itself too seriously. Only three episodes in, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is a bright light in the fall TV lineup.
Set at the 99th precinct in Brooklyn (hence the show’s title), the show takes a page from Schur’s work on “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” focusing on the day-to-day antics of both the police department’s detectives and the pencil-pushers that make things happen.
The center of this focus, then, is on Samberg’s Jake Peralta, a witty, successful cop with a bit of an immaturity problem; the pilot opens with Samberg reciting lines from “Donnie Brasco” at a crime scene. When he’s not out busting criminals, he’s goofing around in the office. And while that might sound unbearable, Samberg plays the character with such a boyish energy that it’s impossible not to root for him.
And what is a lovable goofball without an uptight boss with whom to butt heads? Enter Commanding Officer Ray Holt, expertly played by Andre Braugher. Braugher is stone-faced and hard on Samberg, but no moment between the two characters goes without major revelations and development. It would be easy to have throw-away moments where the characters get on each other’s nerves, but the writing team shies away from that, creating two multi-faceted characters with an infectiously engaging relationship.
To focus solely on Samberg and Braugher would be to dismiss the incredibly solid cast that surrounds them. Melissa Fumero plays Detective Santiago, Samberg’s know-it-all, teacher’s pet of a partner, and Stephanie Beatriz plays Detective Diaz, an intense detective with anger issues. Joe Lo Truglio plays Detective Boyle, a clumsy goof with a heart of gold; Terry Crews plays the precinct’s sergeant; and Chelsea Peretti plays Gina, the group’s wise-talking office manager. It’s a well-rounded cast with a group of clearly talented comedians and actors, and it’s been a pleasure to see all of these characters get their moments in the spotlight.
Don’t confuse the comedic nature of the show with a lack of action; the focus on the police department allows them to tackle some pretty engaging cases. Should you expect David Fincher’s “Zodiac”? No, but setting the show in a New York City police precinct means that you’ll be seeing elements of the traditional police procedural, resulting in action sequences that play heavily on the slapstick.
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is a show with a world of possibilities. Even if, at times, it still feels like it’s finding its feet, it shows the kind of potential that “30 Rock” and “Parks and Recreation” showed during their infancies. With arguably the strongest comedy pilot of the season, the show should prove to have wide crossover appeal with its unique mix of workplace comedy and police procedural.
Don’t let your curiosity for “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” linger any longer. It’d be criminal of you to avoid this comedy.