Dan Goor and Michael Schur are familiar with the slow burn of television success. Having created, written, and directed episodes of The Office and Parks and Recreation, they have seen patience pay off with the critical success of each show, despite the start of lukewarm ratings. Their latest collaboration, Fox series Brooklyn Nine-Nine, seems to be following the pattern — with one exception.
Halfway through this, its first season, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has already won two Golden Globes awards: One for Andy Samberg for Best Actor in a Television Series Musical or Comedy and one for the show itself, as Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy. Neither The Office nor Parks and Recreation won awards during their first seasons, and the B99 wins took people by surprise, and left more than a few wondering: Should I be watching the show? Yes. Yes, you should.
The show follows a group of New York City police detectives and their new captain in the fictional 99th Precinct of Brooklyn. Andy Samberg is Jake Peralta, a good detective whose adolescent disregard for authority puts him in direct opposition with new captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher), who is stoic, robotic, and precise. Terry Crews is Detective Sergeant Terry Jeffords, squad leader, who tries to maintain order of the rest of the crew. Because of creators’ connection to Parks and Recreation, it’s easy to compare the characters. And everything that makes Parks and Recreation and The Office fun and lovable is also present in B99: Strong chemistry between the cast; the resigned loyalty to coworkers that shifts into accepting each other as a chosen family; romantic silliness; humor that appears out of nowhere. One of B99’s strong suits is that it lets each character have his or her moment without overkill.
Jake Peralta may not suffer from the same kind of puppy dog desire to be loved by everyone like Michael Scott or Leslie Knope, but he does have a similar competitive streak that can lead to elaborate set-ups. His crush on Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero), his anxious, by-the-book opposite, is sweet, with a little bit of the pigtail-pulling that his boyish nature suggests. There may be some concern that Samberg’s juvenile antics overwhelm the show, which is understandable, but his character has already experienced some personal growth. It avoids the desperation of first-season Knope or the creepiness of Scott. Despite his bouts of silliness, Peralta shows leaderships skills that leave Captain Ray Holt more than a little impressed.
And what about Andre Braugher as Captain Holt? Braugher has been looking for a solid home on television since the untimely loss of Men of a Certain Age, and B99 is not a bad place for him at all. Many of the laugh-out-loud moments of the show come from him. Captain Holt is an openly gay, married man with an expressionless face that leads to a running joke about how his team is unable to read him. Holt’s challenges as an African-American police officer in New York are handled with light-hearted care without taking the show into Very Special Episode territory. In the same way that Peralta might mention a woman he’s dating, Holt mentions his husband. His homosexuality isn’t on display as if to prove the show’s tolerance or progressiveness.
But Brooklyn Nine-Nine is unapologetically a show of the times. Fox has stressed the importance of its shows’ diversity, and that plan is evident here. B99’s main cast of seven consists of two African-American men and two Latina women. Braugher and Crews’ characters are both in respected leadership positions. Fumero and Beatriz play women who are good at their jobs and not overly sexualized stereotypes. In a recent episode, Captain Holt found himself running against another gay, African-American man for president of the black gay and lesbian police organization he founded twenty-five years ago. The criminals the characters bring in range in age, sex, race, ethnicity, and offense. It’s clear that the show takes diversity seriously in many ways.
Is B99 perfect? Of course not. Supporting characters Detectives Michael Hitchcock and Norm Scully are the doofus punching bags of the show, and it’s a little cringe-worthy how often their stupidity is pointed out. The show doesn’t have the confessional asides to the camera like mockumentary-style sitcoms so the characters tend to be self-referential instead. That’s not necessarily bad but it can lean toward too much exposition at times.
But the show stands on its own. It maintains the warmth and silliness that’s evident in the other work of Dan Goor and Michael Schur while expanding into its own world. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is in its first season and will finish strong. With news of it renewal, which the Golden Globes wins undoubtedly helped seal in place, it’ll be interesting to see how the show continues to entertain and grow.