Written by Jessica Hanlon.
When Brooklyn Nine-Nine first made its debut earlier this fall, I recommended that you keep an eye on it because it had the potential to develop into a funny show that was worthy of its place in your weekly schedule of television shows (find my pilot review HERE). Now, as its first season comes to an end, Brooklyn Nine-Nine can say with confidence that it has stayed its course and delivered a season that was funny, fresh, assured and engaging. Whilst not always hitting every one of its notes, Nine-Nine has shown itself to be worthy of the Golden Globe wins and nominations earned early in its run, and left its season with plenty of room for development for our band of crime and bureaucracy fighters this coming fall.
Season 1 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been all about getting familiar with one another. For the audience, it has been about understanding, appreciating and getting familiar with the slightly kooky characters at the Nine-Nine. For the characters working there, it has been about understanding, appreciating and getting familiar with each other, as a result of changing circumstances, such as the arrival of the no-nonsense Captain Holt. This framework is laid out in the first episode. Right from Holt’s arrival, there is a real sense of chemistry amongst the cast. They are all incredibly grounded, so that the comedy works once everyone settles into the groove that has been established by the show’s creators, Daniel J. Goor and Michael Schur. Also co-creators of the successful Parks and Recreation, Goor and Schur have used their experience in establishing Parks and The Office to avoid the teething problems those shows had.
From its inception, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has had a clear handle on its tone. Being slightly broader than Parks and The Office allows room to develop the ensemble of comedic voices it has created. In fact, much of the strength in the first season has been in its deepening of these voices, now that the writers have satisfactorily established the dynamics of the cast. Throughout the first season, we have spent ample time with each of these characters and got to understand who they are, what they want, and the inherent traits that make them unique. I mentioned in my review of the pilot that future episodes needed to ensure its characters are three-dimensional to ensure longevity; Goor and Schur have delivered this depth in spades. They have now moved on to developing their relationships and the way these characters interact with one another, with amusing gags, one-liners and plot twists along the way.
Although neither of its two stars; Andy Samberg (of SNL and Lonely Island Fame) and Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Street), have ever done sustained character comedy previously, the extreme disparity between Samberg’s smartass-golden boy Peralta and Bruagher’s straight-laced and exceptionally intimidating Captain Holt has turned into a weirdly funny rapport between the two. As such, this season has been all about building on their relationship and showing the strange affection and respect they have for one another. Schur and Goor have correctly used their instincts to develop some emotion in Samberg’s joker antics and created an uncannily witty deadpan side to Braugher, which makes the interactions between the two progressively funnier as the season goes on.
Some great stories and short character arcs have rounded out the season. Goor and Schur have developed interesting and engaging guest stars for these plot arcs and develop some of the less obvious traits of our characters. Patton Oswalt and Dean Winters are both in fine form in the recurring roles, as Fire Marshal Boone and Detective Warren ’the Vulture’ Pembroke, respectively; whilst Craig Robinson, Andy Richter and Adam Sandler (playing himself) also make hilarious single episode guest appearances. Similarly, Dirk Blocker and Joel McKinnon Miller always provide laughs in their supporting roles as Hitchcock and Scully.
On the whole, the season hasn’t been without its missteps. Some episodes are written more tightly than others, with some unusual and unexpected revelations being made somewhat unnecessarily. Similarly, the show sometimes oversteps its mark making certain gags too big and out of character. But, these are minor criticisms. For the most part, Nine-Nine has always seemed to have a clear direction in which to take its characters and has developed them in ways that are convincing and true. These crazily kooky individuals have been molded into a fully-fledged ensemble that is both engaging and relatable.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine isn’t anything particularly groundbreaking, in the sense that it adheres to a very well-worn TV mold. However, part of the reason it is as successful as it is, is because it puts a completely new and fresh spin on this exact mold. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is not a typical procedural cop show, nor is it the run-of-the-mill buddy-cop show. Rather, it walks a fine line between the two, delivering a solid half-hour comedy that is sometimes surprising, sometimes oddly sweet and romantic, and nearly always funny.
At its best, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a show that takes a little bit of the familiar and adds just enough creativity, charm, personality, performance and laughs to make it a cut above the other comedies out there. At its worst, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a chip off the old block of its weirdly related cousins Parks and Recreation and The Office, but with slightly more charm.
Either way, as we say goodbye to Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s opening season, we do so with a fond farewell and a clear, albeit slightly surprising, idea of where it is headed when it returns for its sophomore season. Kudos!
THE REEL SCORE: 9/10