Whenever I try to tell somebody about my favourite television shows, I often realize the extent to which my tastes are dominated by hour-long shows. Whether it’s long-running staples like The West Wing, Mad Men and Lost, more geeky fare like Fringe, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or one-season wonders like Freaks and Geeks or Firefly, my passions, for whatever reason, do not extend to the half-hour sitcom nearly as often as they do their longer, more dramatic brethren.
That said, however, one sitcom this year became my obsession and it has become a habit of mine to convince everyone I can think of to watch it. That sitcom is Brooklyn Nine-Nine. If you haven’t seen it, chances are you’re at least vaguely aware of its existence because of star Andy Samberg, famous for his exploits on Saturday Night Live and with the musical comedy group The Lonely Island (“I’m On a Boat, “Like A Boss,” etc.). While Samberg is certainly an important part of the show, there are so many other reasons to watch it that I found it difficult to narrow it down to just ten.
I truly feel that this is a show anyone can watch and enjoy, and I struggle to think of another show that has consistently left me gasping for air from laughing so hard, while also making me appreciate its subtleties in writing, acting and direction. I therefore hope that this article will guide you to watch at least one episode of the show, because, based on my own experience and that of some of my good friends, it only takes one episode to fall completely in love with this show.
10. Connections to Parks and Recreation, The Office (US), The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street
Brooklyn Nine-Nine was created by Dan Goor and Michael Schur, both of whom have impressive comedic resumes. Goor wrote for both The Daily Show, where he won two Emmys for writing in 2001 and 2007, and Conan O’Brien, where he won two Writers Guild of America awards in 2005 and 2006, before moving to Parks and Recreation to serve as a writer, producer and director on the show.
Schur wrote for Saturday Night Live for six seasons until 2004, when he became a producer and writer for The Office (US). Schur’s Office work received two Emmy nominations for Best Writing, and he also appeared on-screen as Dwight’s cousin Mose in multiple episodes. Leaving the show after its fourth season to co-create Parks and Recreation, Schur then received another Emmy nomination for his writing on that show. If you’re a fan of these shows’ best seasons, then you should watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine, as its braintrust was responsible for that work.
The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller also serve as executive producers on the show, and directed the show’s pilot.
9. Impressive List of Guest Stars
I have long felt that one of the greatest indicators of a show’s quality is the quality of the guest stars it can attract. In its first season, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has already attracted several big-name stars, including Patton Oswalt and Fred Armisen in recurring roles as a fire marshal and confused bystander respectively. The show also attracted Office alum Craig Robinson, famous rapper Kid Cudi, Conan O’Brien sidekick Andy Richter, famous character actor Stacy Keach and even Adam Sandler to appear. While the show’s cast is already extraordinary, giving them a high calibre of talent to work with only increases the show’s appeal and overall hilarity.
8. Fox Has Shown A Lot of Faith in it
Fox’s efforts at new half-hour shows in 2013-2014 were largely unsuccessful. Dads, Enlisted and Surviving Jack were all cancelled after one season, the as-yet unaired Us and Them had its episode order decreased from thirteen to seven episodes, a sign the network has no faith in it, and a proposed animated cop comedy entitled Murder Police was pulled from Fox’s schedule without airing any episodes. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, in contrast, not only received a second-season renewal after its 22 episode first season, but had Dirk Blocker and Joel McKinnon Miller, who play aging bumbling Detectives Hitchcock and Scully, upped from recurring to main cast members.
Fox furthermore aired them after New Girl in the prestigious post-Super Bowl slot. The list of shows which has filled this slot is impressive, including Friends, Homicide: Life on the Street, the X-Files, Family Guy and the Simpsons, Alias, House, The Office, Grey’s Anatomy and Criminal Minds. These two factors therefore indicate that FOX hopes the show will run for many seasons and become a huge hit. So if you want to save yourself time a few years from now, binge-watch the first season whenever it appears on Netflix and start watching the show from the beginning of the second season, instead of waiting until seasons five, six or seven to catch up.
7. They Already Won Golden Globes for Best Comedy and Best Actor
In January 2014, Brooklyn Nine-Nine shocked audiences by beating out Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, Girls and The Big Bang Theory for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes. In the Best Actor – Musical or Comedy category, Andy Samberg also beat out four-time winner Michael J. Fox and previous winners Don Cheadle, Jim Parsons and Jason Bateman for the award. Whether you think that a show winning Best Musical or Comedy after airing only twelve episodes or a first-time nominee winning against four previous winners is more impressive, it’s hard to deny the show has received a lot of attention for awards and therefore deserves the attention of more viewers as well. Emmy nominations will not be announced until July, but it is probable the show will continue to at least receive nominations from its voters for its work so far.
6. Instant Quotability
While some shows try to become quotable through catchphrases (The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother), and others through manufacturing ideas to label social situations (Seinfeld, How I Met Your Mother again), Brooklyn Nine-Nine is instantly quotable simply because of the quality of its writing and performances. Two of my favourites are “mouth feel,” one of the criteria used to judge Brooklyn’s pizza by Detective Boyle, one of the precinct’s cops who is also a notorious foodie, and “Kwazy Cupcakes,” a cellphone game similar to Candy Crush, but there are too many to write. While it is possible no show after Arrested Development will be able to equal its rapid-fire callbacks, witticisms and allusions, Brooklyn Nine-Nine seems to be the strongest contender to do so in years.
5. Terry Crews
Throughout his acting career, the former NFL defensive end and linebacker had vacillated between comedy (Everybody Hates Chris, Bridesmaids, Idiocracy, Old Spice Commercials) and action roles (the Expendables movies, The 6th Day, Street Kings, Gamer). While some of his roles, including some I mentioned, have elements of both, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the perfect vehicle for Crews to simultaneously showcase both sides of his talents and will likely stand as a career-defining role for him. His physical comedy is impeccable (highlights include struggling to build a dollhouse and lifting a car) and he often delivers some of the show’s funniest lines, but it is the way in which his action credentials blend with drama and comedy that he truly shines. As a cop afraid to go back into the field because of a previous incident and a fear of leaving his two young daughters without a father, Crews uses his physicality to craft a complex and memorable character who brings you back to the show week after week.
4. Cast Diversity
As a show with multiple African-American characters, multiple female Latin-American characters and an openly homosexual character, Brooklyn Nine-Nine offers diversity without flaunting it. While depictions of New York in television have sometimes come under criticism for lacking racial diversity, ranging from Friends to Girls, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has always maintained a diverse cast. Most refreshingly, characters of racial and sexual minorities are not singularly defined by those traits, which are deftly brought to the forefront when appropriate but otherwise simply serve as one trait among many.
3. Brilliant Parody of Cop Shows and Tropes
Brooklyn Nine-Nine has continuously highlighted aspects of police life and made them hilarious: youth outreach programs, internal politics, rivalries with fire departments, using informants, going undercover, tactical training, cold cases and even paperwork. Not since Barney Miller in the 1970s has police comedy worked so well on television, avoiding the trap of trying to imitate police comedy films like The Naked Gun or Hot Fuzz by creating large over-the-top plotlines. Instead they find humor in the minutiae of police life. Whether you’re an avid fan of regular police procedurals and dramas who wants to see the comedy inherent in such shows, a picky viewer of cop shows who refuses to settle for anything less than The Wire or The Shield, or have no interest in cop shows at all, the police precinct setting offers a multitude of options for laughs, which have been executed with aplomb so far.
2. Depth and Emotional Honesty in Its Characters
From the aforementioned Terry Crews‘ Sgt. Jeffords’ struggle to get back into the field to Andy Samberg‘s immature Detective Jake Peralta coming to terms with his emotions to Stephanie Beatriz’s Detective Rosa Diaz gradually opening up to her co-workers, the show is filled with characters who are constantly growing as people. Interpersonal relationships, whether the close friendship of Peralta and Joe Lo Truglio’s Detective Boyle, the mentor-apprentice relationship between Andre Braugher‘s Captain Holt and Melissa Fumero‘s Detective Amy Santiago, or the childhood bond between Peralta and Chelsea Peretti’s character Gina Linetti, the office administrator, are always at the forefront of the show and driving the plot. The show is also the first one to ever make me go from actively not wanting a romantic element to emerge between two characters to hoping to see more of that storyline (I won’t spoil which two, but it’ll be clear by the end of the season finale).
1. Andre Braugher
Having only seen him before in the 1989 Civil War film Glory and as the main character of ABC’s short-lived submarine drama Last Resort in 2012-2013, I was intrigued by the prospect of Braugher in a comedy. Braugher, however, who won an Emmy for Best Actor in a Drama for his work in Homicide: Life on the Street and multiple Supporting Actor nominations for Men of a Certain Age in 2010 and 2011, has been a natural and frequently my favorite part of the entire show. As the new captain of the precinct, Captain Ray Holt, Braugher’s dry, almost monotonous, and frequently intense expressions and delivery create an ambiguous line between the deathly serious and the hilarious, with just enough difference to make it possible to tell the difference. An actor with incredible command over the subtleties of his performance, and with the depth and talent to make Captain Holt into a fully-formed and realistic character, it would seem that Braugher is destined to join Samberg as an award winner for this show, and will continue to entertain audiences for many years to come.