Brooklyn Nine-Nine brings a welcome blend of whimsy and heart to the indefatigable crime drama. The series premiere follows the immature but talented Detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and his competitive partner, Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero), as they work to solve the case of a murdered gourmet-food supplier, all while their off-kilter Brooklyn precinct must come to terms with the arrival of new, no-nonsense captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher). The previous captain’s willingness to overlook workplace shenanigans has created an atmosphere of rampant unprofessionalism and a loss of nerve among the detectives of the 99th precinct, presenting the incoming Holt with a challenge he’s especially eager to take on. Peralta and Captain Holt butt heads as the murder case moves forward, conveyed as an amusing, slapstick-y battle of wits and power. When Peralta repeatedly fails to make a successful arrest and is given a desk assignment, his frustration becomes both a source of pleasure for Holt and new fuel for Peralta’s desire to prove his abilities. But the effective twist to this predictably juvenile game of one-upmanship happens in a stakeout scene in which Holt reveals the reason behind his desire to turn their chaotic precinct into Brooklyn’s best. It’s a poignant moment, and Braugher imparts a gravitas that effectively establishes Captain Holt as the show’s anchor of humanity, bringing some dimension to its loose, outré sense of humor.
There’s a corresponding tongue-in-cheek handling of the detached law-enforcement stereotypes that plays out to endearing effect in the workplace interactions between the rest of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s ensemble. In a scene where Captain Holt asks the towering Sergeant Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews) why he’s taken a backseat to active crime-scene investigation, we learn that due to the recent birth of his twin daughters, Cagney and Lacey (that’s right, Cagney and Lacey), Jeffords has developed a problematic sensitivity to the possibility of being shot out in the field. Though he cracks a joke at Jeffords’s expense, Holt alleviates the sting by also lending an empathetic ear. Similarly, when bumbling Detective Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) asks a sassy co-worker, Civilian Administrator Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti), for advice about how to convince resistant fellow Detective Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) to go out with him on a date, the impression is that, despite her sardonic jabbing, Linetti is still willing to offer him some help. These briskly paced scenes are propelled by some well-crafted punchlines that effectively reveal the personal foibles these outwardly intense characters are struggling with, leaving the audience with the sense that, despite their rough edges, these people need each other more than they think.
It should come as no surprise that the show’s writers and producers (Michael Schur, Dan Goor, and David Miner) are the same ones responsible for creating distinct comedic worlds inhabited by a range of opposing but ultimately converging outlooks, including Parks and Recreation, The Office, and 30 Rock. The strength of Brooklyn Nine-Nine is in the way it summons the communal spirit of those shows to not only poke fun at crime-show clichés, but also reinterpret them with a fresh and idiosyncratic comedic point of view.