Michael Schur, one of the creators of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” spent six years in Lorne Michaels’ writing room. The other, Dan Goor, was a writer for Conan O’Brien, so perhaps he inherited some of that same humor by proxy. Perhaps’s that’s why the pilot episode felt a lot like an extended SNL short. (I love SNL shorts so I’m an easy sell.)
Like Schur and Goor’s other successful pet project, “Parks and Recreation,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” seems to be following the ensemble formula of focusing on a quirky main character, and his interactions with peripheral but equally as quirky characters. Here, Detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) is the comic lead of a group of cops in the fictional 99th Precinct. My guess is that the setting matters less than the dynamic between the characters, although I’m sure it’ll come in handy for the odd hipster/yuppie jokes.
As one might guess from a Samberg character, Jake is an irreverent and immature hero who always manages to get the job done. He’s partnered with Detective Amy Santiago (Melissa Furmero), the wants-to-be-taken-seriously-as-a-career-detective straightwoman. In the beginning of the episode, we see them investigating an arrest at an electronics store where the gags include Jake hamming up movie cop impressions and using a Bear Nanny cam to identify the suspects. Jake and Santiago arrest the perps, and add the arrest to a running bet/tally in the meeting room.
The other characters’ personalities are established in brief flashbacks and in minor interactions. There’s the built but uncharacteristically meek Sergeant Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews), who’s lost his nerve since becoming a father to twins Cagney and Lacey; Charles Boyle (Jo Lo Truglio), the perfectly mediocre, middle-aged detective who spends most of his time trying to woo the uber-tough Rose Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz); and precinct administrator/busybody Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti), whose nasally, sarcastic deliveries might possibly become one of my favorite things about the show.
The show sets up the central conflict in new Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher), whose claim to fame in capturing the Disco Strangler is one of the more humorous cutaways (to me, at least) in this episode. Captain Holt wants to run a much tighter ship than the department is used to, and naturally has a hard time wrangling Jake’s headstrong goofiness. Captain Holt and Jake have two or three “he’s standing right behind me, isn’t he?” moments in the episode that result in intentionally bad robot impressions and manscaping criticism.
Eventually Jake and Santiago are assigned to a murder case in which the killer steals an expensive Serrano ham from the victim. After sneaking out with Detective Boyle to follow a hot lead, Peralta fingers the murderer as Ratko, the butcher at the local gourmet specialty shop. One humorous moment was Peralta’s bemusement at the old lady bumbling in the shop (a very Brooklyn occurrence), asking her, “Why are you still here?” in a fray with the butcher. Jake and Boyle manage to lose Ratko, and Jake gets assigned to records duty.
Jake redeems himself by digging through the records and figuring out Ratko’s whereabouts, and the team goes on a warehouse stakeout. After a discussion about his career Captain Holt reveals that he’s gay, and in a series of flashback moments (“Does anyone get kind of a gay vibe from him?” asked Gina, which I thought was originally a lazy joke but came back nicely in this moment), Peralta realizes that he was really crappy at deducing this information.
The team goes in after Ratko, and as they capture him, Jake has an expository moment about Holt’s earlier demands for him to wear a tie, and how he wants “team uniforms” after getting to head up his own unit. And…conflict solved, for now. I’m sure the show is going to continue to focus on Jake and Captain Holt butting heads, but at least they’re going to do it amicably. I think we’ll find that this turns into the more interesting relationship in the series.
I thought the first episode was funny, but I’m interested enough to see where it goes. There were some good throwaway lines that made me chuckle (“white noise–that’s racist”), but a few of the sight gags, like Jake’s bright Speedo in the records room, were just “meh.” I hope the writers will throw in potentially smarter moments with the easier jokes, and ultimately I’m hoping this fictional Brooklyn precinct will continue to arrest its viewers. (See what I did there? That’s why I don’t get paid to write comedy television shows.)