September 17, 2013

PREMIERING TONIGHT: FOX’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”


BROOKLYN NINE-NINE:  Tuesday 8:30PM on FOX – Potential DVR Alert

BROOKLYN NINE-NINE is the kind of sitcom that can go very right or extremely wrong:  an ensemble about kooky homicide detectives, anchored by former SNL-er Andy Samberg.  Happily, series creators Michael Schur and Dan Goor, both veterans of Parks & Recreation (Schur is its co-creator as well) know something about kooky ensembles, not to mention SNL cast members, and the new series has definite potential.

Brooklyn isn’t Parks & Recreation  just yet, although to be fair neither was P&R after its pilot.  That show’s tone, you may remember, was all wrong (her Pawnee co-workers despised and ridiculed Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope), and the show was trying too slavishly to feel like The Office.  It took the entire first season for P&R to find its footing, which has been just about flawless ever since.  Brooklyn has the advantage in that its characters all start out more or less liking each other, making it easier for us to join them.  On the other hand, at first glance some of the people in the precinct are more “types” (the clumsy schmendrick, and not one but two hot tough chicks) and less distinctive than Pawnee’s crew.

The show’s biggest risk is its biggest name, and as the precinct’s brilliant but anti-authoritarian detective Jake Peralta, Samberg could easily have displayed bad habits from SNL sketch work and the mostly dreck (aka “Adam Sandler”) movies he’s been doing since.  Another warning sign could have been that the Brooklyn Nine-Nine pilot is directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who were behind the very broad 21 Jump Street movie.  But Samberg was quite good in the much more naturalistic Celeste and Jesse Forever, and he’s toned things down very nicely in the pilot (as have Lord and Miller), landing his jokes but not mugging or pulling focus from the rest of the cast.  Andre Braugher, as the squad’s new commander, Captain Holt, hardly ever gets to play comedy, and it’s a pleasure to see him stretch those muscles–also, his character has the single most interesting reveal of the pilot.

A pilot can only do so much, and the rest of the cast is mostly just sketched in.  Jake’s competition/romantic interest is Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero), and so far she’s just one of the squad’s tough chicks, the other being Rose Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz).  Joe Lo Truglio is Boyle, the klutz, and Chelsea Peretti is Gina, the precinct’s civilian administrator.  Terry Crews has been very funny in stints on The Newsroom and the Netflix season of Arrested Development, so one assumes he’ll have more to do in series as the semi-cowardly Sergeant Jeffords than the pilot permits.

Brooklyn NIne-Nine will have some challenges.  As a single-camera show about cops, it can’t just hang out in the precinct all the time, as Barney Miller (clearly one of its models) did back in the multi-camera day, and it has a lot of characters to service and the need for some kind of crime story to be resolved every week.  It also remains to be seen how compatible the show will be with its lead-in, fellow new comedy Dads, in a tough time slot that killed off Ben & Kate last season.  But the writing is sharp–there are good bits in the pilot about Donnie Brasco and a nanny-cam, among others–and the talent is there, making this one of the more promising comedies of the fall.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."