Viewers: we’ve got a potential non-renewal in progress, please respond. Over.
By far my favorite comedy of the 2013-14 season is ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine.' So far it’s gotten the critical acclaim necessary to give a show legs, but finding the audience has been a bit of a missing persons case. The December midseason finale saw an upward trend of 1.6/5 in the ratings and 3.7 million viewers, and the series garnered two Golden Globe nominations, one for best comedy, and one for Samberg; yet a small increase in viewership and award buzz are hardly a guarantee for keeping a show on the air.
In case you haven’t caught the antics of the Nine-Nine Precinct, here’s my witness statement to keep the show from getting prematurely arrested:
The surprising chemistry between Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher.
One is a respected television and film veteran with onscreen police drama credits that include the acclaimed ‘Homicide: Life on the Streets.' The other made the ‘D***-in-a-Box’ music video. Who would’ve thought the pair would make a great a comedy duo? Samberg’s slacker Detective Peralta and Braugher’s no-nonsense Captain Holt clash with each other amazingly well, and the results are hilarious. The two have formed a fun dynamic that leaves just enough dramatic growth for both the apprentice and the mentor. It’s also interesting to see these characters subverted against type, with star detective Peralta unwilling to take boring realistic police work seriously, and Holt as a happily married homosexual who takes a fatherly approach to the officers under his command.
It’s the combination of Samberg’s relentless jokes and Holt’s stone-faced performance that drive the show, and the writing elevates them to one of the best new character relationships so far this year – that and the flashbacks to Holt’s '70s police adventures, like his legendary takedown of ‘The Disco Strangler.'
They've got an ensemble full of funny people.
I’ve been a fan of Joe Lo Truglio for years, from his early sketches on ‘The State’ to his later work on ‘Reno 911.' The same goes for Terry Crews, who has an endless streak of memorable small parts in films like ‘Bridesmaids,' and it’s great to see him flex his comedy muscles (in addition to literal ones) as a series regular. Chelsea Peretti’s character has been a bit of a wild card thus far, but the comedienne has a great track record as both a writer and performer on groundbreaking cable shows such as ‘Louie’ and ‘Kroll Show.' Stephanie Beatriz and Melissa Fumero are both relative newcomers to comedy, but have proven great casting choices as the no-nonsense Detective Diaz and the over-eager Detective Santiago respectively.
The depth of this group makes me excited to watch them use the show as a platform to grow their careers, just like ‘Parks and Recreation’ did for Chris Pratt (Star Lord anyone?).
Mike Schur and Dan Goor have produced the smartest network comedies of the last decade.
Between making ‘The Office’ into NBC’s perenial hit half-hour, and building ‘Parks and Recreation’ into a critical gem, these guys know how enjoyable comedies are created. You can see the formula at work in ‘Nine-Nine’ as well:
1) A charismatic comedic lead who has yet to have a career-defining role. Check.
2) A realistic workplace setting that you wouldn’t expect to be funny, but is. Check.
3) A large cast of characters with scripts tailored to their comedic strengths. Check.
4) Rashida Jones… Not yet, but fingers crossed.
The TV landscape needs a police comedy.
When I first sat down to watch the pilot, I was curious to see how they’d balance comedy with the day-to-day operations of a New York police precinct, since violent crime in The Big Apple would make for difficult laughs (murder-suicide is hilarious, right?!). I was pleasantly surprised to see the emphasis put on the character stories rather than the criminal element – ultimately this is a workplace comedy, so the focus of the jokes is on the relationships between the cops, rather than the case of the week.
In a television landscape that is dominated by increasingly dark investigative dramas like ‘Hannibal,' ‘The Following,' and the multitude of ‘Criminal Minds’ and ‘CSI’ spin-offs, it’s refreshing to see a return to a lighthearted look at policing.
In my humble opinion, here’s what I think the fuzz have to do to stay on the air:
Just keep walking that beat.
FOX has a tradition, it seems, of developing great comedies and canceling them before their time – ‘Arrested Development’ comes to mind. Unlike many other freshmen shows this year, ‘Nine-Nine’ knows exactly what it is out of the gate, and as long as they keep that consistent quality, it should warrant a second season, and hopefully more.
For the second half of the year, I’m looking forward to seeing Gina’s character become more developed and integrated into the stories, and for Boyle’s hopeless crush on Diaz to get a little more love. Also fingers crossed for more flashbacks of '70s Holt laying down the law and badass catchphrases.
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