Wednesday, March 6, 2019


I haven’t watched a TV sitcom episode-by-episode since 30 Rock but people I trusted wore me down to check out Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It had two strikes against it going in:
  1. It was on Fox, so it was likely to be stupid.
  2. It was going to get the police stuff wrong and I’m a snob about that, even though I am not, nor was I ever, a cop.
But the word was good and I like Andy Samberg and I was interested to see how Andre Braugher did comedy and I was off work for the shutdown and was eager for anything to distract me and The Beloved Spouse™ had a Hulu subscription so I figured what the hell. It’s been on the air for five years so it wasn’t like I was watching something new and untested (Heaven forfend!) so we gave it a try.

This is one of the funniest shows I have ever seen.

True, it’s not the erudite comedy of a Frazier or the layers seen in Seinfeld. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is out of what I call The Simpsons school of comedy: We’re just here to make you laugh. Don’t worry about the plot or the timeline of the verisimilitude. Just go with it and enjoy yourself.

The show does have more to it than just screwball humor. The cast is uniformly excellent and the writers take care to create real relationships between them, which makes the goofiness more than just a string of jokes without context. It’s a string of jokes that are funny because Peralta said it to Santiago or Charles was intimidated by Diaz. The actors’ timing is spot on. There are a surprising number of stunts for a sitcom, and they unfailingly pull them off.

Those who know me are probably wondering by now how I get past the lack of police procedure verisimilitude when I spent half my waking hours bitching about that topic in other television shows. (And books and movies and short stories and casual conversations and…) Here’s the deal: Brooklyn Nine-Nine doesn’t present itself as anything other than an exercise in getting you to laugh. CSI and NCIS and their ilk present themselves as investigations when they bear as much resemblance to real police work as James Bond does to the CIA.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine gets a pass from me for the same reason I don’t care that Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder books or Carl Hiaasen’s novels sometimes strain credulity. Once you get me laughing, I don’t much care how you keep the laughter going. I’m in. The harder and more often you can get me to laugh, the more you can get away with. (Mel Brooks is the prime example here.)

I mentioned the cast. While no one except Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher were known to me before I started watching, and everyone is excellent (even the guest stars hit every note), it’s Braugher who was the revelation. I’ve been a fan since he was on Homicide and wondering how Frank Pembleton was going to pull off a comedy could have been a subconscious reservation that kept me away from the show. If you, too, have that wonder, wonder no more. The man is hilarious and perfectly cast. The Beloved Spouse™ bought me the full boxed set of all seven seasons of Homicide for my birthday, which let to us watching several Brooklyn Nine-Nines followed by a disk worth of Homicide, which had us switching from Captain Raymond Holt to Detective Frank Pembleton and back every day. Acting studios could use these performances as primers.

Five weeks of bingeing reduced us to watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine the same way as everyone else: a week at a time. Well, not really. We came to enjoy the binge sessions so much we now DVR it and watch four or five episodes once a month, all at once. Once they get us laughing, 22 minutes is too soon to stop.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Well, I am going to try it after this. I need some laughs.

Elgin Bleecker said...

Dana – Just now catching up with your recent posts. I have yet to watch NINE-NINE. The only comedy we watch is THE BIG BANG THEORY. But since I think we have seen every episode, we should give NINE-NINE a try.