Why You Should Be Watching 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine'
Halfway through its fifth season on FOX, Brooklyn Nine-Nine shows no sign of slowing down and, in a rare feat, is only getting better with time. If you haven’t yet started watching this show yet—whether that’s because it’s about cops, or because you don’t watch comedies, or because you haven’t found time—here’s why you should. Immediately.
In an ideal world, the 99th precinct is an example of how all cops should behave—but the show emphasizes that this isn’t the case.
I get it: in the current climate in America, where brutality and murder at the hands of the police—especially among black citizens—makes headlines daily, watching a show about good cops may appear unsavoury.
And yes, the cops at Brooklyn’s 99th precinct are good cops. They are the best cops. They are diverse, with two black men in positions of power and two latina detectives. They are accepting and tolerant, they fight corruption, they protect the people—all people.
Outside of the Nine-Nine, this isn’t true.
In the pilot episode, Captain Raymond Holt, who is a highly intelligent and competent officer, reveals that the reason it took him so long to get his first command is because he’s gay. Through flashbacks, we see the many times Holt was ridiculed and looked down upon because he’s black, or gay, or both.
In the present timeline of the show, almost every cop who doesn’t work at the Nine-Nine is shown to be corrupt, intolerant, or otherwise terrible. Madeline Wuntch, Holt’s old arch-nemesis who is eventually promoted to be his boss, is shown many times disregarding his sexuality and actively trying to get Holt removed from his command, despite knowing how much he loves it and how much he had to go through to get there.
“The Vulture” is constantly sexist towards the female cops of the precinct and makes inappropriate gestures and comments towards almost everyone. His main motivator in solving cases is to beat the other detectives to the arrest and to keep the glory for himself, not keeping the streets and the people safe.
Jason Stentley (“CJ”), a white man, is promoted to captain despite his obvious incompetence merely for being in the right place at the right time, a direct contrast to the many years of hard work Captain Holt had to put in to achieve the same position.
Officer Malbeck accosts Terry on the streets of his own neighbourhood, merely because he’s a black man and felt that he shouldn’t belong there. When asked for an apology, Malbeck only states that he wished he had known Terry was also a cop sooner, not that he shouldn’t stop people for being black.
And yet inside the precinct, the show has cultivated a place of caring, acceptance, and respect, no matter one’s skin colour, sexuality, or gender. This means that the Nine-Nine is a safe space not just for characters of the show, but for viewers who see themselves in those characters.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine doesn’t tell us what kind of people cops are, it impresses upon us what kind of people cops could and should be.
The characters, and the relationships they foster with each other, showcase the best aspects of humanity.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine has one of my favourite ensemble casts of all time. Each character is beautifully well-rounded and undergoes significant development throughout the show’s first five seasons—something rarely handled well by non-serialized shows. While each character has aspects (both positive and negative) that I see myself reflected in, the best part about them is how good at heart they all are, and how their relationships with each other are all founded in love. The nature of that love varies depending on the relationship—from deeply platonic to romantic to familial—but none of them are shown to be any less meaningful than the others.
For a long time, comedy relied on the characters being horrible people or just horrible to each other. Interpersonal conflict has long been a driver of plot and humour, but with Brooklyn Nine-Nine, that’s rarely the case; and when it is, it’s conflict that’s earned.
Character is never sacrificed for the sake of plot. Relationships are never sacrificed for conflict. It features a number of healthy, stable relationships, which are never made to be the focus. The characters are the heart and soul of this show, so much so that it’s impossible to pick a favourite, and the show is at its best when it highlights the bond that has grown between any and all of them over the course of their years working together.
Their love for each other shines through the screen, making Brooklyn Nine-Nine my go-to pick-me-up, comfort show.
It’s funny in the best way.
The best way I can describe the comedy on this show is “chicken soup for the soul” type comedy. It never makes you feel bad for laughing. It never causes you to cringe out of secondhand embarrassment. It doesn’t punch down at the expense of typically marginalized groups.
Instead, each actor on this star-studded cast brings their own particular talents to the table to find humour in the mundane. Andre Braugher (best known as a dramatic, Shakespearean actor) plays the deadpan, emotionless Captain Holt to perfection, resulting in some of the show’s funniest moments. Andy Samberg (of The Lonely Island and SNL) is nearly the polar opposite, boisterous and loud in his portrayal of Jake Peralta, while also being more adept at dramatic and emotionally trying scenes than many would have predicted. As the saying goes, opposites attract, and the relationship that forms between these two characters is one of the most compelling—both in terms of humour and depth—of the entire series.
Melissa Fumero plays Amy Santiago with an earnestness that can be cringy at times (Amy will do anything to be in the good graces of her boss, often accidentally stepping outside of what is socially acceptable) but is also charming, and Amy is equally as hilarious whether she’s being her oblivious self or trying too hard to be someone she isn’t. Stephanie Beatriz’s impassive Rosa Diaz is often unimpressed by the antics of her coworkers, making them all the more ridiculous by contrast, and, similar to Captain Holt, when she unexpectedly breaks out of her emotionless shell it results in some of the show’s funniest moments.
Terry Crews continues to prove he’s just as talented at acting as he was at football, playing a family-oriented, gentle giant police sergeant who spends much of his time exasperatedly corralling the detectives under his charge. Joe lo Truglio, as clumsy, endearing, just-wants-to-be-loved Charles Boyle, is the source of the show’s best physical comedy.
Chelsea Peretti rounds out the main cast, and her character, civilian administrator Gina Linetti, is a wild card that can add a little “pizzazz” (in Gina’s own words) to any situation. Perhaps the most absurd of all the characters, Gina is unapologetic in her uniqueness and her brash, loud, sometimes obnoxious personality calls forth plenty of laughs.
It takes common tropes and flips them on their head.
At the beginning, Jake Peralta is a hot-shot, lone-wolf, extremely immature detective who is so determined to be the best that he rarely accepts help from his coworkers. Charles Boyle is the annoyingly clingy sidekick who constantly seeks love and validation which appears to be unrequited. Charles’ crush on Rosa, at first, has all the makings of your typical story where a man pursues a disinterested woman until she eventually concedes. Jake and Captain Holt’s relationship appears to be a contentious one, between stifling boss and childish detective.
But if you stick it out through the first few episodes, these predictable and sometimes damaging tropes are all turned inside out. Although he never stops wanting to be the best, Jake’s lone wolf act is a poor coverup for the fact that he seeks love and validation from everyone he meets. Instead of being the unwanted hanger-on, Boyle is Jake’s best friend and their love is fully reciprocated (although Boyle is often the one Jake relies on when he’s in need of validation, something Boyle is almost always happy to provide).
In fact, the defining aspect of Jake’s relationship with everyone is how much he loves them, and how much they (albeit sometimes reluctantly) come to love him in return. His relationship with Holt isn’t one between employee and boss but closer to one between father and son—although they are both often exasperated by the other, it doesn’t affect how much they care for each other. Amy is Jake’s biggest rival in the precinct (they’re both highly competitive and see themselves as the best), but that doesn’t stop him from respecting and caring about her as a colleague and friend. Gina is Jake’s childhood friend and although both Terry and Rosa originally see their relationship with Jake as professional, he’s desperate for both to see him as a “friend-friend” not just a “work-friend.”
As for Charles and Rosa, that trope is flipped on its head when Charles acknowledges that his behaviour towards Rosa had been inappropriate and takes the time to apologize for it. After that, the two become friends (and the idea of them becoming more is never even hinted at) and Charles is the one Rosa grows closest to as she slowly begins to open up.
As I mentioned above, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is not a show that relies on conflict to drive humour and story. And because of that, it’s able to strip out any expected conflict between two or more characters and allow their mutual love and respect to drive the story instead.
On the surface, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is about rowdy cops in a New York precinct, but at its heart it’s a show about love, as warming as a cup of hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire, something to take comfort in far away from the stresses and difficulties of real life.
Convinced to give it a try? All episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine can be found on Hulu in the U.S., while Seasons 1-4 can be found on Netflix in Canada and worldwide. The second half of Season 5 returns to FOX (in America) and City (in Canada) on Sunday, March 18 at 8:30/7:30c.