Sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine explores love-hate workplace relationships and some classic cop fun
Workplace sitcoms have been the staple of Western television comedy since decades. Shows like The Office, and the recently concluded Parks and Recreation, have done great work in the genre. Not surprisingly, people behind these two shows have teamed up for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, another workplace comedy which goes a step further — this time the characters goofing around at work are detectives in a police precinct.
Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) is an immature but talented detective at Brooklyn’s 99th precinct. Used to breaking rules and doing what he pleases, his life changes when a new no-nonsense captain, Ray Holt (Andre Braugher), takes over and tries to get the team in order. The other detectives are Jake’s best friend Charles, Amy (Melissa Fumero), a competitive overachiever, the tough and angry Rosa and the precinct’s resident sarcastic administrator Gina (Chelsea Peretti). Trying to keep them all in check is the tough, but fair, Sergeant Terry (Terry Crews).
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is one of those rare ensemble shows where there is no weak link — each character is hilarious in his or her own weird, specific way. Even Braugher, who starts out as the straight-man foil to Samberg’s shenanigans, is eventually allowed to display his comedy chops. One of the standouts is Perretti, who’s quickly joining the ranks of funny ladies Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. The show’s premise as a cop-show-slash-workplace-comedy also works because it allows for a diverse range of situations which wouldn’t be plausible in an ordinary sitcom. The show is at its best when the characters are going about their detective business and solving crimes with hilarity.
The most interesting thing about Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the way it uses its male characters to subvert traditional notions of masculinity and male heroes. Take Sergeant Terry, for example, who is a personification of the word ‘macho’. He is big and heavily muscular, does push-ups in his sleep, and can pick grown men up with one hand, but he is also very sensitive and emotional. Terry prefers a desk job and is afraid of going out into the field because he doesn’t want to die and leave his twin daughters alone. He is a responsible, nurturing leader who builds princess houses for his daughters and bakes in his spare time, and none of this is passed off as insults or jokes at his expense. He also happens to be black; so, his character turns the “angry black man” stereotype on its head, splendidly.
And then there’s Jake. Despite his childish shenanigans on the show, his jokes never devolve into sexist or racist grossness. Usually, shows can get away with nasty jokes by making their resident silly character crack them. This show does no such thing. Jake rarely crosses the line and explicitly distances himself from minor characters who hold racist and sexist views. Jake tries to cultivate a tough-guy, rule-breaking, lone wolf persona, but he is extremely respectful of his female colleagues. He defers to their authority when the occasion calls for it, and admits his mistakes when he’s out of line. Even in his will-they-won’t-they relationship with Amy, whom he has a crush on since the beginning of the show, he never goes down the incredibly sexist “I’ve been friendzoned” route. Overall, Jake isn’t the usual male cop hero we would expect. He is tough and good at his job but is equally goofy and vulnerable.
Currently airing its third season, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is genuinely funny, showcases excellent chemistry between the cast and presents a casually revolutionary take on modern masculinity — what more could be asked of a sitcom?
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, October 11th, 2015.