Tag Archives: Brooklyn Nine Nine

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2015 Edition: 38-35

11 Apr

A Netflix original, a Yahoo Screen original, a British show, and a Fox third-season comedy. Moving on.

Intro here and 58-55 here and 54-51 here and 50-47 here and 46-43 here and 42-39 here.

38. Peep Show – 2014: Not Eligible

Peep Show

The 9th and final season of Peep Show, which has to be some sort of British record, aired last year, three seasons after the previous. Peep Show may have had over its lifespan more boisterous laugh out loud moments than almost any show I’ve watched, and while it was certainly not at its peak last year, there were just enough moments of vintage Peep Show to earn its place here. It can be painfully hard to watch at times, and the characters are such morons, but no one, not even Michael Scott from The Office, can screw up a dinner party as gleefully as Mark does this season, leading to perhaps both the most awkward and funny scene of the season. Peep Show brought back just about every important character for a minute for one last go around and gave a fittingly miserable send off to Mark and Jeremy.

37. Other Space – 2014: Not Eligible

Other Space

Other Space sadly will not be returning last year largely because no one watched it, at least in part because it was on the short-lived Yahoo Screen, Yahoo’s ill-advised attempt to compete with Amazon and Netflix with original streaming content which resulted in massive failure. Other Space is a zany comedy about a crew of future outcasts who ventured off the grid in outer space. The production values are low, low, low; almost every episode feels like a bottle episode stuck in a few rooms on the ship. Other Space is smartly, however, perfectly tailored towards such an environment, and takes advantage of how silly and low budget it looks. The largely unknown actors (the most famous are Joel, the original host of MST3K, and Lily from the long-running series of AT&T commercials) do a good job, and the comedy smartly takes advantage of the engine that powers most great sitcoms – constantly rejiggering different combinations of characters interacting together. I’m still not sure why this show didn’t catch up at least in a small way with more of the tv-watching internet.

36. Brooklyn Nine-Nine – 2014: 19

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Brooklyn Nine-Nine has settled into its place as a second tier comedy, good for a few laughs an episode, and the occasional breakout episode, but never quite reaching the synthesis of top quality writing and character development that would see it ranked any higher. I’ve said it before, but little has changed; I’ve given up on hoping Brooklyn Nine-Nine will ever reach the heights of its spiritual predecessor Parks & Recreation and have done my best to try to enjoy it for what it is. The characters have begun to occasionally grate on me over time; while they’ve definitely improved since the outset, sometimes the development seems permanently stunted – the characters have trouble becoming more than the over-the-top traits that initially defined them, especially Charles (can we go an episode without him talking about his food snobbishness?). There are still plenty of fun moments, I like the cast a lot, regardless of their character shortcomings, and we’re high enough on the list that I’m in no danger of stopping watching. It’s just hard to shake the notion that this show should be a bit better than it is.

35. Orange is the New Black – 2014: 14

Orange is the New Black

I watched most of Orange is the New Black’s third season in a short period with a couple of friends, and though I generally enjoyed it, we ended up pausing for some reason which I don’t recall with about four episodes to go. I didn’t watch for a while, thinking we’d get back together again, until eventually it seemed like momentum had stalled and even once I figured it’d be okay for me to finish it out solo, I didn’t really want to, having a negative impression of the season in my mind. And then eventually one day, I ran through the episodes, and though the problems of the third season were still present, I enjoyed the end of the season a lot more than I remembered and couldn’t quite figure out why I had held off for so long. And that’s kind of where Orange is the New Black stands. The third season was not its most stellar; it was less focused than the others, and some of the plots fell flat, particularly Piper’s. Luckily, however, Piper is no longer the protagonist. The show has become a true ensemble, and the protagonist, really, if there was one last season was Caputo. The show still offers a perspective different than any other show on TV, with a large and diverse female cast unlike any on TV, and that’s still worth something.

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End of Season Report: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

18 May

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

As the second season wraps up, I leave with very mixed feelings about Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which is undoubtedly unfair, because it is unquestionably a good show. My immediate reaction speaks less to its overall quality than to the expectations I had before the season began. The first season was good, and left me feeling that the show could be great. The pieces were there but they just needed time to come together. After the second season, however, I came away still thinking that Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a good show, but feeling that’s it more likely that the show will put together a string of good seasons without necessarily approaching greatness. There was no sophomore slump, rather merely a lack of a sophomore leap. Because I don’t want to convey a negative overall conclusion, but rather some constructive criticism, I’ll structure my thoughts in the form of a time-tested compliment sandwich, in which, I’ll note some good points first, follow it up with some problems, and finish up with some positives again.

First, and most importantly (and I haven’t written more than two lines about this show without saying this) Andre Braugher is a national treasure who should be vacuum sealed between takes so he can be preserved for future generations of television. He’s wonderful in general, and in this role, and I have nothing but acclaim for his Captain Holt.

There’s a great sense of unity in the squad room, and everyone, for the most part (Gina is not the biggest Amy fan) clearly likes each other. There’s a sense of camaraderie that feels real, and everyone, when push comes to shove, has each other’s back.

Now, for the criticism. The Jake and Amy romance feels both forced and predictable. One of my biggest more general criticisms of Brooklyn Nine-Nine is that many of the characters and plots feel like they were conceived on the page as part of the premise of the show, and haven’t been changed enough in reaction to the natural rapport, chemistry, and strengths of the actors. The Jake-Amy romance is exhibit A for this in my mind; something planned far ahead of time which doesn’t really work in practice.

Two episodes before the season finale, Amy made a point about how she was not going to date cops. It would have been shocking, following that, if Amy and Jake had not gotten together in some way by the finale. I don’t expect Brooklyn Nine-Nine to be utterly unpredictable, filled with twists and turns, like Game of Thrones, but If it’s incredibly predictable that a character will do the opposite of what she says (and not because the character is simply a liar) that’s not a great sign.

Several of the characters need to be turned down a notch, especially in certain situations and character pairings. Charles is a much better character when paired with anyone but Jake. Whenever he’s around Jake, he’s far too sycophantic, and jokes that were funny based on this nature of their relationship when used just occasionally are now overused and annoying. He’s obsessed with Jake, and while Jake obviously likes him as well, it always feels like a weirdly uneven relationship, and Charles comes off as way, way more of a weirdo than feels appropriate to the show. Whenever he’s not around Jake, Charles’ weirdness seems far more endearing and less over the top, and his season finale plotline with Rosa, shows just how far he’s come from the crazily creepy early first season when he was obsessed with her, to where he’s her friend, clearly knows her well, and helps her and her boyfriend celebrate her birthday.

Gina’s weirdness can often be delightful, but her constant obsession with Terry is too much and overused. Jake is very close to an excellent character, but he drives me crazy sometimes as well. I wish he could just occasionally turn off his stupid-joke-machine, because the jokes just aren’t always good enough to be worthwhile. A couple different, or even simply fewer of these jokes, would give the good ones, which there are plenty of, time to breathe.

Last, a few more compliments to toss out. Some of the characters are great as they are. Holt, as I mentioned before. Terry perfectly functions as the straight man and den mother of the office, and the universal affection shown towards him from both above and below feels warranted. Rosa is wonderful as is, and they’ve put her in a relationship that keeps her hard edge while expanding her character’s depth. The actors in general are very good and very funny; they’re just sometimes given material that doesn’t quite highlight what they do best, or give them enough range to show it.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I don’t want to give up on your chance for greatness just yet. Despite a season of treading water, you’re really not far away. Just tweak. Rewatch the seasons, learn from the characters and the actors, and change everything up slightly, and then learn from that again, because you’ll still make mistakes. Parks & Recreation had an excellent second season, but really hit its peaks with the superb third season (and the introductions of Chris and Ben, replacing Mark). Despite my reservations, I fervently hope Brooklyn Nine-Nine will become a top tier comedy and it certainly has the tools to get there.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2014 Edition: 19-16

4 Mar

We’re halfway there. Four more. Young series all. Two debuts, a second year, and a third year, three comedies, and a drama. Let’s go.

Intro here and 43-40 here and 39-36 here and 35-32 here and 31-28 here and 27-24 here and 23-20 here.

19. Brooklyn Nine-Nine – 2013: 16

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Co-created by Parks and Recreation creator Michael Schur and writer Dan Goor, Brooklyn Nine-Nine was more fully formed out of the box than Parks and Rec. While Paks and Rec modeled itself after the Office, Brooklyn Nine-Nine modeled itself after Parks and Rec. Parks and Rec took itself from a shaky at best first season to an excellent second season, and while Brooklyn Nine-Nine started higher, and has remained up to first season standards, it hasn’t quite made that jump. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is, no matter what else, a very solid, funny, and enjoyable show, and I look forward to watching it every week. Andre Braugher is a national treasure who should be kept in a museum when not filming the show for preservation purposes. I mean it as a sign of my high expectations for the show rather than an insult to say that Brooklyn Nine-Niane, while continuing to be good, hasn’t quite become transcendent the way recent similar network comedies The Office, 30 Rock, and Parks & Recreation did at points relatively early in their run. Brooklyn Nine-Nine always has some laughs, but it can be a little inconsistent, it hasn’t always found its own tone, and most of the characters are still working towards really being fully formed. Parks didn’t really hits its heights until the third season though, so I haven’t lost hope for this jump yet, and I’ll continue to laugh away in the meantime.

18. Silicon Valley – 2013: Not Eligible

Silicon ValleyA new entrant on this list, Silicon Valley is a spot on satire of the tech sector and is laugh-out-loud funny to boot. Only in actually watching Silicon Valley did I realize how shocking it was that there hasn’t been a well-regarded satirical take on such an easily parodied industry that has played such an important role in the American cultural landscape for nearly two decades. Silicon Valley takes advantage of this lapse and mines the industry for all its worth. It seems (from external sources including my brother who worked there) that there is lots of truth to Silicon Valley’s portrayal, even if gets some details wrong or exaggerates for comedic purposes. The show definitely has a bit of a woman problem; and while some of that is endemic to the premise of the show (it would be more dishonest realistically to have a group of programmers as split evenly between male and female), dragging the one female character into a romance with the protagonist that doesn’t really fit on screen is forced at best. The characters can on occasion be a little cartoonishly nerd-like, and though the touch is gentle and loving, the nerds-can’t-function-in-society button is hit one too many times. Still, Silicon Valley delivered an extremely promising and funny first season, which gives me great anticipation for the second. Lastly, a moment for the late Christopher Evan Welch who may well have been the break out performer if he wasn’t tragically felled by lung cancer; his venture capitalist Peter Gregory was a delightful weirdo.

17. Fargo – 2013: Not Eligible

Fargo

Fargo began from an unusual idea; creator Noah Hawley didn’t want to remake, or make a sequel or prequel to the much-lauded 1996 Coen brothers movie Fargo. Rather, he wanted to set a similar story in the world of Fargo, keeping the tone and atmosphere that make that film so successful. It was an unusual idea and a bold one (the closest I can think of offhand is Ron Moore’s BattleStar Galactica remake – but that was almost the reverse – the new show appropriated characters and concepts, but changed the tone completely). For the very most part, it worked, and was one of the best new shows of the year. The show deftly married dark humor and riveting drama, created similar analogues to the movie’s characters that were different enough to stand up to the rigor of a TV season where characters have to develop and grow. The four major characters were each entertaining and brought something different to the show, and many of the secondary characters were treats as well, as Fargo made good use of playing comedic actors in more dramatic roles. A couple of plotlines seemed out of nowhere, weaving in and out with no real purpose or resolution, and a couple of the characters felt oddly used, sometimes under, and sometimes over. Still, overall, Fargo brought the most important ingredient to its success consistently; its tone; dark, comedic, with an underlying small town warmth.

16. Veep – 2013: 27

Veep

Veep has been a steady climber in these rankings. I watched its first season, finding it amusing enough to keep up with, but not to make it a must watch immediately – it frequently got pushed below the hoard of other Sunday shows, and was eventually viewed later in the week. The second season was better. All of a sudden, I made more of an effort to watch sooner. The dialogue crackled a little more. The cast seemed to be more familiar with one another’s timing and comic beats – the chemistry between nearly every two-person pair was sparkling. The third season ramped it up another level. It’s easy to see why Veep, a modest comedy which doesn’t go for the loud humor of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the high-concepts of Community, or the emotional depths of Parks and Recreation, hides under the radar, but it’s snuck its way to being one of the best comedies on television. Veep simply put together a season of being consistently minute-by-minute funny.

Fox Tuesdays and Will They or Won’t They

18 Apr

Nick and Jess

So I’ve talked about the Brooklyn Nine-Nine section of this recently, but I’d like to talk about three Fox Tuesday comedies (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, New Girl, The Mindy Project) as a group, where they are in the stage of their primary characters’ will-they-won’t-they stories and why, whatever, they’re going to do, they should think about it now a good deal.

The Mindy Project was a will-they-won’t-they mostly from the beginning. Mindy and Danny are set up as opposites, but as a show which is constantly discussed and narrated, right from the pilot, through the lens of rom com tropes, starring out as opposites is exactly how the two people bound to end up together would start off. They bickered and fought while growing closer as friends, before Danny proposed they get together, only to break off the relationship a couple of weeks later, when he decided for whatever reason it was getting too serious.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine did not seem to involve a will-they-won’t-they aspect from the get go, and I was actually looking forward to a potentially rewarding platonic friendship between Jake and Amy. About halfway through the first season, though, the show decided to start moving in that direction, with the immature Jake slowly realizing that he actually has feelings for Amy. Now that Amy has a boyfriend, and Jake’s going undercover, we’ve reached a classic part of will-they-won’t-they delay tactics in TV, where, while they might actually have feelings for each other, one or the other is involved in a relationship. This is what kept Pam and Jim apart for years on The Office.

New Girl decided to bring Nick and Jesse together at the end of the second season. Cece and Schmidt have already been together and apart and together again and apart again. There was even briefly a weird Coach – Cece date. We’re out of iterations. While I wasn’t a huge fan of Nick and Jess dating, their breakup felt extremely forced. There were plenty of good reasons the writers could have come up with why they might have eventually broken up, but instead they just kind of decided they were too different and broke up in a way that didn’t feel true to either character or the situation, especially since we had seen episodes leading up to this with them getting over some of their thornier objections and declaring their love for one another.  Nick and Jess are now learning to be friends again since the writers decided to just hit the off switch on their relationship, and move the show back to the status quo, possibly in an attempt to recapture the magic that made the second season so great in contrast to the up and down third season.

When you’re writing a comedy for a network that has to deliver a whopping 22 episodes a season, and may go for four, five, six, seven seasons, you can’t figure out every bit of where you’re going ahead of time, and thankfully, you don’t have to. Unlike Lost, or any othter big serial, mystery drama, there’s no central questions that need to be answered so there’s a fair deal of leeway in where the plot can go over the years, and especially in a comedy, plots may be determined on the fly that wouldn’t have been planned from the beginning due to the chemistry shown by the actors in early episodes.

But there’s one serious limit on that leeway. Generally, it’s repetition, and specifically, in this context, it’s the overdoing of the will they won’t they. You can only bring your protagonists  together and apart so many times before it becomes tiresome. You only have one first magic moment. The first time they kiss. They first time they fight. You get one go around at that. Never again will it necessarily be as special. Sometimes protagonists who get together, simply stay together, and that’s the most obvious route, but not the one that New Girl (with either of its primary couples) or The Mindy Project has chosen.

The characters can get together again later on, after years of searching around realizing they were right for each other to begin with. Or it can be a one off, and they realize it’s a mistake and never get together again (which I would like because I think it takes more balls in our current cultural environment, but one is not objectively better than the other). But now you’ve checked off a box that you can’t uncheck. This means everything is different for the characters.

But if you have to have them almost get together, but then not, and then almost get together again, and then not, or get together, and then break up, and get together, and then break up again, it’s going to get awfully tedious awful fast.

I don’t know how long New Girl is going to last. A Mindy-Danny pairing in The Mindy Project I’m a bigger fan of than Jess-Nick, if I had to choose, and following the traditional rom com tropes, they should get together briefly, break up, and then come together with a grand romantic gesture, so we’re right on course, except of course for the fact that we’re only in the second season of the show.

The main thing is for all of these shows to be smart. This is the problem with not knowing how long a show is going to be on, and why shows in their later seasons seem to run out of ideas. You don’t want to be cancelled with fantastic ideas left on paper, but if you use them all up, everything else starts to feel inferior or repetitive. Creative writers can come up with new directions and new plots sometimes, but they can’t think of a new way to match up main characters, so please be careful. Make sure sure these main characters dating and breaking up is well thought out because you don’t get to keep doing it over and over again.

End of Season Report: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Season 1

2 Apr

The team at the nine-nine

 

The bounds of genres are constantly blurring these days and not everything which broadly fits in the box labeled “comedy” has the same exact aims, which make these shows harder to compare against one another than ever before. If a comedy is laugh-out-loud funny, then it’s succeeded regardless of anything else. Some comedies, however, may be less funny, but have captivating characters or plots, and those are also worth watching regardless of anything else. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is at its best hilarious; it doesn’t attempt character development or serial plots and that’s okay. Girls isn’t as funny but it focuses on character and fascinating themes and that’s good too. Shows like Parks and Recreation meet somewhere in the middle. Parks and Recreation has probably been my favorite comedy of the past few years, but that’s not to say that a funnier show that’s lighter on characterization or vice versa couldn’t ascend to the top spot if it’s simply that good at what it does well. In fact, my favorite two comedies this past year were Eagleheart which is hyper-absurd and hilarious but takes place in a world without any sort of consistent characterization, and Enlightened, whose status as a comedy mostly boils down to the fact that it’s a half hour; it’s more depressing than most of the serious drama series currently airing.

That’s not specifically relevant to Brooklyn Nine-Nine more than any other new comedy, but these thoughts were consuming my headspace as I considered Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s first season, its progression, and expectations for future seasons.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the best new comedy of the season. It’s funny right off the bat. Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s closest analogue is Parks and Recreation, which is no coincidence as it’s created by Parks and Recreation veterans Dan Goor and Michael Schur. The episodes have been relatively consistent from the start, certainly by new comedy standards, and some of the characters that I didn’t love early on I’ve warmed to over the course of the season (Rosa and Gina in particular).

Goor and Schur have managed to tap Andy Samberg’s manic energy and apply a solid dose of restraint which smartly keeps his character from being over the top. One of the lessons learned from the creators’ experience was to follow the Leslie Knope rather than the Michael Scott model – Samberg’s Jake Peralta may be an immature doofus but he’s relentlessly competent at his job.  This core competency allows his other silly qualities to serve as distractions and potential detriments, while the viewer is able to understand why those around him put up with him.

Certainly the characters aren’t fully formed but that’s okay. Everybody started out with a type – Jake is immature, Rosa stoic and scary, Amy a by-the-book go-getter, Charles, a klutz, Captain Holt, dry and indecipherable, Terry, strong but gentle, and Gina just a total weirdo. The show worked its way from there, feeling around, mixing and matching characters, which is what most good comedies do, allowing actors and characters to find their strengths. There’s still some work to be done on the character development front, but the progress is there – the characters feel much more like people than they did at the start of the season. Charles, for example, soon became the resident foodie; while this hobby was mined for laughs, the point was also made that Charles actually did have great taste, and it gave him a positive quality to stand on rather than simply always serving as a lackey to Jake. Likewise, Gina, while definitely still the cast weirdo (we haven’t mentioned Hitchcock and Scully, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s two headed answer to Parks and Recreation’s Jerry, but they’re not really fully-fledged characters in this sense) got her chance to shine when she showed she knew how to pick the best computer expert for the district to hire.

Two major plot points over the course of the season are worth discussing. First, the writers chose to go in the direction of potential romance between Jake and Amy. That’s fine, but all things being even I’d have preferred they didn’t. As I’ve trumpeted many times before, one of my favorite aspects of 30 Rock was the fact that its primary two characters were iron-clad platonic friends, and there aren’t enough comedies that follow that model. It won’t seriously affect my enjoyment of the show, and who knows, I’ll probably be rooting for the two of them to get together eventually. Still, I’d like to at least once for the record put down my small objection to this choice.

The second is, and I think and hope they’ve gone away from this for good, Charles’ unrequited crush on Rosa. This is putting it mildly; if it was just an unrequited crush, it’d be fine at least for a while, but it felt dangerously creepy and it made me uncomfortable watching a show that otherwise is not in for particularly awkward comedy. Fortunately, Charles found a love interest halfway through the season, and although she’s no longer part of the show, I hope that the creators learned a lesson. I wonder if the writers were thinking this exactly when they placed a fake out in the season finale – Charles wakes up next to someone after a drunken night getting over his breakup, and while I was terrified it was Rosa, it was rather Gina, which should lead to funnier and less relatively uncomfortable circumstances.

Within a few episodes, my friends and I were quoting memorable lines from the show, and in my circle, quotation is an important currency for a comedy. While it’s not a one-to-one relationship, if a show gets quoted a lot, it’s probably high up in the collective comedy rankings. Sample recurring Brooklyn Nine-Nine quotes include everything about Charles’ pizza blog and Terry’s forgetting how to breathe.

I’m very happy with the show’s first season, but it is a first season, and f it continues to grow, Brooklyn Nine-Nine could be the new Parks & Recreation by the time that Parks & Recreation (I hate to admit it, but it can’t last forever) is off the air. Those are big shoes to fill, but a season’s worth of Brooklyn Nine-Nine has me hopeful that this show has that in it.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2013 Edition: 16-13

31 Jan

Three comedies, two of which air back to back, and one seven episode miniseries that has just about as much lack of humor to counter act all three comedies combined. 16 through 13 below.

16. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Andy Samburg and the gang

The best new comedy of last year, Brooklyn Nine-Nine isn’t perfect but it is far ahead of the curve for where most good sitcoms are at this point in their runs. Created by Parks and Rec veterans, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the work of writers who know what it’s like to start slow and build from there with the great Parks & Rec, and many of the errors from that show’s first season and a half aren’t present here. There’s still building and character establishing to do; it be nearly impossible for there not to be with a first year sitcom. But the elements are there, the jokes are fresh and funny, and the actors are good. Andre Braugher as I continue to shout to the world, is a national treasure whose presence should be, well, treasured wherever it is.

15. Top of the Lake

Top of the Lake to you, Elizabeth Moss

This is a seven episode miniseries, but that already means it’s longer than the 2013 output of some other recurring series on here so I’m including it. This is definitely a series that when I finished it, it both made me want to watch it again instantly because it was dense, confusing, and complicated, and never again because it was shocking and disturbing. Elizabeth Moss gives a bravura performance, as does Peter Mullan. If New Zealand is really like this, it’s a far scarier place than I had ever imagined. The mood is eerie, and it just feels like there’s something off with every character and every series of events, and I don’t mean off in a bad way, I mean rather like they’re not quite kosher. There’s seediness lurking everywhere, and Moss can’t rest for a second without risking someone turning on her, whether it be someone she knows or someone she does. It’s creepily meditative; before there was True Detective’s Rust Cohle, there was Holly Hunter’s GJ, spouting quasi-philosophical possible nonsense. All writing this makes me realize is that I really do need to see it again.

14. Bob’s Burgers

The Belchers

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Bob’s Burgers makes me smile. That’s about all there is to it. Don’t get me wrong, it also makes me laugh. In particular though, what makes Bob’s Burgers stand out amongst my favorite comedies is that there’s no show I’d rather watch before bed after a tough, stressful, or depressing day (or even a happy day, but there’s more leeway than). There’s no way that has the ability to change my bad mood and put me on the road towards pleasant dreams. I like dark humor, and I like cutting humor, and I like uncomfortable humor in different extents when done well. Sometimes though it’s nice to watch a comedy like Bob’s Burgers  that dispenses with any of those; that’s fun and zany and light, even when our favorite family is losing and Jimmy Pesto is putting it to Bob once again. The show has ramped up over the years, and the formula shows no signs yet of slowing down. I’m only sorry I didn’t jump on this bandwagon earlier, but I’m glad that the show keeps getting renewed without much stress.

13. New Girl

It's Jess! And friends

It’s been an interesting run for New Girl. The second half of the second season last spring featured a mind-bogglingly killer run of episodes that, had I been ranking right then, would have almost certainly put New Girl in the catbird seat for the highest ranking comedy, as it was last year (the second season was just really good overall). The third however, has had a higher share of fits and starts as the show tries to figure out how it’s going to handle Nick and Jess romance and deal with Schmidt and his relationship missteps. It’s still a first tier comedy, and almost all episode have laughs, but it’s seemed a little more inconsistent episode to episode. I’m still hopeful. It’s a good show with good actors by good people; they’ll probably figure it out. But a yearly review couldn’t be written without mention of its occasional third season struggles.

Fall 2013 Review: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

18 Sep

Hanging in the Nine-Nine It’s a fantastic feeling to start the fall review season on a positive note. Andy Samberg and company had a very promising start in this new comedy from the creators of Parks and Recreation.  Samberg plays promising young police officer Jake Peralta, who is the best in his squad and making arrests, but is held back only by his immaturity and his refusal to follow any semblance of protocol.  The pilot begins with the appearance of new captain Ray Holt, a straight laced and no nonsense veteran played by Andre Braugher of Homicide, Men of a Certain Age, and the recently cancelled Last Resort. Braugher replaces Samberg’s previous captain, who had let Samberg get away with whatever he wanted.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is funny, which is just about the highest compliment a comedy can get, especially in the first episode, which is often weighed down by the need to set up the premise and introduce the characters, leaving limited time for laughs.  Samberg, coming in to the show, is very much in a similar spot that Parks & Recreation star Amy Poehler was in coming into that show.  Samberg was a breakout Saturday Night Live performer but has been perceived largely as a wacky side character rather than as a lead. Parks & Recreation creator Michael Schur channeled Poehler’s talents and made even those of us, myself included, who had come into the show not a fan of Poehler’s work, love her as Leslie Knope. Schur and co-creator Dan Goor attempt to do the same with Samberg here, and from what I’ve seen in the first episode, I have ever reason to be optimistic. Samberg manages to tone down ever-so-slightly the ridiculous persona that he made famous on SNL and in guest appearances on Parks & Recreation, and the decision of Schur and Goor to make Samberg and his coworkers quite competent was a smart one, turning Samberg’s wackiness into a asset rather than a flaw.  The change that made Parks & Recreation turn from a so-so show to one of the best comedies of the past decade was the decision to change Amy Poehler from a Michael Scott-like semi-idiot into an extremely competent and extremely likable worker with simply more than her share of eccentricities. Based on the first episode, it seems like Brooklyn Nine-Nine is putting lessons learned from Parks & Recreation into play.

Samberg works besides some very talented colleagues. Braugher, a first-ballot television hall-of-famer in my mind, brings a surprise sense of comic timing for someone who has largely plied his trade in dramatic roles. He works well as a foil for the sillier Samberg to play off of.   Samberg’s partner is Amy Santiago, played by little-known Melissa Fumero, a young up and comer like Samberg who has the no-nonsense instincts Holt’s, She a bit less dry than Braugher and so far has mostly existed to counter Samberg as well, but she had a couple of nice comic moments. On the sillier side of the cast, is civilian administrator played by Chelsea Peretti, a comedienne who is a little over-the-top for my liking in this role.  Her ratio of converted lines that are supposed to make me laugh to laughs was the lowest of any of the main cast members.Personal favorite Joe LoTrugio plays the hard-working but minimally competent Charles Doyle, who partners and crushes on scary Rosa, played by Stephanie Beatriz. LoTruglio gets the majority of the physical humor in the pilot, and sells it better than most of the other actors probably would have.  Terry Cruz plays the bureau’s sergeant, and though he doesn’t have a lot to work with in the first episode, I’ve liked what work of his I’ve seen in the past.

Not every joke took, particularly Peretti’s, and there were a couple of false starts, but that’s to be expected in comedy, a genre in which, far more so than hour long dramas, takes chemistry and comic timing which need to grow over time to really find its rhythm.  A comedy that gets even a couple of solid laughs in the pilot is worth giving a solid try, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine got more than its fair share.  Everything about this reminds me of Parks & Recreation, and while maybe that sounds derivative, there should be pride rather than any shame in imitating one of the best comedies on television. Samberg, who in unedited form, is simply out of control, can be extremely funny when handled properly.  His wackiness naturally comes out; his robot imitation in front of Braughter in the pilot is a highlight, and some of his quick silly faces are hilarious.  What he needs is someone to impose the restraint that let the silliness stand out rather than dominate.  All the evidence so far suggests this may be the perfect setting for his talents.

Will I watch it again?  Yes.  It was funny.  It has actors I like, and I like the creators’ previous work.  It has more than enough going for it to get me to a second episode, and almost certainly a third and a fourth.  This is one of the easiest decisions I imagine I’ll face all fall.  Could it get worse, or fail to evolve and be simply mediocre? Sure.  But I’d bet strongly against it. My biggest concern is that I can already see potential emotional devastation if Brooklyn Nine-Nine faces an early demise on Fox Tuesdays (RIP Ben & Kate).