If you’re anything like the exact opposite of me, you’ve probably not even heard of FOX‘s new sitcom, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, let alone watched each episode repeatedly and taken meticulous notes on the characters. Luckily for you, though, I’m here to ensure that you don’t miss another moment of the best new sitcom on TV (sorry, The Michael J. Fox Show).
Brooklyn Nine-Nine follows the (admittedly, unrealistically happy-go-lucky) cast of detectives that make up the 99th precinct of the New York Police Department. It is a single-cam workplace comedy, much in the vein of The Office or Parks and Recreation, which makes sense, as it’s brought to us by Daniel J. Goor and Michael Schur — the minds behind Parks and Rec. Unlike The Office and Parks and Rec, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has found a way to be outstanding right from the get-go, with seemingly very few growing pains. If you have a soft spot in that thing that pumps blood through your body for either of those shows, I’d highly recommend you check this show out. It’s right up your dark, trash-strewn Brooklyn alley.
The show revolves around the childish antics of Detective Jake Peralta, portrayed by Andy Samberg, whom you may recognize as the guy from SNL who sang about jizzing in his pants. Well, Samberg has hardly moved onto more intellectual pursuits, as he clearly revels in Peralta’s penchant for sarcasm and goofy humor (not a bad thing). Samberg excels in this role and his every line is dripping in the cocky self-assuredness and light-headed silliness that make him so watchable.
Peralta’s Best Moments: As you may guess from the description above, Peralta is at his best when he is indulging his rebellious and immature nature, like when:
– He finally acquiesces to wearing a necktie in the pilot, only to stand up from his desk to reveal his lower half is clad in a Speedo.
– He starts a fire during a “science experiment”, in which he “want[s] to find out what happens when [he] tasers this cantaloupe!”
– He reveals his complex, half-idiotic caper to win a bet by stealing the Captain’s Medal of Valor from under his nose. (Oh, the grey pigeons? Those were a red herring.)
– Peralta: (on Captain Holt watching over him) When I picture spending the rest of my life with a babysitter, it’s usually a blonde named Erica who always has pizza money and lets me stay up as late as I want.
– Peralta: (on blending in at a Chinese gambling parlor) Sure! Let me just age myself sixty years and turn Chinese and female. *waves hand in front of face* Did it work?!
– Santiago: You look happy. Let me guess: your egg sandwich fell on the floor and they gave it to you for free?
Peralta: No. Can you do that? Why doesn’t everyone just drop their sandwiches on the floor?
Andre Braugher plays Captain Ray Holt, the dry and straight-laced foil to Peralta’s craziness. Braugher and Samberg make a great odd couple, trading jabs as easily as they do tender moments. Holt’s penchant for rule-following is born out of the fact that he’s spent his career watching his back for anyone out to get one of the few openly gay policemen in New York. The Nine-Nine is his first shot at running a precinct, and he’ll be damned if he’s going to let Peralta’s foolhardiness jeopardize that.
Holt’s Best Moments:
As very much the straight-man of the office (comedy-wise, not sexual orientation-wise), you’d think great Holt moments would be few and far between, but Braugher has a gift for delivering lines with such a dedicated deadpan that even his unremarkable lines end up being funny:
– When he reveals that the cute pet name he has for his husband is ‘Kevin’.
– He turns the tables on Peralta’s Speedo prank by inviting the entire precinct to take pictures
– In a surprisingly touching goofy moment, Holt finally breaks down and engages in a pop-and-lock move with Peralta while the two are handcuffed together
– Peralta: Has anyone ever told you you look exactly like a statue?
Holt: (pause) Yes.
– Peralta: You call your mom ‘Your Honor’?
Holt: She’s a federal judge on the ninth circuit. What else would I call her?
– Peralta: Wow, I think I really would have gotten along with the young Ray Holt.
Holt: Yes. That’s why I decided to change everything about my life.
– Peralta: Wait [Captain Holt], before you say anything I want to guess what happened based on your face. Someone died. No, you won a prize! I’m not getting any better at this.
Detective Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) is the precinct’s resident kiss-ass. She lives and breathes for Captain Holt’s approval and the few times she can eke signs of affection from him. Hailing from a family with 7 brothers, she is intensely competitive and somewhat low in self-confidence. Her relationship with Peralta is a bit muddled, as sometimes she serves as his punching bag and sometimes seems to be the object of his adolescent lust. To Melissa Fumero’s credit, she plays Santiago with more depth than the character’s intensely needy nature readily lends itself.
Santiago’s Best Moments:
Much of Santiago’s humor stems from becoming nervous and tongue-tied around Captain Holt:
– When she accidentally tells Holt that she cannot wait until his life is threatened by another criminal so that she can be assigned to his guard duty
– Her hatred of Halloween is intensified when she is forced undercover at a party, and gets a drink spilled on her while crawling over a sticky floor (How is it both hot AND cold?!)
– Her awkward, competitive chair-roll away from a colleague that was offered a promotion over her
– Holt: Be more articulate when you talk to the children.
Santiago: Yes. I will make better. . . mouth.
– Diaz: Is this why you were getting makeup tips from that prostitute in the holding cell?
Santiago: I wanted to know how she got such smoky eyes. Turns out it was an STD rash.
– Santiago: (on her future date) Well, he’s nice. And he uses proper punctuation in texts.
Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) is Peralta’s goofy partner, a self-diagnosed “people-pleaser” who is much more scared of disappointing his partner than going along with his harebrained schemes. He’s an eternal optimist who is not shy about his feminine side and is absolutely infatuated with Diaz, another detective in the precinct. Joe Lo Truglio makes the show worth watching simply for the times he giggles like the Pillsbury Doughboy.
Boyle’s Best Moments:
– He films himself pretending to slide down a fire pole after Peralta tells him there’s not enough time for Boyle to take a turn, all with the giddiness of a schoolgirl.
– After purchasing a ticket to every showtime for every movie in order to avoid choosing the wrong one when Diaz agrees to go with him, he responds with ‘Smart. Good choice’, when Diaz eventually blows him off.
– He reveals a gift for elaborate lies while distracting some firemen by telling them about his young adopted son, “Cryin’ Brian”, whose mother is in a coma.
– Boyle: Some jobs take dainty little fingers. Did I ever tell you I had to wear a woman’s wedding ring?
– Boyle: Nancy Drew was a GREAT detective. I wanted to be her when I grew up.
– Peralta: (on Boyle’s strange taste in sweaters) You’re dressed exactly like the lady killer.
Boyle: Damn it! This is Jeffrey Dahmer’s corduroys all over again!
Detective Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) is as hard-boiled as you can get. Frighteningly fierce and intensely secretive, Diaz stalks around the precinct with a permanent frown and a chip on her shoulder. Stephanie Beatriz is clearly a very gifted actress, as she manages to portray Diaz’s sometimes crazy swings in emotion while barely moving her face.
Diaz’s Best Moments:
– Diaz, while on the stand testifying against a criminal, wigs out nervously before eventually finding her “happy place”. Again, Beatriz pulls this off with remarkable stoicism.
– In a rare moment of candor, she reveals to a coworker that she once attended a dance academy (but got booted out for “beating the crap out of ballerinas”)
– Any time she laughs at the misfortune of others
– Diaz: (discussing best ever cop movie) Robocop. It’s got everything I like: gratuitous violence…
Peralta: Oh. I thought you were listing things.
Diaz: I was. I’m done.
– Diaz: And when this is over, I’m going to find you and break those little fingers!
Judge: Ms. Diaz, please stop threatening the stenographer.
Yes, that is the muscle-bound meathead you remember from screaming unpleasantly in those Old Spice ads. Don’t rush to judgment, though, as Terry Crews shows off his impressive comedic chops playing Sergeant Terry Jeffords, a formerly obese all-around nice guy consigned to desk duty after suffering a meltdown following the birth of his twin baby daughters. A big, buff softy who eats as often as he works out, Sergeant Terry is the precinct’s second in command.
Terry’s Best Moments:
– When forced to confront his fears during a department-mandated counseling session, Terry squeezes the therapist’s pillow so hard he pops it, which of course scares him.
– While trying to assemble a princess castle for his daughters, he breaks down in tears, screaming “WHAT KIND OF CASTLE HAS WHEELS??!”
– He falls asleep while actively exercising and ends up “doing 25 minutes of pull-ups on muscle memory alone”.
– Terry: (on his confederate flag T-shirt from his obese days) When you’re that big, you buy anything that fits. A lot of fat guy clothes have racist overtones.
– Terry: (on his alter ego) I like being Scary Terry. He says what regular Terry is thinking.
Scary Terry: (angry) This is taking too long!! I’m gonna miss the farmer’s market!
– Terry: (at the shooting range) Just breathe like you have your whole life. Wait . . . guys, I forgot how to breathe! Is is two in, one out??
Veteran standup comedian Chelsea Peretti plays Gina, the wise-cracking and insult-mumbling citizen administrator of the Nine-Nine. Peretti is pretty much given license to let her freak flag fly, and boy does she. At times, it seems like Gina’s salary is based entirely on the number of quips and non-sequiturs she whips out, and Peretti delivers the lines with such dry, vocally-fried disdain that it’s hard not to laugh. The only time Gina isn’t looking down her nose at the cops around her is when she is expressing her aggressive sexual side through incredibly un-subtle come ons aimed at Terry.
Gina’s Best Moments:
– Gina backs up her belief in psychics with a flashback to a previous night in a bar, where she calls out ‘Who in here is named Matt?’, points to one and proclaims, ‘You’ll do.’
– She defends her outlandish behavior during interviews for a new IT Director by logically explaining each of her actions, and “dropping the mic” on the way out.
– Gina: Hitchcock, stop bringing your food in these little Tupperware containers! It hurts my fingers when I’m trying to open it!
– Gina: I’m the Captain’s assistant. I take that job very seriously.
Peralta: You’re literally making his reports into paper airplanes right now.
Gina: Well how else am I supposed to get them into that trash can over there?
– Gina: Most girls don’t like when guys lie to them. Except me, but I’m wired to thrive on dysfunction.
Billed in the pilot as one of the detectives who is “pretty much useless”, Scully (Joel McKinnon Miller) serves as the office punching-bag. Overweight, sluggish and malodorous, Scully is basically a re-heating of Jerry Gergich from Parks and Rec. Many have complained that several of these characters are simply holdovers from Pawnee, Indiana but Scully seems to be the most egregious. (You can take a look at Vulture’s comparison of all the characters from these two respective shows HERE, but to me, some of them are a stretch). In all, Joel McKinnon Miller does enough to make Scully’s incompetence likable to keep this viewer happy.
Scully’s Best Moments:
– Scully takes any chance to sing, apparently, and busts out his surprisingly operatic voice when Peralta sings about three notes.
– In the Halloween episode, the precinct bands together to misuse police equipment in order to get rid of Scully’s stinky shoes.
– When Santiago expresses disbelief at a woman dressed for Halloween as a sexy tree, Scully immediately asks, ‘Was it a maple?’
– Holt: I want all paperwork on closed cases by tomorrow. Scully, you can just write, ‘I didn’t close any’ on a piece of paper.
Scully: You got it.
– Scully: Hey guys, I think I put my gun in one of these boxes but I can’t remember which . . . Found [it]! It was in my holster. My holster’s on my butt.
Another so-called useless detective, you can think of Hitchcock (Dirk Blocker) as Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s less criminally-minded answer to Creed from The Office. Relegated in the show to minor bits and throwaway lines, Hitchcock seems to spend a lot of time in a world of his own, and is hardly shy about taking off his shirt. Dirk Blocker hams it up serviceably in the role, but deserves more to work with than “weirdo who likes to be shirtless”.
Hitchcock’s Best Moments:
– His attempt to make Diaz smile by tickling her goes awry when she easily overpowers him and twists back his arm. (Ow! I think you sprained Mr. Tickle!)
– He agrees to take on Peralta’s impossible-to-solve murder case, saying, “You had me at no paperwork.”
– Hitchcock: Amy paid me fifty bucks to take her place for the night. I’m gonna use the money to buy two new suits!
– Santiago: (at Thanksgiving dinner) Hitchcock, why do you have your shirt off?
Hitchcock: Can’t spill food on your shirt if you’re not wearing one!
So there you have an overview of each recurring character on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The show has a giddy air to it that makes it difficult not to enjoy, even amidst the rare rough patches. Check it out! (Entire first season, so far, available to stream on Hulu Plus)