Geiger's Culture Counter: In celebration of ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’
Last week was a roller coaster of emotions thanks to networks like Fox and NBC cancelling, renewing and picking up various television shows. For once, I’m glad that internet outrage finally did something good.
On Thursday Fox declined to pick up additional seasons of the critically acclaimed “The Last Man on Earth” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” due to low viewership. Along with lay folks like myself, Mark Hamill, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Seth Meyers, Guillermo del Toro and other celebrities took to Twitter to mourn the loss of two brilliant shows— especially the work place comedy taking place in Brooklyn’s 99th police precinct.
This column was initially going to be a plea on why “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” should be saved. Yet 31 hours after the axing, NBC saw the unclaimed gem and swooped in to pick it up. Next year Michael Schur’s work will be on the same channel with his equally fabulous “The Good Place” and previous home of his older show “Parks and Recreation.”
Now I’ll instead be preaching about why you need to tune into the 13-episode sixth season.
For starters, it is absolutely hilarious. I’ve already written about their annual Halloween heists that are genius. The humor expertly blends lowbrow and highbrow comedy with pop culture references that have me laugh louder than any other show on television. What other program could have a cold open featuring a lineup singing Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” and a conversation about parsecs in “Star Wars”?
The jokes land because of the strong cast. Detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) is a loveable goofball who falls in love with his extremely organized coworker Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero). Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) is Peralta’s quirky best friend and a foodie who misstates phrases constantly. Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) puts on a tough persona and rides a motorcycle but she also loves romantic comedies.
Both civilian Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti) making her trademark eyerolls and Sergeant Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews) flexing his huge muscles while enjoying yogurt are unforgettable images. Even the one-note numbskulls of Michael Hitchcock (Dirk Blocker) and Norman Scully (Joel McKinnon Miller) elicit laughs when they do something unexpected like instantly reassemble shredded documents.
The diversity of the characters is remarkable. It has two Latina women and two black men in lead roles that aren’t stereotypes. Additionally, Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher) is a black police captain who happens to be gay. While the show is always hysterical when he and his husband Kevin (Marc Evan Jackson) share screen time, it’s not at poking fun at the fact that they’re gay but rather that they’re unemotional robots made for each other. When Peralta punches a homophobic reporter it signifies that the comedy is a safe space.
This season Diaz had a poignant arc about coming out as bisexual, just like the actress that plays her. The show handles the situation tactfully: her fellow detectives are supportive and try to set her up on dates because they just want her to be happy.
Just because it’s a half-hour comedy doesn’t mean “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” isn’t afraid to get serious and political. Flashbacks show how Holt’s race and sexuality made his life on the force difficult in the 80s. In the present the precinct handles issues like NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy when Jeffords, wearing casual clothes and frantically looking for his daughter’s lost toy, gets racially profiled by another cop.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about my daughters,” Jeffords said to Holt when explaining that he’s filing a complaint, “and how years from now they could be walking down the street looking for their kids' moo moo and get stopped by a bad cop. And they probably won’t be able to play the police card to get out of trouble.”
And though Peralta loves quoting “Die Hard,” the show illustrates that being a cop isn’t about being an action movie hero and nips toxic masculinity in the bud. His friendship with Boyle isn’t macho nor is Boyle a sidekick who only exists to prop him up. Their relationship is as sweet and uncompromisingly loyal as Turk and J.D. from “Scrubs.”
Just a few episodes ago when Diaz responds to an active shooter Peralta learns about not being John McClane. He spends most of the time feeling powerless in the office listening to the scanner so he defiantly checks out weapons from the armory because he wants to save the day. Yet minutes later he returns with pizza to comfort the rest of the squad and they discuss their feelings and fears.
I can’t remember the last time I watched something genuinely this wholesome, funny and thought provoking. The season finale, and thankfully not series finale, of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” airs this Sunday. You don’t want to miss it.