Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

A few months ago, while skimming through Hulu, I realized that Brooklyn Nine-Nine was now free to watch.  I knew this because every time I tried watching anything, I had an ad that somehow incorporated the show.  Either it was a "bunch of clips as a commercial" ad to advertise it was there, or they'd do one of their (admittedly pretty clever at time) montage commercials listing shows, and there would always be a clip or two from that in there as well.

I was not impressed.  There was lots of screaming, wackiness, and physical comedy, and very little sense of any kind of characterization or plot.  I didn't see anybody I recognized in the quick cuts of scenes, and the one actor I knew was in it was from Saturday Night Live, a show that I enjoyed for a while a long time ago but haven't really watched since.  But when I did, I wasn't really entertained.

I also knew that it won a Golden Globe and was nominated for a bunch of other awards, but I still wasn't impressed.

But I figured I could watch an episode, so at least then I could say "yes, I did try it, and I still didn't like it" so that I wouldn't simply be one of those people who complains about stuff without having any supporting evidence to back it up.

Darn it, I enjoyed it.

I am now well into the third season of this show, and it is one of the few sitcoms that actually gets me to laugh on a regular basis.  Yes, it's dumb, and it knows it's dumb, but it's earnest in how dumb it is.  It has a dynamic cast that constantly plays things straight outside of the lead actor, who seems aware he's in a sitcom and feels he can be as wacky as he wants knowing that things will return to a general status-quo within the episode length or a few episodes afterward.

Consisting of a small band of police detectives, their captain, and the one civilian who works as the captain's assistant, the main characters deal with crime in the city, their own personal relationships, and the every day life of working in Brooklyn.  You wouldn't necessarily think there's room for a lot of wacky comedy at a police precinct, but- wait, yes you would.  Policemen in comedies are a staple of television history, from The Andy Griffith Show to The Good Guys to Reno: 911!.

What does this show bring that the others doesn't?  Well, for one thing, it has Terry Crews, who I did not expect to be as funny as he is.

You know Terry Crews as that guy from The Expendables or the Old Spice commercials or his stint as a professional football player.  But in the show he plays one of the better characters in television, in my opinion: a caring family man who has to balance the dangers of his chosen career path with his responsibilities at home.  He also acts as a leader, working to control the madness that he works with while also trying to not simply be "the boring one."  Considering his renown for being extremely athletic (something the show exploits to full effect), this presents a character who is restrained for many of the scenes of the show, but allows him to fully cut loose when it wants to use him to full effect.

There's also their Captain, Ray Holt, played extremely well by Andre Braugher.  Captain Holt is both black and gay, a combination that held him back through most of the 70s and 80s, and only through perseverance and dedication has he managed to get the command he currently has.  It's a chance to finally prove himself, and it's something he takes extremely seriously.

The rest of the cast is all pretty great in their own way, but the only character I frequently sigh at the sight of is Chelsea Peretti's Regina.  Somehow managing to come across as both a sociopath and the worst employee possible, it's amazing that the character is allowed to exist when such a major driving force of the show is people trying to be the best at their job.  She's unpleasant, narcissistic, and generally unpleasant to everybody around her, making it all the more amazing that people keep trying to be nice to her.

With clever writing, great guest-stars (including regular appearances by one of my favorite Marshals from Mars, Marc Evan Jackson), and plots that actually have drama and tension on a regular basis, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has managed to exceed my (admittedly very low) expectations and has become a regular viewing habit of mine each week.  I recommend it, and feel it's keeping the cop comedy series fresh by doing some original twists on classic characters (plus, there's the annual Halloween episode, which is always a winner).

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