Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Brooklyn Nine-Nine "Pilot" Review

Michael Schur, Dan Goor, Andy Samberg, and Andre Braugher make a more promising team than the one fictional Ray Holt puts together in Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Michael Schur wrote for The Office, co-created Parks & Recreation, and Dan Goor's written for late night as well as Parks & Recreation. Schur and Goor are Harvard graduates. Andy Samberg's the lead in a sitcom just a year after leaving Saturday Night Live, which puts him up there with the more successful alums of SNL. Andre Braugher could do a dramatic reading of an instruction manual, find an audience, and that audience would be riveted by the dramatic reading of the instruction manual.

Michael Schur spoke about creating Parks & Recreation, with Greg Daniel, on a Nerdist Writers Panel. What stood out from the story was the way Schur and Daniels decided to pitch the Parks & Rec idea over the others. NBC asked for an Office spin-off. Schur and Daniels wanted to tell a story about government officials, but the type of officials that dealt with the small stuff. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a sitcom, but it is procedural, yet it shares its style, or rather owes its style, to Parks & Recreation. Its breezy tone, comic sense, and playful dialogue are a welcome departure from the dreary police dramas that populate prime-time. The case-of-the-"Pilot" is grave but silly. Detectives Diz and Peralta investigate the murder of a man. Peralta, the "gifted but lazy detective," deduces a deli worker murdered the man during a botched robbery of the man's expensive ham.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine's main setting is the police office in the 99th district of Brooklyn. Schur's and Goor's script is about establishing the characters more than anything else. Peralta and his partner have sexual tension. Charles, the clumsy detective, is smitten with the tough no-nonsense female cop in the department. Terry Crews' Terry Jeffords leads the detectives, but he's afraid of active duty, and he's gun shy, on the account of being a new father of twin girls. Andre Braugher portrays Captain Ray Holt, the first openly gay captain in the NYPD. He's dedicated to making the 99th district the best in the borough because he feels like he needs to as openly gay captain. His early problem is his best detective. Jake Peralta, played by Andy Samberg, likes to goof off. The two characters clash until Peralta atones with the father in the third act. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is similar to The Office and Parks & Recs, specifically in regards to character dynamics, and the dynamic an office setting provides for comedy writers.

FOX gave away the best jokes and sight gags in the previews, which is an observation rather than a criticism. Plenty of sitcoms promise laughs in previews but don't deliver laughs. The previews included the jokes so you'd tune in and learn about the characters. Andy Sambergs plays to type. Schur and Goor wrote the Andy Samberg type character. Peralta's goofy, aloof, prone to distractions, but he has heart, and he feels pride in making more arrests than his partner. He's the goofball with a heart, slapstick with substance. Braugher doesn't play the typical straight man (perhaps that's a piece of subversive characterization--the straight man is not a straight man). He's not Rawls to Samberg's McNulty, though Schur compared Samberg's Peralta to McNulty. In response to Peralta's choice not to wear pants in the records room, Holt invites the office in to see pantless Peralta. The central partnership is well-defined in 21 minutes.

Secondary characters and their relationships get enough screen time to connect and relate with the audience. There's the guy in love with a girl who may not be into him but actually is into him. The administrator in the office is quirky, "out there," a character that'd fit in at Dunder-Mifflin. She's the go-to for inappropriate humor or the kind of humor that takes you by surprise. She's also good for exposition. From her, we learn the reason why Diaz and Peralta compete for arrests. It's a sex-bet. Charles blows his chance to take tough cop to a classic film festival and is comforted by the sounds of the administrator making the sounds of an exploding bomb. I like her.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine's not a groundbreaking sitcom. It's essentially a buddy cop story, but way more light-hearted and tight-knit than buddy cop movies. Essentially, the series is like what Parks & Recs would look like if the Pawnee team solved crime instead of parks and recreation headaches.

Other Thoughts:
-I got the biggest laugh from the maintenance scene in the third act as the detectives pursued their suspect, Ratko. Santiago pointed to her badge and vest to signal the maintenance worker should step aside. The worker points at her 'badge' on the back of her uniform and refuses to movie. I never expected that joke, and I've never seen that type of joke anywhere.

-Joe Lo Trujilo portrays the clumsy Charles Boyle. Trujilo’s been the best part of Judd Apatow movies for years, whether directed by Apatow or produced by Apatow. Trujilo stole Role Models with his terrifically masculine performance.

-I’m curious about the show’s ratings performance in the coming weeks. Joss Whedon’s Agents of S.H.I.E.LD.. Premieres next Tuesday. Whedon’s past shows are amazing but didn’t get great numbers. The Marvel brand might attract quite a few more eyes. Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs to compete against Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well as the CBS juggernaut, NCIS. FOX sitcoms usually struggle. Going against NCIS could hurt.

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About The Foot

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.