“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is a police procedural comedy on Fox and is currently in its fourth season. It is a refreshing and hilarious show with an excellent cast of characters. When it was first announced, I was hesitant to watch because Andy Samberg’s comedy style on “Saturday Night Live” was hit or miss. I am very glad I did decide to tune in because “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is one of the best comedy shows Fox has ever aired. Seriously.
First off, I would like to discuss the cast of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” The main cast members are Andy Samberg, Terry Crews, Andre Braugher, Melissa Fumero, Stephanie Beatriz, Joe Lo Truglio, Chelsea Peretti, Joel McKinnon Miller, and Dirk Blocker. Melissa Fumero and Stephanie Beatriz are Latina women, Terry Crews and Andre Braugher are black men, and the rest of the main cast are white. It is not often that you see such a diverse group of people in a television show’s ensemble. Think back to your favorite comedy ensemble, how many of them were people of color? I mentioned “Saturday Night Live” earlier, that’s an excellent example. In 2016, “Saturday Night Live” added their first Latina cast member, Melissa Villaseñor, making her the third Latino cast member ever to be on the show. “Saturday Night Live” has been on the air for 42 years.
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” has not one, but two Latina women as part of the main cast, and even Stephanie Beatriz did not think that would happen. When trying out for a part on the show, Beatriz found out that Melissa Fumero was cast and thought she would not get a part because “The network is not going to allow there to be two Latinas in one show.”
It’s not just the actors that are diverse, but the characters they play are diverse as well.
Andre Braugher, who made a bold move from drama to comedy to be on the show, plays Captain Ray Holt who is openly gay, married to a white college professor named Kevin, and has a Corgi named Cheddar. Holt is the captain of the 99th precinct and is a very serious man, a strictly by the book cop, and is never once ashamed of his sexuality or husband. There are very few programs that would feature a black man in the position of power at work, but to have a black, gay man is even more surprising and amazing to see.
Terry Crews’ character, Terry Jeffords, is also in a position of power as the Sergeant of the 99th precinct. Jeffords is a goof ball, typical of many of Crews’ past characters, and a dedicated family man. He chooses not to work in the field out of fear of being killed and leaving his daughters without a father. Crews’ character could have easily been put into that “angry black guy” trope that so many other shows use, but the writers decided not to, and I would like to thank them for that. Jeffords is sensitive, loves going to the farmer’s market, loves yogurt, but still kicks ass to save his friends and works out as much as possible.
Melissa Fumero plays Amy Santiago who is determined to become the youngest Captain in NYPD’s history. Amy Santiago is a lot like Captain Holt in her seriousness and by the book behavior and considers Holt to be her mentor. Santiago strives to be as knowledgeable as possible to reach her ambitious goals of rising the ranks in the NYPD. She’s competitive and a know it all, but she is also a lot of fun and works very well with her fellow officers.
Stephanie Beatriz plays Rosa Diaz, who is the toughest cop in the group. She prides herself in being menacing and secretive. She truly cares for her friends at the precinct, but does not want them knowing much about her personal life. She’s very skilled with weapons and has many knives and swords.
Chelsea Peretti is Gina Linetti, the precinct’s administrator who is allergic to work. She’s sarcastic and witty, when she’s at work of course, and is the voice of reason for the people of the 99th precinct. Gina is Gina’s favorite person.
Joe Lo Truglio plays Charles Boyle, a hard working, but weird, member of the 99th precinct. He loves to eat and critique food, especially gourmet food. He is unlucky in love, but he’s quick to bounce back and try again. He is best friends with Jake Peralta, they are basically brothers.
Speaking of Jake Peralta, he is played by Andy Samberg, and he is the best, but least serious detective of the bunch. He’s excellent at catching criminals, but he doesn’t work very hard or follow all of the rules. Peralta loves cracking jokes and having a good time, but his coworkers, especially Santiago and Holt, straighten him out and get him back to reality.
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” has a knack for genuinely funny story telling. There’s no laugh track on the show to tell you what’s supposed to be funny; there are actual jokes to laugh at. (Sorry, laugh tracks are just the worst.) The best part of the comedy style is that it does not rely on stereotypes to be funny. With a diverse cast, such as “Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s,” it’s easy for the writers to fall into the trap of writing the racist, sexist, and homophobic stereotypes for a cheap laugh. Captain Holt is openly gay and no gay jokes have ever been made about him. In fact, in the episode “Old School”, Jake Peralta meets a childhood hero who makes comments about Holt’s sexuality, and Peralta punches him in the face. That was awesome.
Aside from the excellent humor of the show, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” tackles serious, real life issues in a fantastic way. There’s a lot of tension between everyday people and police officers nowadays, and having a comedy about police officers can be tricky because of that. However, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” doesn’t shy away ftom these issues, they tackle them head on. In “Boyle’s Hunch,” Holt is put in charge of a PR campaign to make the NYPD look better and the end result is for him to make posters stating, “We know we can do better, tell us how.” A more recent episode, “Moo Moo”, Terry Jeffords is the victim of racial profiling and he and Holt discuss how to deal with it. The episode was written by Phil Jackson, a black man who has been racially profiled. He and Dan Goor, co-creator of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”, thought telling this story was of the utmost importance.
One trope that “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” also avoided was the one sided love trope. For a while, Charles Boyle was in love with Rosa Diaz. Diaz stated she wasn’t interested multiple times, Boyle was sad about it, but he moved on and became a good friend of her’s instead. I thought initially when watching the show, the trope would be used and Boyle would continue to be into Diaz; that it would be a running joke, but they didn’t make that mistake and showed how people can have crushes like that and move on to have healthy friendships and work relationships. This is a trope that has ruined a number of great T.V. shows. I’m looking at you, “How I Met Your Mother.”
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s” progressive nature sets an example to sitcoms of all kinds. The showrunners consult the actors with the subjects of some of the episodes, like “Moo Moo”, and it makes the show more authentic. Stephanie Beatriz is bisexual in real life and stated in an interview that Rosa Diaz is bisexual as well. Many showrunners would be opposed this statement because they own the character, the actor does not, but the “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” showrunners are totally cool with her statement. Beatriz has even said Diaz should have a girlfriend.
Having a gay character in a show is progressive, but having a bisexual character is even more so. Bierasure is a serious issue, and seeing bisexual characters on T.V. is amazing. I’m bisexual, I love seeing bisexual representation.
Overall, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” has done some groundbreaking stuff on the show without making a big deal out of it. It’s super funny and progressive, something I wasn’t expecting on one of the big T.V. networks. The cast is brilliant and their characters are equally brilliant. When one of my friends say they don’t watch “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”, I just ask, “why not?”
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The show definitely uses character traits a background and motivation for character actions, where the real jokes seem to lie. The jokes aren’t about who these people are, but about what they do within their personal contexts.