By Alec Stern, Daily Arts Writer
Published September 20, 2013
Over the past decade, “Saturday Night Live” alums have gone on to star in some of the best comedies on television. From Tina Fey and her brilliant sitcom, “30 Rock,” to Amy Poehler of “Parks and Recreation” and even Molly Shannon, whose work on HBO’s underappreciated “Enlightened” earned her an Emmy nomination, “SNL” ’s performers have consistently transitioned into successful sitcom careers. Hoping he can continue the trend, Andy Samberg stars in the new sitcom, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” which arrived on FOX this week. There must be something in the water in the “SNL” offices because Samberg most definitely upholds the reputation of his peers. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is fresh, funny and surprisingly heavy on social commentary, all of which make it one of the must-watch comedies of the fall.
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“Nine-Nine” follows Detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg, “That’s My Boy”) and the entire Nine-Nine unit of police officers. Peralta is great at his job, though his professionalism leaves a lot to be desired. When a new captain (Andre Braugher, “Men of a Certain Age”) joins the precinct, their polar opposite personalities clash — jokes ensue.
In addition to Samberg being on his A-game, the supporting cast is superb, which is the mark of any truly great workplace comedy. “The Office” was so successful not only because Steve Carell, John Krasinski and Rainn Wilson were electric in their lead roles but because any character could be counted on for laughs. From Erin to Phyllis to Creed, these characters didn’t just round out the cast — they made “The Office” what it was. Much like the iconic NBC sitcom, “Nine-Nine” ’s backing characters, including Terry Crews (“White Chicks”), Melissa Fumero (“One Life to Live”) and Joe Lo Truglio (“Role Models”), are terrific.
“Nine-Nine” is also quick to establish its tone, finding its narrative footing very quickly. The style is fully realized, which is one of the distinguishing characteristics of a great television pilot. The vibe, characters, story and visuals all work seamlessly together, much like the first half hour of fellow FOX sitcom “Arrested Development.” While “Nine-Nine” still has a ways to go before reaching the soaring heights of the cult classic, there is so much potential that one can only hope it will eventually make a similar impact.
Toward the end of the premiere episode, “Nine-Nine” takes an unexpected turn. Braugher’s straight-laced, hyper-masculine captain reveals that the reason it took so long for him to reach this level in his career is because he is gay. When he makes his announcement, it doesn’t feel exploitive or gratuitous. It’s not so the writers can make jokes at his expense. It’s forward-thinking, smart and above all proves that there is more going on than just sight gags and physical comedy. It also helps that Braugher continues to be one of TV’s most reliable actors. Last year, his short-lived ABC drama, “Last Resort,” was regarded as one of the best pilots of the year. It’s a title that Braugher might once again claim, as “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is a very strong entry.
Hopefully, “Nine-Nine” will be given ample time to further explore its characters, all of which are likeable and hilarious. It’s not going to help that the show’s lead-in is the abysmal and offensive “Dads," but if viewers watch the two in succession, it’ll be even easier to see just how current and clever “Nine-Nine” is. Creators Mike Schur and Dan Goor (two of the masterminds behind “Parks and Recreation”) have created a workplace with incredible potential and so far, we’re off to a fantastic start.