It is a rare thing indeed when a new sitcom comes out straight out of the box fully formed, quips ready, characters fleshed out, and a believable situation in which they actually can quip and relate without fear of laugh track hypocrisy, in place and good to go.
But at least one of Fox’s new Tuesday sitcom pairing has managed that feat, and no it is not Dads (and shame on you for even going there).
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which follows Seth McFarlane’s less than gloriously conceived new comedy creation, drew me in immediately.
In all the right ways, it felt like a show I had been watching for some time, and it wasn’t till well over halfway into its pilot episode that I remembered this was the first time I had ever seen these characters doing what they do.
And that pleased me greatly.
Set in a police precinct in, you guessed it, Brooklyn, it is an heir to shows like Barney Miller and Police Squad, both series which managed to take the serious business of crime, and make at least the investigation into it, insanely humourous.
Like its erstwhile forebears, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which stars Andy Samberg as wise-cracking, über-successful detective Jake Peralta who is locked in an eternal battle for crime-solving success with Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) a stickler for the pointy end of procedure, takes its comedy cues from the business of actually solving the crime, and the flawed people and systems central to that process.
It’s a tricky balance to get right since one false move and your audience could find themselves suddenly and uncomfortably laughing at a major crime.
But Brooklyn Nine-Nine is manifestly sure of its identity right from the word go and doesn’t look even for a moment like it’s going to err in the wrong direction.
That is likely due to the sure creative hands of the team behind the show, Park and Recreation‘s Dan Goor and Michael Schur, who have had time enough to learn what works and what doesn’t in an elegantly constructed, well-written and superbly acted sitcom.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine doesn’t tick all those boxes just yet but it is so close that you can almost touch it, and most assuredly laugh at it, confidant neither your intellect or good taste is being taken for a ride.
The murder central to the investigation, for instance, is reported on yes but from that point on, the focus swings firmly from the unfunny business of man’s inhumanity to man to the hilariously unorthodox crime-solving techniques of Peralta and the barely-endured frustration of Santiago that he has any success at all when he is so clearly flouting accepted procedure (and the newly installed tie-wearing edict).
They are joined by recently divorced, inept but earnestly hard working detective Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) and the brazenly outspoken tough as nails object of his constantly rebuffed affections Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz), their sergeant Terry Jeffords who’s afraid he’s gone soft now he’s a dad to twins Cagney and Lacey, and sarcastic but good hearted civilian administrator Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti).
Top of the heap though, and the one with whom Peralta good-naturedly bangs heads till he realises he’s a good guy who simply wants them to act like a team, is Captain Ray Hot (Andre Braugher), the first openly gay upper-echelon officer in the NYPD who has taken longer than expected to land his first command.
He is not about to screw his new responsibility up which is why he and Peralta, the yin and yang of police work if ever there was one, will likely be butting heads for much of the life of the show.
What makes Brooklyn Nine-Nine so genuinely engaging is that each of its characters is believable, carrying with them the kind of authenticity that money can’t buy.
No one is necessarily saying there are detectives or a precinct like this in the NYPD but if there were, you get the feeling very quickly that this is exactly what they or it would be like.
It’s over the top, and full of just enough of (mainly Peralta’s) quips to be sitcom-esque without ever feeling like it’s not a real workplace without real people trying to make their lives and careers mean something.
In that respect it is very much like the still running Parks and Recreation and the sadly defunct 30 Rock, two sitcoms that have successfully balanced absurdity and reality like two snarling attack dogs straining to devour each other should anyone ever let go of the leashes.
But no one ever lost their grip with 30 Rock, and a firm hand remains at Parks and Recreation, proof that the neat juxtaposition of absurdity and the serious business of solving crime (usually the preserve of earnest shows like Law and Order and CSI) can for a very funny enduring sitcom make.
And Brooklyn Nine-Nine is funny.
Hilariously, believably, authentically, and winningly funny.
And likely to be around for quite some time to come yet.