A pool of dried blood sits on a marble floor that is tagged with evidence flags. Detectives mill about the kitchen, fastidiously attempting to reenact the murder. Warning: This is not their crime scene. Annnnnnd they might be a little buzzed.
Here on the L.A. set of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and his fellow officers are trying to crack a case in which a wife is believed to have corkscrewed her cheating husband to death. Commiserating over a few off-duty cocktails after this case was taken away from them, these detectives had the bright idea of breaking back into the crime scene, and now they are acting out scenarios in hopes of locating the missing murder weapon. Samberg raises his voice an octave and plays the wife, while another detective, Charles (Joe Lo Truglio), gets the husband so wrong he’s demoted to impersonating a door. More role-swapping ensues, which begets an idiotic theory (”The corkscrew is still in the body!”) before levelheaded Amy (Melissa Fumero) offers up an intriguing hypothesis that sends them running out of the apartment toward justice.
This may sound like a rather intense, high-stakes plot for a Fox comedy sandwiched between Dads and New Girl, but as Lo Truglio explains, ”The crimes are there to create stakes so that you care that the characters solve them and don’t get chewed out by the commissioner.”
”Would you say the crimes create more steaks than your local butcher?” Samberg asks him.
”I wouldn’t,” deadpans Lo Truglio. ”And I’d be wrong.”
From the producers of small-town-government comedy Parks and Recreation comes big-city-cop comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which stars Samberg as a self-assured detective who excels equally at solving crimes and goofing off, much to the consternation of his new no-nonsense captain, Ray Holt, played by two-time Emmy winner Andre Braugher. (We know what you’re thinking: Finally Samberg and Braugher team up!) Nine-Nine looks to generate laughs not as a parody like Reno 911! but as a grounded workplace comedy that happens to feature chases, shoot-outs, and interrogations. If you want a point of comparison, you’ll have to go all the way back to the hit ’70s comedy Barney Miller. ”The fact that that’s still the touchstone for network comedies about cops is crazy, because it was so long ago,” marvels Michael Schur, who reteamed with his Parks colleague Dan Goor to create Nine-Nine. ”It’s hard to find any non-trodden ground in network-TV land, but this seems a little bit unexplored.”
While the dearth of police comedies flashed opportunity, so did the surfeit of police dramas. ”There are so many tropes that people are familiar with that you can just tweak a little to make them comedic, like interrogating a perp in an interview room,” notes Goor. ”In addition to talking about the crime, they get into a fight about what is the best cheese from France.”
The search for cops who could sweat a suspect and tell a Roquefort from a Reblochon led producers to Samberg, who’d just exited Saturday Night Live and shot a six-episode BBC comedy, Cuckoo. Says Schur: ”We pitched the show to him, and as we were explaining the character in this verbose, florid way, he said, ‘Oh, it’s comedy McNulty,”’ a reference to Dominic West’s talented, insubordinate detective on The Wire. ”We were like, ‘Yes…that’s the two-word version of our rambling description.”’ Here is Samberg’s recollection: ”They said, ‘We want you to be the lead detective. He’s a hotshot, but he’s kind of immature and sweaty.’ I was like, ‘I’m listening…”’ Samberg also listened to his ”role model” Amy Poehler, another SNL vet, who successfully partnered with Schur on Parks and as a producer had a hand in shaping her character. Offered a similar setup, Samberg signed on.