See the face newly-crowned Golden Globe winner Andy Samberg is pulling in this picture – full-on grimace, crazy eyes, neck vein that might pop at any second? It’s a mug that screams “mugging,” even without the benefit of motion or sound – and it’s also a nice encapsulation of why more than one friend has told me that they’ve decided Brooklyn Nine-Nine isn’t for them, even without laying eyes on a single episode. Their objections generally boil down to something like this: “I might be able to get into that show… if it didn’t star Andy Samberg.”
Tonight’s all-new episode of Brooklyn – the first to air since the star and his comedy won a pair of shiny statuettes at Sunday’s Globes – may not convince those naysayers to change their minds. Its A-plot, for the most part, revolves around Samberg’s Detective Jake Peralta acting as obnoxious as humanly possible: pledging to take his quasi-love interest Detective Amy Santiago on the “worst date ever” after she loses a bet to him, hiring a children’s choir to sing a song about how much Santiago sucks on said date, wearing the top half of a tuxedo with cargo shorts. Don’t get me wrong: All these things are pretty funny. But occasionally, Peralta’s behavior seems less irritating than downright cruel; in those moments, you can sort of see why Brooklyn and Samberg might leave a bad taste in some potential viewers’ mouths.
But as those who are already fans of the show know, it’s absolutely worth persevering through the times when Peralta’s antics go too far. Because even while the Globes might have been a little hasty in naming Brooklyn 2013’s best TV comedy – we’ve only seen half a season so far! Where’s the fire, Hollywood Foreign Press? – it is still the network season’s most promising new sitcom, give or take a Trophy Wife. (P.S. Why aren’t you watching Trophy Wife?)
Why? Because from its very first episode, Brooklyn felt confident and assured in a way that few sitcoms are when they’re first getting started. (See, for example, Parks and Rec’s pilot, which is objectively… not great.) Its characters have always had clearly defined personalities and purposes; its plots have always featured clever twists on typical police procedural storylines, adding a dash of vintage sitcom (everyone at the office ends up having Thanksgiving together, for some reason!) for good measure. Take tonight’s B-plot, which found poor put-upon Charles Boyle being brutally honest with his coworkers thanks to the pain meds he’s been taking since he was shot in the butt – er, performing an exceptional act of heroism. It’s a device that may well be as old as time, but solid jokes and Joe Lo Truglio’s winning performance (“I’m going to pretend someone texted me. Bloop!”) meant that Brooklyn stuck the execution.
And speaking of Boyle: Samberg haters may not realize that Brooklyn isn’t actually a vehicle for the ex-SNL star. Instead, it’s much more of an ensemble piece, one that’s been giving various cast members chances to shine in turn – and doing a lot to develop characters who seemed sort of one-note at the beginning of the series, especially surly Rosa and kooky Gina. Even stern Captain Holt, who had a head start as the show’s most inspired creation (he’s a by-the-books taskmaster who’s gay but completely undefined by his sexuality), has been getting more layers lately; tonight’s C-plot proves that even a guy played by Andre Braugher can get flustered after he accidentally tells Terry’s wife that her husband has decided to ditch his desk for field work. At this point, the only person who’s really aching for extra dimensions is Santiago, whose eager overachieving is a little too generically Tracy Flickish.
Nitpicks aside, though, Brooklyn continues to be pretty great. After taking all this into account – plus the fact that it’s also, you know, very funny – I can totally understand why Fox chose to show it off after this year’s Super Bowl. Between that high-profile placement and Sunday’s Globe wins, it’s easy to imagine a world in which Brooklyn becomes a hit – so if you’re not already on the bandwagon, now would be a good time to reevaluate your position. After all, how can you turn down something that knows how to do both goofy comic setpieces (Peralta welcoming in his bet-winning perps, then celebrating with “Celebrate”) and quieter character work (Peralta and Santiago almost accidentally finding themselves having a normal conversation) – and features a police horse named Peanut Butter to boot?