Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Brooklyn Nine-Nine, season 1 (2013-2014) ***½

TV-14, 22 23-min. episodes
Creators: Daniel J. Goor, Michael Schur

Directors: Craig Zisk, Julie Anne Robinson, Victor Nelli Jr., Jason Ensler, Dean Holland, Peter Lauer, Phil Lord, Beth McCarthy-Miller, Christopher Miller, Troy Miller, Jake Szymanski, Jorma Taccone, Michael Blieden, Michael Engler, Julian Farino, Tucker Gates, Fred Goss

Writers: Daniel J. Goor, Michael Schur, Gil Ozeri, Laura McCreary, Luke Del Tredici, Nowm Hiscock, Gabe Liedman, Prentice Penny, Lakshmi Sundaram, Lesley Arfin, David Quandt

Starring: Andy Samberg, Stephanie Beatriz, Terry Crews, Melissa Fumero, Joe Lo Truglio, Chelsea Peretti, Andre Braugher, Dirk Blocker, Joel McKinnon Miller

Guest starring: Marilu Henner, Patton Oswalt, Kyle Bornheimer, Fred Armisen, Dean Winters, Mike Hagerty, Mark Berry, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Stacy Keach, Scott Mescudi, Adam Sandler, Craig Robinson, Matt Walsh, Jerry Minor, Andy Richter, Nate Torrence, Joe Theismann

OK. So FOX insistently advertizes “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” as the hottest new comedy on television. While that is not necessarily true in terms of rating, it is a critical darling. Personally, it ain’t all there yet. I don’t believe it deserved its Golden Globes for Best Comedy Series of Best Comedy Actor, Andy Samberg; but it’s getting there.

One thing that may hold it back is that it’s essentially a more traditional sitcom than the progressive comedies that usually appeal to me. It’s more “Barney Miller” than “30 Rock”, but how cool is it that it is the first really successful cop comedy since the “Barney Miller” days? I think it’s cool.

As with any successful comedy, it isn’t the premise or even the lead that makes the series work—it’s the supporting cast. Andy Samberg is great. I’m glad he was able to land a high profile gig since leaving “Saturday Night Live”, because I would’ve missed his stupid antics. However, the supporting cast often outshines him.

Let’s start with that muscle-bound beefcake Terry Crews, who somehow is even more gifted as a comedic actor than he is believable as a special forces killing machine in a Sylvester Stallone flick. I mean I really believe he could kick some ass, but that dude is funny as hell. Then there’s the buffoonish Joe Lo Truglio, who pulls off this notion that such a fool could be a cop too. That may be because the two veteran cops, Dirk Blocker and Joel McKinnon Miller, are even more inept than Truglio.

The female cast members aren’t too shabby either. Melissa Fumero makes for a great straight man and potential love interest for Samberg, but her nerdy quirks also keep her firmly in the jokes. Stephanie Beatriz has to play my favorite character though, the tough as nails Detective Rosa Diaz. She’s so cruel, yet so hot. Chelsea Peretti is the total oddball of the bunch as the one non-cop of the regular cast. Her humor is out of left field, but my favorite episode featuring her in a larger role showed a much more normal side of her.

Then there’s the captain. I don’t think the creators could’ve picked a better actor than Andre Braugher for this role. Braugher has always had the presence of an elite television actor. All too often he’s found himself in failing projects, and he’s type cast as the unfeeling leader. Here that type casting is the joke. Although his character is openly gay, he’s still the straight arrow he always plays and he plays it apparently exactly the same as his dramatic roles, except here it’s a joke. He’s more than a “straight” man (pun intended I think even by the show’s producers) for Sandberg to bounce his zaniness off, He’s nuanced and deceptively agile as a comedic foil. If anyone deserved that Best Comedic Actor award, it’s Andre Braugher.

Like so many of the higher quality television comedies, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” doesn’t pull the ratings of a “Big Bang Theory” or “Two and a Half Men”, but I believe this one is just getting started and will reap more rewards down the line.

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