It has everything everyone wants in a show… so get on this
We're blowing this, America.
Fox's “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is exactly the kind of show everyone says they want. It's smart — smart enough for the most discriminating comedy nerds — but also inclusive in every way. It has a diverse cast, celebrates blue-collar workers, and has a sweet, goofy sensibility. It also has Andy Samberg, who was in all those digital shorts you spent the last decade forwarding. He can be hammy, but his “Brooklyn” castmates call him out on it, mercilessly.
So why are the ratings so barely OK? It averages a 1.6 in the key 18-49 demographic, and 3.8 million total viewers.
If you like awards, “Brooklyn” has awards. Samberg was a surprising but deserving Golden Globe winner, and so was his show. Fox has responded by ordering the show for a whole season. It's giving audiences time to find it.
But we haven't yet. The episode that aired with “New Girl” after the Super Bowl got predictably great ratings. But when the show went back to its Tuesday time slot, even after all those new viewers got to check it out, it got no bump at all. It didn't get a jolt from those Golden Globes, either.
Seriously: You guys.
Is it too insidery? Too smart? Does it come off as smug?
NBC's “30 Rock” and “Parks and Recreation” have been accused of being a little too cerebral. I don't agree, but I understand. Some people don't like anything vaguely political mixed with their comedy. And some don't like deliberately obscure references. OK, fair.
But “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” isn't like those shows. It isn't political, unless inclusiveness is political. And as conservatives loudly reminded us during the recent MSNBC Cheerios scandal, they heartily reject the idea that only Democrats can be diverse.
Besides Samberg, a hip-hop obsessed Jewish guy from Berkeley, the cast includes two funny Latinas, a gigantic ex-NFL star, and Andre Braugher as an deadpan police captain who happens to be gay. I'm leaving some great people out. But my point is there's someone here you can relate to, whoever you are.
“Brooklyn” comes from “Parks & Rec” vets Dan Goor and Michael Schur, who borrowed some of that show's ensemble feel and silliness. “Parks” and “30 Rock” both sometimes get dismissed as comedy for eggheads because they don't lean on dick jokes the way “2 Broke Girls” does.
But “Brooklyn,” like “30 Rock” and “Parks,” is even less elitist than “30 Rock” and “Parks” — which aren't elitist to begin with. All three embrace a smart-stupid style of comedy in which characters may reference highbrow things, but do very stupid ones.
They aren't snobbish. They're anti-snob.
The characters’ mistakes are all the funnier because they have no excuses for making them. It's a democratic kind of comedy where a cocky detective, or politician, or network president is more likely to be taken down a peg than, say, a hardworking immigrant working in a diner.
Have I mentioned I'm not that into “2 Broke Girls?” I'm comparing the two shows partly because they're both set in Brooklyn, but also because they cover similar subjects — culture clashes, working-class jobs — in totally different ways.
Where “Broke Girls” goes for the quick and dirty joke, “Brooklyn” tries harder. It does have-it-both-ways comedy better than almost any other show.
It does something funny, then calls itself out on how it could have done it better. If the writers shoehorn some convenient piece of information into the dialogue, you can bet someone will point out that it was too convenient.
That approach has won it the respect of comedy nerds, many of whom also revere “30 Rock” and “Parks.” The show flat-out writes good jokes. None of its other attributes would matter if it weren't really funny.
“Daily Show” J.R. Havlan and two of his colleagues reviewed every fall comedy pilot for Havlan's “Writer's Bloc” podcast in the fall. “Daily Show” writers are pretty discriminating right? The three agreed “Brooklyn” was the fall's best comedy, and had the fall's best joke.
But they all disagreed on which joke it was. It had that many good jokes.
“Brooklyn” has had the disadvantage this season of a lead-in from “Dads,” which gets lower ratings than it does. But it deserves more of an audience. And you deserve a funny show.