When Andy Samberg joined “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” plenty of “Saturday Night Live” fans probably figured his best comedic days were behind him. How could a sitcom format contain the madcap brilliance of his Digital Shorts?
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is funny in a different way from “Lazy Sunday,” “Dick in a Box,” and other “SNL” classics. But it’s still really funny. One of its strengths is that it isn’t just a star vehicle for Samberg. It’s an ensemble from the “Parks and Recreation” team of Mike Schur and Dan Goor that gives all the varied cast mates lots of shots at being funny.
They hit their targets at least as well as the real NYPD. The show makes fun of everything it can, from cop show tropes to itself. When Sgt. Terry Jeffords (the always great Terry Crews) gives Capt. Ray Holt (Andre Braugher) a too-perfect description of Samberg’s character, Holt calls him on it.
“The only puzzle he hasn’t solved,” Jeffords says, lowering his voice for emphasis, “is how to grow up.”
Holt listens, pauses, and turns.
“That was very well put.”
Responds Jeffords: “I’ve talked a lot about Jake in my department-mandated therapy sessions.”
See how much they do there? We get the rundown on Samberg’s Jake Peralta. We find out that Holt is the guy who will call out, on behalf of the audience, anything that sounds a little corny. And we learn a bit about Jeffords’ struggles as well. It’s typical of the smart writing on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”
Most of the show is built around the tension between Peralta – great at solving crimes, bad at wearing ties – and Holt, who’s stiffly buttoned-up, but has a good reason to be. The rest of the cast includes the very funny Chelsea Peretti as a chatty civilian employee, Joe Lo Truglio as a detective who isn’t so bright but works hard, Melissa Fumero as Peralta’s tough partner, and Stephanie Beatriz as the even tougher Det. Rosa Diaz.
Samberg strikes just the right tone, mocking but not smarmy, a little cooler than us but not so cool we hate him. And Braugher’s deadpan is one of the show’s greatest joys.
When Holt catches Peralta imagining him as a rule-abiding robot, he says with seething disappointment: “That’s a terrible robot voice.”
This is how ensembles are supposed to work: We laugh at the first joke a little, then but the putdown of the joke is even funnier. And they keep going.
“Brooklyn” feels like a show that can go a long time.