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The Potential of Brooklyn Nine-Nine

  February 8th, 2014     Brooklyn Nine-Nine     7

When I wrote my top 10 list at the end of 2013, Brooklyn Nine-Nine was only 11 episodes into its first season. Since then, the show has won two Golden Globes, and has had 5 more episodes that demonstrate again and again how confident the show is in what it’s doing. This week’s episode, “The Party,” is the best showcase of how well-established the characters are, and that the chemistry of the ensemble is what really makes the show work well. The episode primarily takes place at Captain Holt’s birthday party, thrown for him by his previously unseen husband, Kevin Cozner (guest star Mark Evan Jackson). The detectives have been prepped by Terry on how to properly act at an “adult party” (cue the orgy jokes), but as expected, none of it sticks and hilarity ensues.

“The Party” is likely my favourite episode of the show so far, and is the most indicative of the amazing show Brooklyn Nine-Nine could eventually be. There is already so much to love about the show, but this episode made me realize that the show really has Parks and Recreation-level potential. Both shows were created by Michael Schur, and the confidence that I see in B99 seems to come from Schur fixing all the mistakes he made early in Parks‘s run. Anyone who has seen the first season of Parks will tell you it wasn’t great. Those six episodes really feel like the show was trying to recreate the magic of The Office (where Schur was a writer), and because of that the show didn’t have its own voice. That all changed in the second season, when the writers decided to make the show about the positive relationships all the characters have with each other. Brooklyn Nine-Nine started off so well because it already knew who all of its characters were early on, a fact that this week’s episode proved more than any other.

Because of its cop-show premise, the typical B99 episode will usually have a crime-related plot. This episode didn’t have a plot as much as it had a concept–send all the characters to mingle with others at a party and see what happens. These types of episodes can only be successful with characters we know well, as their personalities are the only things being focused on. After only 16 episodes, B99 has managed to make every character have their own personality–even background characters Scully and Hitchcock–which is something that took Parks and Rec much longer to accomplish. The biggest laughs from the episode comes from the characters acting the way we know they will when talking with strangers, like Boyle’s obsession with being a foodie, or Gina’s mind being fascinating to psychologists. Nothing was out of character, and the fact that it was noticeable really says something bout the show.

I use the word “potential” when speaking about this show because Brooklyn Nine-Nine still has improvements to make before it can reach the level of other great sitcoms that have come before it. B99 may remind me a lot of Parks and Rec, but the main difference between the two is that I don’t care about Brooklyn‘s characters the way I care about Parks‘s. In the past episode of Parks and Rec, Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) and Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) left the show. Neither of them were a favourite character of mine, in fact, there were times when I didn’t even think I liked Ann. However, when the time came for the two characters to leave, I realized how much they both contributed to the show, how much I knew about each of them, and how much I was going to miss them. There are no characters on Parks that I wouldn’t be sad about leaving, because I have a lot invested in each of them, even if I don’t realize it. Moments throughout the show have brought tears to my eyes, and it’s a testament to the work of the writers that I could feel so connected to even the most peripheral characters. That hasn’t happened yet on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which is why it’s still a work in progress. The closest I came was when we found out that Holt, who is characterized by his steely reserve, was the person who decided to invite the detectives to his party, rather than it being a mistake by his husband. Holt’s true feelings about the group really demonstrate that there’s more that connects the characters than their jobs, that real friendships are being made at the precinct. If Brooklyn Nine-Nine can make the relationships between the characters matter, it will truly become one of the best sitcoms on television.

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  1. Hey! Great article again. Do you think that caring about the characters is just going to take time? Or do they need to. Fundamentally change something about the show?

    1. I think it will probably just take time. The more the writers reveal about the characters to us, the easier it is for us to care about them. As long as the continue developing each character, there will be a point where we really feel connected.

  2. I appreciate that you notice potential. Not many critics give TV shows the chance. You go girl!

  3. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest, what do you give this show right NOW. not including potential. But what youve seen so far.

    1. As of right now I’d probably give it a 7, but I think that rating systems are extremely subjective and don’t accurately portray the quality of a show.

  4. I concur.

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