A strong ensemble and likable workplace make up for the lack of laughs
[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show:"Brooklyn Nine-Nine" (FOX)
Airs:Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m.
The Pitch: I don't need to make up a sarcastic pitch for this one. You take two writers from "Parks and Recreation," add the directors of 21 Jump Street" (the movie) and throw in a cast led by Andy Samberg and the pitch is pretty straight-forward.
Quick Response: With that pitch and that pedigree comes certain expectations and if you come into the "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" pilot expecting a fully baked, perfectly balanced comedic concoction, you may find yourself a bit disappointed. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" is one of this fall's better comedy pilots, but it also fits into the "I liked spending 22 minutes in this world and I think I like the characters, but I didn't really laugh" category, which has a handful of entries. Everything in the pilot is nicely understated, starting with Andy Samberg, who I always find appealing disarming when he dispenses with the archness that infects (for better and for worse) so many of his "Saturday Night Live" personae. Instead of gunning for laughs, Samberg just establishes nice chemistry with Melissa Fumero and also with Andre Braugher, who has immediate fun tweaking the "Terse minority authority figure" convention. Also welcomingly near-natural are Joe LoTruglio and Chelsea Peretti, who could have played their roles as "wacky sidekicks," but don't. After being frustratingly wasted on "Arrested Development," Terry Crews is back in form as well and he winkingly slots "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" into the Vocational Irony Narrative genre with my favorite line from the pilot. What "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" instantly succeeds with is establishing the rhythms and rapport of the precinct room, swiftly introducing characters who could believably occupy the same space and showing the early connections between them. That's one of Dan Goor and Michael Schur's great achievements on "Parks and Rec" and the pieces are in place for more of the same here. [The undiscussed cast diversity is also a minor miracle -- This looks vaguely like I'd imagine a Brooklyn station would look, albeit with slightly prettier, funnier people.] I wish the pilot had a bit more comedic energy. The pilot uses a murder as the case-of-the-week and I sense that the show wants its procedural aspects to have at least some zip, but instead there's a lag every time anybody does any police work. That the couple action-for-laughs scenes fall a bit flat is also a letdown if you happen to have been a fan of "21 Jump Street," which really nailed the mix of adrenaline and laughs. For the show to work, the writers will need to hone the consistency of its comedic flow. There's value to the wacky cameos (FOX is promoting Fred Armisen's five seconds heavily), the goofy flashback cutaways, to the reference humor and to the near-parody elements and I have little doubt that the show can successfully integrate all of them in the future, but for a pilot it all left the comedic voice a little thinned.
Desire To Watch Again: The pieces are all here and they just need to gel a tiny bit more for "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" to become a winner. FOX is doing "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" no favors in pairing it with the toxic "Dads" as a lead-in. As likable male-driven comedies go, "Enlisted" would have been much more compatible and it wouldn't surprise me to eventually seem these two together. Then again, it also wouldn't surprise me to see "Raising Hope" migrate back to 8 p.m. if "Dads" fails fast and hard and while that wouldn't help the demographic flow FOX is pretending it's going for, it would at least have one funny show leading into another potentially funny show leading into the "New Girl"/"Mindy" hour.
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