“What’s Brooklyn Nine Nine?” a friend asked as we watched the Golden Globes on a Sunday earlier this month. “It’s Andy Samberg’s new show. It’s really good!” I excitedly offered. “No, it’s not,” another friend quickly corrected. What could I say? That I started watching the show for seemingly no reason other than that I would watch literally anything Andy Samberg put on television? That it was so charmingly sweet and funny—yes, I think it’s funny—that I wasn’t sure exactly what they were going for, and whether they’d be around for long? I stayed silent, knowing that someday they’d understand.
Well, consider me vindicated. Not only did Andy Samberg take home the Golden Globe for best actor in a TV series, comedy, or musical (given to him by his former SNL colleague Seth Meyers), but the show won best comedy, beating out awards show mainstays like Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory, and even Girls. I tried to be cool about it, but I was completely surprised. So was Samberg.
While the win was exciting—and certainly unexpected, as the below-the-radar comedy has enjoyed solid but not mind-blowing ratings this season—it means the show is no longer the scrappy, lovable underdog it once was. Part of the fun of watching the show was the sneaking suspicion that no one else had yet realized they should be watching, the sense that you were in on something before it got really big. Now it’s ‘that show that won a Golden Globe,’ and it needs to prove itself on a whole new level.
My colleague Liel Leibovitz wrote about the show when it premiered in the fall. “Of the fall season’s new offerings, this silly and sweet confection, following the detectives of a struggling New York precinct, is particularly appealing,” he wrote. “Andre Braugher uses his stony face and stentorian voice to great comedic effect; Chelsea Peretti is wonderfully sardonic; and Andy Samberg is charming as the brilliant, anarchic ace. The rest of the ensemble is just as strong, and the writing is intelligent and sharp.” While I take issue with his main critique of the show—that Samberg’s refusal to play an outwardly Jewish character (an “Italian stallion in a nebbish’s body,” he called him) detracts from the show’s potential—I agree with his characterization of the show as a bright comedic gem.
The best part of the show is obviously comedian Chelsea Peretti, who plays Gina, the precinct’s over-it civilian administrator. Her deadpan delivery and complete frustration with what she sees as the incompetence of the police officers around her is matched only by Samberg’s actual incompetence—there’s old food rotting in his desk, where a mouse named Algernon lives, and he can’t seem to dress himself correctly or get to the office on time—at everything other than being a detective. He’s good at his job and knows it, but instead of being some hotshot detective you’d see on one of the 10 other cop shows currently on TV, he’s a lovable, nerdy, cocky yet well-intentioned character. He’s the show’s heart, and the other characters rally around him. It’s pretty much the opposite of every film or TV depiction of a police station, ever.
The show was selected, along with New Girl, for the coveted post-Superbowl slot on Sunday night, leading to a minor ratings boost (New Girl’s was bigger; but they had Prince). An appearance by Adam Sandler, Samberg’s comedy father, might not have been as exciting as Prince, but it gave the show a bit of the more old-school cred it needs as it attempts to make it in the big leagues. But while New Girl went glam this week—unsuccessfully, and kind of annoyingly, I should add—Brooklyn Nine Nine stuck to the charm. It’s what they’ve been doing since day one, and it’s what works for them.