It came. It went. I’m sad that it’s over but I’m glad that it happened….title of your sex tape.
BQB here with a review of Andy Samberg’s long running police comedy series.
It’s funny, I watched the first season of this show regularly when in the first season. I enjoyed it and a year later, I meant to stream the next season, then the next…and the next. I always considered myself a fan, but whoops, in the literal blink of an eye, 7 years flew by and finding myself devoid of new stuff to watch during this pandemic, I checked into it and discovered I had a lot of catching up to do.
Timely, because half way through my binge (I started this summer and just finished the last episode this week) I realized the show concluded this month. Amazing how time flies.
For those new to it, SNL alum and wacky funnyman Andy Samberg heads up the cast as Jake Peralta, a goofball detective in a Brooklyn police precinct. If you think too hard, its an odd show as in it takes place in a world where funny rarely happens. Jake and his colleagues solve crimes, catch crooks and murderers and yet somehow, wacky hijinx always transpire. In the real world, these types of shenanigans would probably get people killed and cases thrown out of court, but this is the comedy world, so you must suspend disbelief. To the show’s credit, they do manage to walk that fine line of providing goofball slapstick yet the bad guys are still always caught.
The other thing the show does well is character development. It’s a large ensemble cast, yet somehow each character gets their time in the sun. Jake’s crew includes Sgt. Terry Jeffords (uber strong ex-football player Terry Crews who wows us with his strength and pecs), Jake’s partner Charles Boyle (Jake’s partner, a loser who starts the series dating elderly women and living in his ex-wife’s basement, only to slowly but surely dig himself out of that hole over the course of the show), Amy Santiago (Jake’s love interest who worships organization and drools over file folders), Rosa Diaz (a tough, no nonsense detective with a permanent scowl and a deep voice, a far cry from actress Stephanie Beatriz’s real life bubbly, girlish voiced personality), civilian administrator Gina Linetti who ignores her duties to concentrate on social media and trash talking the rest of the gang, and of course, the glue that keeps the precinct together, Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher of Homicide: Life on the Street fame, a tough police captain, the running joke of the show being that Holt is often forced to say absurd, ridiculous things in his deep, authoritative voice. Somehow, IMO, that joke never gets old even after 8 seasons.)
Last, but not least, Scully and Hitchcock. Do you have an old, washed up person in your office? Someone who probably had a real zest for life when they were young but the years crushed their spirit and now they just loaf away at their desks, eating snacks while they count the days till retirement? Dirk Blocker (yes, the son of Dan Blocker aka Hoss Cartwright from Bonanza and Joel McKinnon Miller) plays these sometimes wastes of spaces and occasional fonts of wisdom whenever one of the younger cops dares to wade past their buckets of chicken wings to seek the rare tidbits of wisdom rolling around in their heads. One episode that gives us a flashback to the 1980s when these two were hunky studs, kicking mafia ass and taking names is equal parts funny and sad, a hilarious yet grim reminder that we all must make the best of our youthful primes, because it all goes downhill at a certain age.
Overall, I enjoyed the show very much, though the show got very real in the last season, reflecting a real world and a difficult time period in recent history that has more realness than a zany comedy can handle. Andy Samberg is great at what he does, but IMO, he is, perhaps, one of the last true funnymen, “true” in that his comedy is just that…comedy. If you watch his sketches or listen to his albums, his repertoire consists of silly voices, silly faces, silly premises, silly songs. He was in it for the laughs, never the type of comic who feels the need to impart political or special messages or take a serious turn. Alas, 2020, between the pandemic and the public outcry over police brutality forced the show to tackle serious issues, a challenge the show tried its best to do, and I’m not knocking it but a show such as this isn’t really equipped to do it. Asking Andy to be serious for a moment is like asking Andre Braugher to be serious for a moment. Somehow, when the very serious Braugher says uncharacteristically funny things, it comes off as funny, yet when the consummately goofy Andy says serious things, we just check our watches and wonder how much longer we have to wade through this attempt at drama until he acts silly again.
Unfortunately, in a climate that saw the cancellation of the Cops reality show where cameras follow the police and even the kids’ show Paw Patrol about police officer puppies, the powers that be behind Brooklyn 99 apparently felt a show about silly cops who bungle their way through saving the day wasn’t going to make it in a world that’s doing a lot of introspection about policing. I do think the show was one of the last of its kind, a silly comedy with a primary goal of making the viewer laugh. So many comedies and comedians now feel the need to make us think, give us a message, or to demand that we pick a political side and it’s just…sure, we live in a free country and comedians can do whatever they want but its unfortunate because the best comedians always realized we turned to them for escape and distraction, to get that laughter that makes us feel good…and truly adept comedians might even be able to sneak in a message or two that makes us laugh and think (not the political rallies that the late night talk shows have become.)
One last criticism of the final season, I get they had a tough challenge to be funny while tackling serious but, and spoiler alert…there were one or two moments that left me scratching my head. Turn away if you haven’t seen it, but for example, Jake has a long running friendship/enemyship? with renowned car thief Doug Judy (Craig Robinson) aka The Pontiac Bandit, constantly trying to bring him in yet he either eludes Jake or he and Jake have to team up to catch a bigger fish. In one of the last season episodes, it is implied that Jake helps him escape prison which…I mean I know its a comedy but the implication of a cop helping a crook escape? Holy shit. I always gave the show credit in that it managed to straddle the line between silly comedy and yet reminded us that cops have hard jobs and are expected to make tough calls…so as much as a cop might think a perp got a raw deal (Judy ends up going to jail over a dumb thing he did as a kid years ago), a cop can’t just assist the bad guy in getting away. They dont come right out and say Jake did it, but it is heavily implied.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Great show that unfortunately was a casualty of its time. From here on out, I guess sitcoms will just be a smorgasbord of millennial navel gazing and ennui.