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Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Season One

Universal // Unrated // September 23, 2014
List Price: $44.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted October 14, 2014 | E-mail the Author
While film is still reinventing itself in an age of streaming media and ballooning budgets, TV appears to be thriving, especially comedy. Sure, there are beloved shows like "Community" that struggle to stay on the air, and "The Big Bang Theory" is still, unfortunately, the most popular sitcom in America, but for the most part, canned marriage over 50-year-old marriage jokes seem to be going the way of the dodo. It's in this unusually blessed environment that a show like "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" rates a "good but not great", consistently doling out big laughs but existing in an awkward limbo between cartoon reality and a story that takes its characters seriously (within the framework of a sitcom) and hopes that the viewer will be invested in its serialized story.

The series centers on hotshot detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg), one of the two best cops in Brooklyn's 99th precinct. He's got an ongoing rivalry with fellow detective Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) on who can bag the most criminals before the year is over, and is generally left alone in his quest by his Sergeant, Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews). The 99 is rounded out by Jake's wanna-be best friend, Detective Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio), Boyle's unrequited crush Detective Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz), secretary Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti), and clueless old partners Hitchcock and Scully (Dirk Blocker and Joel McKinnon Miller). However, Peralta's world is turned upside down when the 99 gets a brand-new captain: Ray Holt (Andre Braugher). Holt, a gay black man who started in the 1970s, has fought hard to become a captain, and takes his job (and everything) very seriously.

In theory, this sounds like the basis for a serialized comedy focusing on the relationship that develops between Jake and Captain Holt. In execution, the show leans more toward the standard sitcom format than even "Parks and Recreation" or "The Office" in having each episode being self-contained, even when overall character development occurs. There's nothing inherently wrong with this approach, but if the appeal of the show for viewers is seeing Samberg and Braugher bounce off of one another, there's probably significantly less of it here than those people will be expecting. That's not to say they're not good together, or that Braugher isn't funny (the more emotionless he is, the funnier he becomes), but they usually only share one to three scenes in a given episode, with Jake's relationship with his office mates making up more of the show.

Samberg is a performer whose style can be hard to pin down. Comedically, he tends to be a bit broad, and it's easier to view each of his projects individually rather than assess his style as a whole. Without that foothold, it's hard to guess how successful he would be playing the lead on a sitcom, but he's very funny, delivering a good mix of cartoon absurdity and earnest enthusiasm. He bounces well off of every member in the cast, all of whom are also very funny, and each of whom have their own bit (Santiago reacts in horror to Peralta's comments or actions, Diaz is intimidating, Boyle is creepy or awkward, Gina is self-obsessed and sarcastic, and Hitchcock and Scully are dumb). The only one without a consistent personality trait is Jeffords, but Crews is very funny as always -- just the juxtaposition of his bodybuilder figure and the silliness of his dialogue is funny.

The one slightly distracting aspect of the show is its soft stance on what kind of tone it's going for. Peralta will do blatantly cartoonish things, including falling through the roof in an extended bid to steal Captain Holt's Medal of Valor, but the show is otherwise fairly grounded. Unlike a show like "Parks and Recreation", "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" leaves these two halves feeling strangely separate, instead of blending them into one more consistent tone. It's not that it needs to commit to its cartoon logic (ala "It's Always Sunny") or remove it entirely, but a better balance throughout would probably help. It's a minor quibble, but when there are so many funny shows to pick from, a minor change might be a big deal for a solid program like this one.

Caution tape yellow and black provides the eye-catching basis for "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" Season One's DVD art, with a black-and-white photo of the ensemble cast over a yellow backdrop. As this is a city show, someone also pulled up a generic "distressed" texture and applied it to a silhouette of the NYC skyline, the backdrop, and the font, and tilted both at an angle for a dynamic effect. The 3-disc set comes in a transparent Amaray case with a flap tray, with episode summaries printed on the reverse side of the sleeve. A glossy slipcover tops everything off.

The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1, "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" looks pretty good on DVD, with a high level of detail and clarity, and bright, vivid colors. This is a brightly lit sitcom and it looks very nice, if unremarkable among its competition. The show has some degree of action, although most of the episodes simply take place inside the office, so the surrounds get some opportunities to create ambience, generally that of the city or the police station. In both cases, there's not much to complain about, other than the fact that the show airs in HD but was not given a Blu-ray release. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are also included.

The Extras
Tragically, the only extra on the set is a reel of deleted scenes on each disc (6:19, 10:24, and 9:40, respectively), broken up by episodes and featuring "Play All" options. These contain some very funny gags, and are definitely worth a look, but it's really disappointing that the disc has no other bonus features, like audio commentaries, or even a gag reel.

A trailer for A Million Ways to Die in the West, promos for "Mulaney", "Parks and Recreation", and "Psych", and a trailer for The Fluffy Movie play before the main menu on disc 1. Additional promos for "The Office", "30 Rock", "Eureka", "Warehouse 13", "Chicago P.D.", "Chicago Fire", "Grimm", and "Dracula" (but not the autoplay ones) can also be found under "Previews" on that disc.

"Brooklyn Nine-Nine" is a decent comedy with a decent DVD, which is certainly as decent as it sounds, but frustrating when the show and the home video release could both be better than this. It's not lacking enough to warrant punishment -- it's recommended -- but a stronger sophomore season with a full-fledged DVD and Blu-ray release would be greatly appreciated.

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