×

Will Andy Samberg and Fox Cop a Hit?

Odd-couple comedy bridges genres, draws marquee players to precinct with a twist

On paper, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” seems to break the laws of network television.

It’s a single-camera comedy set in a police station that pairs a wildly silly comedian with an actor renowned for his dramatic intensity. It’s produced by NBCUniversal’s studio arm for the Fox network by showrunners who are known for delivering upscale NBC hits. Yet “Brooklyn” is one of the most anticipated newcomers for the 2013-14 season, a sign of how much broadcast networks are willing to stretch to reclaim some of the creative buzz from cable and digital competitors.

Fox is betting big on the chemistry between stars Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher, and the ability of “Brooklyn” co-creators/exec producers Dan Goor and Mike Schur to field a broadcast-TV-sized hit.
“I don’t think the distinction between cable and network sensibility is that great anymore,” says Schur. “ ‘Smart’ and ‘popular’ do not have to be mutually exclusive.”

Fox entertainment chief Kevin Reilly billed “Brooklyn” as a classic workplace comedy in introducing the network’s fall lineup to advertisers last week. The show has a tough 8:30 p.m. assignment: launching the network’s Tuesday lineup in tandem with another new entry, the Seth MacFarlane-produced “Dads.”

The plethora of police-centric dramas in primetime was a major reason why Goor and Schur decided on a law-enforcement setting. A generation has passed since Barney Miller was on the beat for ABC, and “Brooklyn” creators saw great potential in tweaking contempo TV copshow formulas.

“We felt like we could take advantage of a (TV) vocabulary that everybody is familiar with and use it for a different purpose,” Schur says.

Goor adds: “Writing a police comedy in a station in New York means you’re dealing with a really funny, diverse group of cops and criminals and witnesses. it’s a fun way of exploring a world that is easy to explain to viewers. You don’t need much exposition.”

In fact, Samberg got that shorthand right away when Goor and Schur were courting him to star as Jake Peralta, the brilliant but inveterately goofy detective. Braugher plays the precinct’s hard-nosed new captain, Ray Holt, who is determined to whip Jake into shape. Samberg took the cue, summoning HBO’s “The Wire” for motivation.

“We pitched the character for five minutes and he says to us, ‘I get it, I’m the comedy McNulty,’ ” Goor says, referring to the maverick detective played in The Wire by Dominic West.

Samberg’s immediate calculation only proved their theory about the pervasiveness of TV cops in pop culture. “He instantly had a better way of summarizing the character than anything we’d come up with,” Schur says.

Recruiting Samberg was a coup that made Brooklyn a frontrunner for a pickup early on. He’d been chased for sitcom roles ever since his star began to rise on Saturday Night Live nearly a decade ago. Samberg threw the U.S. TV biz for a loop last year, after leaving SNL, with his decision to go across the Pond to topline six episodes of the BBC3 laffer “Cuckoo.” When he got back home, the pedigree of Schur and Goor and their many mutual associations in comedy circles made it an easy decision for him to sign on with them. Schur is an alum of “Saturday Night Live” and “The Office” and creator of “Parks and Recreation,” on which Goor (also a vet of “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” and “The Daily Show”) has been his top lieutenant.

“Seeing what they had done with Amy Poehler and how great her show turned out was too good to pass up,” Samberg says. “If (‘Brooklyn’) ends up one-third as good as ‘Parks and Rec,’ I’ll be psyched. … It just seemed to me that if I was going to commit to TV, the way to do it was with people who had already done things I really liked and respected.

Brooklyn’s embarrassment of riches grew when Braugher came onboard, bringing the perfect gravitas to balance Samberg’s loopiness. It was Braugher’s deft work in the TNT dramedy “Men of a Certain Age” that made Goor and Schur think he’d consider a comedy.

“It’s ridiculous how good of an actor he is,” Schur says. “We wrote jokes for him on the fly in the pilot, and he nailed every one of them.”

The A-team assembled for “Brooklyn” is already a key calling-card for Universal TV, which has been on a mission to extend its output beyond NBCUniversal channels. Backing a show for Fox with top showrunners and stars is a good way for Universal TV exec veep Bela Bajaria to convince the town she’s not merely shopping NBC rejects.

“There was competition for this show,” Bajaria says. “We just felt Fox was the right fit.” (Fox’s The Mindy Project also comes from NBCUniversal.)

Brooklyn’s finest now will begin the hardest job of all, executing another dozen or so episodes in the hopes of making America laugh come fall. Samberg notes that there’s a certain latenight TV work ethic that he shares with Goor and Schur that is energizing — even noble, in an oddball way.

“We all come from similar backgrounds, and we love comedy, for real,” Samberg says. “We’re not in this to get to syndication. We want to make people laugh.”

More TV

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolosnaro attends the

    Bolsonaro Threatens Brazil’s Central Film Fund with Censorship or Closure

    In typical shoot-from-the-hip remarks, Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has declared that Ancine, Brazil’s powerful state-backed federal film agency, should accept “filters”or face closure. “If it can’t have a filter, we’ll close Ancine, or privatize it,” Bolsonaro added, attacking Ancine, which plows some $300 million a year into Brazil’s film and TV industries, for supporting [...]

  • Variety Cord Cutting Placeholder Cable

    CBS Stations Go Dark on AT&T's DirecTV, U-verse Platforms Amid Contract Battle

    CBS’ 28 O&O stations are going dark for about 6.6 million subscribers of AT&T’s DirecTV and U-verse platforms as the Eye and AT&T battle over a new retransmission consent contract. The blackout affects CBS and CW-affiliated stations in 14 major markets including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Also off the air are the CBS [...]

  • Orlando Bloom Comic Con Immigrant San

    Orlando Bloom Claims San Diego Mayor Ran From Comic-Con Exhibit Featuring Immigrant Characters

    Did an immigration storyline cause Republican San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer to run out of Amazon Prime Video’s Comic-Con activation this week? According to “Carnival Row” star Orlando Bloom, that’s exactly what happened. At Amazon’s “Carnival Row” panel, Bloom told the audience that Faulconer stopped by the Prime Video activation and chose the “Carnival Row” [...]

  • 'Game of Thrones' Cast Calls Final

    'Game of Thrones' Cast Calls Final Season Backlash 'Media-Led Hate Campaign'

    What is life like now after “Game of Thrones?” That’s the question that fans have been asking themselves and that cast members had to answer at the show’s final Comic-Con panel. But first, Conleth Hill, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and several others cleared the air and addressed the perceived negative response to the final season. “I don’t [...]

  • SDCC Roundup: AMC Drops 'The Walking

    SDCC TV News Roundup: AMC Releases 'The Walking Dead' Season 10 Trailer (Watch)

    San Diego Comic-Con has become a hotbed of entertainment news in recent years, especially for the television industry. In today’s SDCC TV news roundup, AMC dropped a trailer for the 10th season of “The Walking Dead” and FX released a first look at “Mayans MC” Season 2. FIRST LOOKS AMC debuted the trailer for Season [...]

  • ARCHER: 1999 -- "Cubert" -- Season

    'Archer' Renewed for Season 11 at FXX

    “Archer” has been picked up for an eleventh season. The announcement was made Friday at San Diego Comic-Con. The news comes less than a week ahead of the Season 10 finale. Season 11 is slated to debut on FXX in 2020. While the show initially focused on the agents and support staff of a covert [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content