Despite the odd amusing moments and an appealing cast, Andy Samberg vehicle “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” demonstrates the difference between a “Saturday Night Live” digital short and an actual pilot, much less a series. Scarcely deviating from his goofball persona, Samberg stars in this comedy about an immature cop suddenly saddled with a straightlaced (but not, as it turns out, straight) captain, played by the always welcome Andre Braugher. Not as wacky as “Police Squad” or as droll as “Barney Miller,” “Brooklyn” occupies a comedic no-man’s land — affecting an irreverent tone seemingly designed to keep as many people out as it invites in.
The general conceit is that Samberg’s Jake Peralta has pretty much free rein around the precinct — he’s the Hawkeye Pierce of cops, irreverent and unorthodox, but effective in getting the job done — until Braugher’s by-the-book Capt. Ray Holt arrives. The two quickly find themselves butting heads over Jake’s resistance to wearing a tie, providing an excuse for the smartass to strip down to his underwear.
Because like a lot of recent “SNL” alums, Samberg doesn’t wear particularly well beyond sketch length, “Brooklyn’s” fate will likely hinge in part on the supporting players — as constructed by the “Parks and Recreation” team of Dan Goor and Michael Schur, a colorful but rather familiar bunch, including the nerdy guy (Joe Lo Truglio) with a crush on his gruff partner (Stephanie Beatriz); Amy (Melissa Fumero), who draws the thankless task of being paired with Jake; and Gina (Chelsea Peretti), the nosey office manager.
As for Braugher, he’s perfectly fine, but casting him in this sort of role still sort of feels like buying a sports car just to drive it around a suburban neighborhood.
“Homicide” this isn’t, but there’s still a crime to be solved, which inevitably feels like something of an afterthought. And while the pilot has a fair amount of business to get done, other than the 1980s-style musical cues, “Brooklyn” plays with copshow conventions less aggressively than it should.
Then again, the series joins a Fox comedy block that has demonstrated itself to be a little too precious for its own good — energetic, yes, but ultimately limited in commercial potential, where the humor is measured less in laughs than arched eyebrows.
Even so, Fox appears to have a lot invested psychically and spiritually (along with promotionally) in launching “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” much as the network did with the night’s flagship half-hour “New Girl” — a modest success by any standard, which is probably the most the network can hope for here as well.
By that measure, the antics on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” — stripped to their underwear and outfitted in a thin layer of snark — should, for better and worse, fit right in.