Comedy is meant to be a refuge, a simple pleasure to take your troubles away for a while. But 21st-century TV often seems to have a problem with that. Sure, it’ll make you laugh, but the price is cringing at characters’ humiliation, sympathising with their pain or nodding along to the social commentary beneath the gags.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the answer. Without being in any way dumb or cheesy, this ensemble US cop comedy is frictionless. It’s the show on Netflix you can fall back on when nothing else quite fits the mood, or when you’re feeling ill/lazy and need something effortlessly brilliant to wash over you.
Nothing in the description marks this show out. It follows a team of detectives working a Brooklyn precinct, but the crimes and location are immaterial because we focus on workplace foolery, led by former Saturday Night Live and Cuckoo star Andy Samberg as cocky rule-breaker Jake Peralta.
Other characters are variously uptight, nerdy, incompetent, lachrymose and mercurial. We soon digest these simply drawn personas, then sit back as they ping off each other. As you see more episodes (it’s easy to knock off three or four in one sitting, without planning to), the running jokes build up, deeper character nuance slowly emerges, and you’re part of the gang.
Shows that follow the comedy textbook closely tend to be poorly written and painfully old-fashioned, because all the clever people are off breaking moulds and busting taboos. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, on the other hand, is fast, sharp, modern.
In fact Modern Family is the obvious comparison: if you appreciate the way that show’s diverse cast deliver zinger after zinger in a way that’s reliable but not predictable and feels like mainstream sitcom is being given a sparkling new coat of paint, add B99 to your watchlist.