In its second season, Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine evolved into the best comedy series in prime time. Sure, it’s a fairly dubious distinction. The bar for network comedies is set staggeringly low, with the best series hosted by FX or its sister channel FXX. But creators Dan Goor and Michael Schur did what any good show does in its sophomore outing: amped up the sight gags and one-liners, allowed the side characters to sing (especially the snarky-brilliant Chelsea Peretti and gung-ho Joe Lo Truglio), and executed several pitch-perfect cameos, from Craig Robinson’s breezy Pontiac Bandit to Kyra Sedgwick’s handsy Deputy Commissioner Madeleine Wuntch.
The show you could most closely compare it to would be NBC’s The Office—another single-camera workplace comedy featuring a Martian boss and his unhinged underlings crashing up against one another. And like the stellar second season of The Office, things ended with some major shakeups: Captain Holt (the excellent Andre Braugher) was transferred to the NYPD’s public relations department by his witch-nemesis Wuntch, partners Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) finally kissed, and a new boss was set to be introduced to Brooklyn’s fictional 99th Precinct.Well, that boss turned out to be none other than Bill Hader, who plays Captain Dozerman, a fastidious prick who finds people “weird and confusing.” Within minutes, he’s branded the squad “numbnuts,” “idiots,” and “morons” before collapsing from a coronary. He also distributes Dozer Pads to the cops—iPads requiring them to complete a task every 55 minutes lest they be tormented by a blaring siren sound.
Hader guesting on Brooklyn Nine-Nine is great for a number of reasons. First, it reunites him with his Saturday Night Live co-conspirator Samberg, and their excitement is infectious. Second, during the 2013 Comedy Central Roast of James Franco, Hader, appearing in a wig as the president of Hollywood, mocked the show mercilessly: “Funny cops. You’re always pushing the envelope, Andy,” Hader said. “What’s going to happen when you run out of funny crimes like graffiti and pickpockets? Can’t wait to see episode 10, when Brooklyn 99 has to deal with a rape. ‘Oh, I dropped the rape kit. Sporgie Dorg!’”
But the introduction of Hader and the removal of Braugher neutralizes the show’s greatest asset: the fire-and-ice combo of Samberg and Braugher, the clown and the undertaker. And, since Peretti followed him out the door, we no longer get to take in her weird fixation with the muscle-bound sergeant with a heart of gold, Terry (Terry Crews), or her sassy rejoinders to ex-lover Boyle. She’s been neutralized, too.
Instead, we’ve got Holt clashing with Wuntch—which is losing its luster, because how many witch jokes are there?—and Linetti backing him up with boy band references, e.g. “This man is a Timberlake and you need to stop treating him like a Fatone!” It’s as if Arrested Development decided to ship Lucille and Buster off to a completely different family, depriving us of all the delicious friction they cause when they’re with their loved ones.
Meanwhile Peralta and Santiago’s relationship goes as expected: They agree to keep things “light and breezy” but accidentally get hammered on kamikaze shots and have sex. Their secret is outed to the department when Dozerman collapses from a heart attack after catching them making out in the evidence locker. They briefly break up and then make up when they realize they miss each other—much to the delight of Boyle, who sees them as his own personal Jack & Rose. “You’re supposed to die holding each other as your cruise ship takes on water!” he yells at Peralta while they’re briefly on the outs.
So, by episode’s end we learn that Dozerman has been replaced by Peralta’s nemesis, Officer Pembroke (Dean Winters)—aka “The Vulture”—as captain, and Holt has been reduced to giving a speech about community service to a group of kids while wearing a pigeon suit.
As funny as seeing Braugher dressed up as the NYPD’s new pigeon mascot is, it’d be better to see him reunite with his merry band of crime-stoppers, which brings us back to The Office.
Following that outstanding Season 2 finale—you know, the “Casino Night” episode in which Michael accidentally brings two dates, we first learn of Creed’s penchant for larceny, and Jim and Pam steal that long-awaited kiss—The Office began Season 3 with Jim trapped in self-imposed exile out in Stamford. That special family dynamic was fractured, and things were never really the same.
Let’s hope that, after 46 episodes, Brooklyn Nine-Nine doesn’t follow a similar path.