By Hannah Feder
In the world of television, most cop shows, such as Law and Order SVU, are composed of dark and somber episodes of unsolved crimes and serial killers, rather than the cops themselves. But what happens when writers flip that and create a sitcom about the cops, instead of the crimes? This is what happens in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, created by Dan Goor and Michael Schur (the same men who helped produce Parks and Recreation and The Office). The Golden Globe-winning and Emmy-nominated show, now in its fifth season on Fox, follows the daily lives of the captains, sergeants, and detectives who work at the 99th Precinct in Brooklyn, New York.
The squad is lead by Captain Raymond Holt (played by Andre Braugher) and Sergeant Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews), whose strong leadership skills allow them to guide the detectives through their police work and help fix their mistakes. But these two leaders are not perfect, and the detectives are always there to lend a helping hand for their captain and sergeant. The cops who work at the 99th precinct bring a wide range of personalities to the show. The most outgoing-and most problem causing-member of the squad is Detective Jake Peralta (Saturday Night Live alum Andy Samberg), who constantly manages to drag the rest of the squad into the messes he creates. No matter what happens, his best friend Detective Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) is always there to support Peralta’s antics. Detective Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) is the detective any captain would want at their precinct. She is passionate about her work and aspires to eventually become a captain in the NYPD. Detective Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz), another member of the squad, is a fierce, no-nonsense cop who, despite her claims of not wanting to be close with anybody, is always willing to help her friends in whatever the situation. Although they may be the punch line of most jokes on the show, the last two detectives, Michael Hitchcock (Dirk Blocker) and Normal Scully (Joel McKinnon Miller), are important, as they always provide great comedic relief. Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti), another comedic character, works as the precinct’s civilian administrator and is possibly one of the weirdest, but greatest, members of the 99th Precinct.
Each episode focuses on three different plots involving various members of the 99th precinct, along larger storylines that recur throughout each season. The episode-specific plots are more comedic, with storylines such as Detectives Diaz, Hitchcock, and Scully having a contest of who can sit the longest in their desk chair, or all of the detectives competing for the coveted title of “Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius.” The season-long plotlines generally have a more serious undertone, such as two of the detectives being framed for armed robbery while investigating a ring of dirty cops. This mix of plotlines leads to episodes that are a medley of comedy and drama.
Aside from its storylines, Brooklyn Nine-Nine does an outstanding job of having diverse representation in its cast. Four out of seven members of the main cast are people of color, with two Latina women and two African American men in leading roles. In 2015, when Brooklyn 99 was in its second season, only about 14.7% of leading actors in cable comedies and dramas were minorities, according to the Bunche Center at UCLA, but Brooklyn Nine-Nine defies these standards by having a lead cast composed of 57.1% minorities.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine also features two LGBT lead characters: Rosa Diaz and Captain Holt. Although Holt is openly gay throughout the television show and his career in the Brooklyn Nine-Nine universe, Diaz does not come out until the show’s fifth season. The episode where she comes out to her family and the 99th Precinct is eloquently written and authentically represents the anxieties and struggles of coming out to family and friends. This is partly due to Stephanie Beatriz, the actress who plays Diaz and also identifies as bisexual, who was able to provide input in the writing process for Diaz’s coming out. In a Variety article written by Erin Nyren, Beatriz says, “As someone who’s bi, you have absolutely nothing-no representation at all. And to be able to try and do something like that on our show and have a character come out as bi was really important for me.”
Beatriz has said that she had thought her character was bisexual from early on in the show, and stated in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that she is glad the writers “already had it in their brains” when she met to discuss her character’s story arc for the latest season. To her, Rosa’s sexuality provides an exceptional example for other television shows to follow, as there are few places with bisexual representation in television, and many characters are simply written as the common stereotypes associated with bisexuality, such as needing to “pick a team,” dating anybody in their sight, or being more likely to cheat in a relationship. Beatriz states in her Entertainment Weekly interview that, “What I think is important is a person that is fully fleshed out… I love that in this specific iteration, this is someone the audience knows, and they care for her. And now… they’re getting to know her a little bit more.”
Both Diaz and Holt’s character’s are more than just their sexuality, and that is why Brooklyn Nine-Nine stands out as a diverse show. Although Holt periodically mentions his struggles as a gay and African American cop when he first joined the NYPD, and Diaz shares her worries about coming out to her parents, their sexuality is just one of many traits.
When asked about why she likes Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Avery Freeman (’18) said, “I think what makes Brooklyn Nine-Nine so great is the fact that it seamlessly integrates diverse representation without being stereotypical. This allows people of color and members of the LGBT community to have a TV show they can relate to and also just laugh at.”
Instead of creating a television show simply about the police, members of the LGBTQ community, or people of color, Brooklyn Nine-Nine manages to combine all these things into one, which makes it a television show that not only represents its characters well, but also fills each episode with clever jokes and interesting storylines.
Although Brooklyn Nine-Nine is currently in its mid-season hiatus, you can catch up on past seasons on FOX or Hulu. It is unclear whether the show will be renewed for a sixth season, but they will forever be a great representation of how diverse characters can be written as more than just their stereotypes.