“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” picks up right where it left off — as if nothing happened between the time Season 5 ended and Season 6 began. The premiere features no self-knowing nod to the audience or meta jab at the show’s former network. The story just continues, and that’s how it should be.
There are a million reasons why. For one, NBC was motivated to revive the comedy because it’s produced by parent company NBC Universal, and in the upcoming content wars, ownership is the whole ballgame. NBC wants future fans to be able to watch all of “Brooklyn 99,” uninterrupted, without subscribing to a different streaming service. Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) doesn’t make a snide remark to Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) about the show’s history because that’s not the “Nine-Nine” way. Its a sincere show filled with kind characters. They’re not about to mock the folks who gave them five great seasons, especially when the new episodes have zero time for distractions.
And the first two NBC entries are medal-worthy performers. “Honeymoon” tracks Amy (Melissa Fumero) and Jake as they use their wedding insurance money to live large at a Mexican resort. Episode 2, “Hitchcock & Scully,” shines an insightful light on two of the show’s veteran reserves. For anyone worried about the show changing tacts for its new bosses, fear not — it’s still the same show and still great. But all that time worrying does provide a fresh opportunity to appreciate what makes the show tick, and why it resonates so strongly six seasons later. In short, producer and showrunner Dan Goor makes every second count. As for how, well, that requires some spoilers.
[Editor’s Note: The following portion of the review contains spoilers for “Brooklyn 99” Season 6, Episode 1, “Honeymoon.”]
The “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” premiere continues undisturbed, quickly delivering a long-awaited answer that, for a turbulent 24 hours, fans thought they may never hear: Did Captain Holt (Andre Braughter) get the commissioner job? Yes, he did — or so he thinks. After reading his email too fast, Holt misses the word “not” in his would-be congratulatory letter. His mistake provides Jake enough time to grab a boombox for a celebratory Jock Jams session, which creates the perfect cold open close as his oblivious exuberance runs contrary to the group’s despondent new tone.
Holt’s loss is a big choice, and one that will define the season overall, but it also sets up “Honeymoon’s” A-plot. All set to go coco-nuts around the clock, Jake and Amy’s romantic shenanigans are dampened by the surprise presence of Captain Holt at the same resort. (Gina, of course, is to blame, thanks to “referral code: Gina30.”) Yet Holt’s arrival isn’t a downer for the audience. It’s a case to be solved — how can Amy and Jake motivate Holt to go back to work and save their honeymoon in the process? — and thus fits the show’s enduring formula.
But let’s take a second to elevate the not-so-hidden star of the show: Holt’s shirts. Explaining that he tried to go to work but ended up on a plane to Mexico instead, Holt didn’t pack a bag: “I bought a bundle of novelty shirts at a nearby gift shop. This one says ‘What’s up, beaches?’ — instead of ‘bitches,’ for humor reasons.” The explanation takes mere seconds but it provides an opportunity for bonus fun throughout the episode.
Sure, it’s funny when Holt is blankly staring across the restaurant at Amy and Jake’s romantic dinner, but it’s even funnier that he’s doing it in a sleeveless shirt with a buff bod printed on it. And it’s great when Holt breaks into Amy and Jake’s room during a couple’s hot stone massage, laying down on the ground to better facilitate conversation with their face-down positions, but that he’s doing it in a “DTF: Down to Fiesta” t-shirt is the cherry on top of their sundae. Finally, his “1 Tequila, 2 Tequila, 3 Tequila, FLOOR!!!” ensemble is the ideal juxtaposition to Holt’s heartbreaking news that he’s quitting the force.
Of course, he doesn’t quit the force, but the audience needed to see Holt go to that dark place while facing unexpected hardship. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” has always been about positive, supportive people sacrificing for the greater good and each other. They’re idyllic, if silly, police officers, who forge idyllic, silly friendships. Often, these classic, happy sitcoms result in the characters getting everything they want, sometimes too easily, since rewarding nice people is an easy way to sustain the positive energy driving feel-good comedies. When a character says they’re going after something they really want, audiences expect them to succeed.
But “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” doesn’t operate that way — they can’t. Despite Holt’s claims that he’s done everything he set out to do as a captain, there is still crime in Brooklyn and everyone does not love the police. These are never-ending endeavors, and yet they’re the common goals of every character on the show. Moreover, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” deals with hard issues often enough that audiences don’t always expect easy answers to serious problems. (Terry Crews’ Sergeant Jeffords was racially profiled in his own neighborhood, and it could very well happen again.)
So how does the show respect the truth of its world without losing the joyful tone of its characters? It’s the shirts and the “not” and the relentless perseverance springing from both. Goor and his writers consistently find ways to pepper extra doses of humor into each episode’s running time, and the shirts are a stellar sneak-attack of funny in “Honeymoon.” Meanwhile, choosing to not let Holt get his job speaks to the real world fans are living in and the creators are willing to acknowledge. It’s more valuable to watch Holt grieve, nearly quit, and then resolve to fight the powers that almost squashed his career than to hand him a promotion. He obviously deserves it, but is that how things work in 2019?
Not everything ties back to Trump, but this choice feels carefully considered for the culture of our times. Happy endings aren’t guaranteed; injustice is still rampant. It would be easy for everyone to fall into despair, and Goor’s series recognizes as much through Holt’s initial reaction. But the joyful spirit of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is distinguishable from other sitcoms in that it even though it delivers laughs in droves, it also provides a bit of a pep talk. Viewers need to see Holt lose because they need to see Holt fight back. They need to see persistence so they can emulate it themselves. They need to see “The 99,” and NBC is giving it to them.
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” airs new episodes on Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.