The upcoming season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine will be the last (this time for real). The series, always one of the funniest on television, will come out with a reduced final season of 10 episodes. No specific reason has been cited for the show’s cancellation, but it comes after multiple delays due to COVID-19 production problems and the complete rewrite of season eight (including scrapping four finished scripts) after the last year’s Black Lives Matter protests made a comedy about a group of cops goofing off seem a bit out of place. For many, this cancellation may make sense. It seems a bit crude to do a comedy about the police when there is nothing funny about the dysfunctions of America’s police forces and their rampant racial prejudice and display of power.
However, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is exactly the series we need now. While successful police procedures – which have spent decades glorifying police work with little insight – go on, with many clumsy attempts to adjust their arguments to address social issues while still promoting « good » cops, it is comedy that that leaves us. It’s a real shame, because comedy is one of the best ways to help address social issues, ask important questions, and deliver difficult conversations without yelling. It should be Brooklyn Nine-Nine leading the charge in this regard, breaking down these social issues with her edgy comedy, diverse cast, surprisingly deep characters, and track record of delving into these issues. That is what we need now.
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It’s unclear whether the creators of Brooklyn Nine-Nine agreed to the cancellation, but a statement from executive producer Dan Goor hints at that the challenge of delivering a police comedy in this new era was considered too much:
I am very grateful to NBC and Universal Television for allowing us to give these characters and our fans the ending they deserve. When Mike Schur and I proposed the pilot episode to Andy, he told us, « I’m signing up, but I think the only way to tell this story is over exactly 153 episodes, » which was crazy because that was exactly the point. number that Mike and I had anticipated.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have worked with this incredible cast and crew for eight seasons. Not only are they among the most talented people in the business, they are all good human beings who have become a family. But most of all, I feel lucky to have had the best fans in the world. Some fans who have literally saved us from cancellation. The fans who fill us with joy. Ending the series was a difficult decision, but ultimately, we felt it was the best way to honor the characters, the story, and our viewers (emphasis added). I know some people will be disappointed that it ends so soon, but honestly I am thankful that it lasted so long. Title of my sex tape.
The humor in this statement hides a few things. The first is that, of course, they didn’t want to end the series with the awkward 153-episode number in a truncated eighth season. The second is the veiled hint that a collective « we » felt that this was best for the characters and the story. Given that the eighth season was not supposed to be cut short and was not said to be the last, this change in what is best seems to have arisen solely from the delays and the change in the discussions around the cops. What’s ironic (but not really ironic, just in the way of Alanis Morissette) is that this statement, which uses humor to help process a sad or surprising subject, is the perfect example of why Brooklyn Nine-Nine shouldn’t be canceled. .
This is something that television comedy has done for decades. Consider M * A * S * H, a show that helped the entire country unravel the Vietnam War (via the Korean War) through comedy (with a laugh track, no less). This is why stand-up comedy is where we often find the most popular voices speaking out against injustice. Consider Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, George Carlin, Chris Rock, Joan Rivers, Margaret Cho, and Dave Chappelle, who contributed to broadening the debate on race, sex, and society through their performances. They delved into social issues of great depth using comedy as a gateway to open the issues. The Daily Show became a trusted news source for an entire generation, because comedy is often the easiest lens through which to digest serious issues.
Comedy helps us cope and facilitates difficult discussions. Human nature is that we are more receptive to ideas and debate when we are happy. And while making jokes about a topic can be offensive and obnoxious, good comedy is the exact opposite. Good comedy opens a theme by exploring its flaws, exposing its imperfections, and humanizing everyone involved. A simple joke in the middle of a complex and difficult conversation can change the whole environment. Good comedy does this, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine is great comedy. It has the power to deliver the kind of humor that doesn’t insult or tease, but uplifts. Yes, a group of cops goofing around in a police station solving complex Halloween traps isn’t much of an optics on the surface, but the series routinely uses its comic coverage to tackle bigger issues underneath.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s most obvious social commentary comes from her LGBTQ + storylines and representative cast. Captain Raymond Holt is a black and gay police chief in a world where both are often an obstacle. The series often layered comedy over his struggles as a gay black man, as perfectly exposed in a colleague’s article, to deliver a fantastically accessible, humane, and engaging character that has been celebrated by the LGBTQ + community.
The series also delved into police corruption issues through its latest story arc, and did an episode around racial discrimination on « Moo Moo. » In addition, he walked a delicate tightrope with his episode focusing on sexual assault in « He Said, She Said. » They have dealt with active shooters, homophobia, loss of loved ones, toxic masculinity, and much more. In all of these cases, the series has been able to cleverly interweave comedy and pathos to make these themes more accessible. Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been hailed as a show that can deliver laughs alongside its messages, so why end it now?
Perhaps the task ahead is too big for the series? Not all episodes in the series that address social issues are successful and at times your attempts to make a point of view can seem clumsy. Sometimes the show feels like a social comedy because it thinks it should, not because it’s part of the show’s DNA. Although he has worked with certain topics over long periods, the series can also be accused of offering « very special episodes » that, while good, feel more like cliches than debate initiators. The series creators may not have felt comfortable pushing beyond what the series already does, which would have required them to continue.
However, he could have. With a few tweaks to the tone and narration, Brooklyn Nine-Nine could have been the comedy to help us through a real and serious must-have debate about the police in America. By focusing on the subject and making the series deal with both social issues and comedy, it could have offered something that couldn’t be found anywhere else on television: a fantastic police comedy that also addressed the issues of the same.
It can be argued that this is not possible, that this topic is too serious and important to balance with humor, and perhaps that is the argument that won. Maybe it’s good that he did. We don’t know what the last 10 episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine will bring us. It is possible that, after watching them, the reality is that the series really was not able to bridge between its goofy comedy and the major BLM protests. However, comedy has a place in that discussion, and it could have been Brooklyn Nine-Nine who found it.