The Awesome Women of ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’

We TV lovers are in the dog days of summer. Unless you are a MasterChef superfan (Isn’t Cutter the worst!?), a premium cable subscriber (Twitter sure seems to like Masters of Sex), or the type of masochist who watches Under the Dome (get help), the long waiting period between Orange is the New Black and the start of the fall TV season usually gets unbearable around mid-August.

The only possible solutions are to go outside (ew!) or catch up on TV shows you might have missed. And for that second category I humbly submit Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

[caption id="attachment_13936" align="aligncenter" width="500"]The cast of 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' The cast of Brooklyn Nine-Nine[/caption]

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is so off-the-line formulaic as a workplace sitcom some terrible hipster part of me wanted to hate it. And yes, it is pretty much exactly the same as every other workplace sitcoms you’ve seen, but the ones you’ve loved so much you put the theme song as your ringtone and you drink your coffee out of a tie-in merchandise mug and you named your cat after your favorite character.

Co-created by Mike Schur of Parks and Recreation fame, you can easily map most of the characters in the 99th Precinct to the Pawnee Parks Department. Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg, the nominal lead character) is the best case scenario of what would have happened had Andy Dwyer passed his police academy psych screening. Andre Braugher’s Captain Holt is as resolute and commanding as Ron Swanson, but with the entirely different politics that come with being a gay Black intellectual. There’s even room for TWO Jerrys in the background cast, and one of them is named Hitchcock, which gives me a little thrill every time they say his name.

Relevant to the interests of our readership not-necessarily-sharing-my-surname, the three women in the main cast of Brooklyn Nine-Nine are all AMAZING:

[caption id="attachment_13937" align="aligncenter" width="245"]Melissa Fumero as Amy Santiago Melissa Fumero as Amy Santiago[/caption]

Melissa Fumero’s Amy Santiago is a tightly wound ultra-achiever in the vein of Leslie Knope, but with crushing insecurity in place of Leslie’s joyful drive. Amy still gets it done, closely rivaling Jake’s arrest record, and she’s clearly her own biggest doubter. While I don’t think “frazzled desperate-to-please goody-two-shoes” is a particularly revolutionary female character type, I like how Amy is still respected by the characters and the storytellers despite her neuroses. Like Leslie Knope, she is not judged for her ambition. And even though she can seem as emotionally fragile as spun glass, she’s never treated as insufficiently tough for her job.

[caption id="attachment_13938" align="aligncenter" width="245"]Amy salutes herself wearing her Captain's hat in a compact mirror Amy salutes herself wearing her Captain’s hat in a compact mirror[/caption]

Meanwhile, Sergeant Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews) struggles with panic attacks, which, while they are sometimes played for laughs, are also not treated as anything shameful. With these characters, Brooklyn Nine-Nine knocks down the masculine “toughness” that we associate with law enforcement characters.

Every bit of that stereotypical toughness is funneled into Stephanie Beatriz’s Detective Rosa Diaz, who makes Parks’ April Ludgate seem like Miss Congeniality. Rosa has a “formal” leather jacket: “the one without any blood on it.” She will not hesitate to tell you “your entire life is garbage” or “your shirt looks like vomit.” Her darkest secret is that she trained as a ballerina, an embarrassment slightly tempered by having been kicked out of the academy for beating up other ballerinas. Rosa is a wish-fulfillment character for every chick who has swallowed her anger one too many times and wishes for a little more fear and respect from the masses.

[caption id="attachment_13935" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Stephanie Beatriz as Rosa Diaz. Stephanie Beatriz as Rosa Diaz.[/caption]

Unfortunately, Rosa got bogged down in the most unfortunate plot of the first season, as the subject of her partner Boyle’s unrequited “crush” (read: unhealthy obsession). Similar to Andy Dwyer’s creepy attempts to “win back” Ann on Parks and Recreation, it seemed the audience was meant to find Boyle’s clearly unwelcome wooing charming in some way. Fortunately the writers pulled up before the Boyle/Diaz dynamic crashed and burned the entire show by having Boyle move on to another woman romantically and reestablish his relationship with Rosa as a relatively healthy friendship. Boyle was single again by the first season’s end, but I hope we won’t see more allegedly sympathetic harassment. Especially because I’m desperate to see more of Rosa’s actual dating life, which ideally for her consists of “cheap dinner, watch basketball, bone down.”

[caption id="attachment_13933" align="aligncenter" width="403"]Chelsea Peretti as Gina Linetti Chelsea Peretti as Gina Linetti[/caption]

Finally, there’s Chelsea Peretti’s Gina Linetti, the rare female example a sitcom’s obligatory Prime Oddball in the mold of Reverend Jim and Cosmo Kramer. Gina also shares some DNA with April Ludgate in that she’s an aggressively lazy assistant who is secretly really good at her job, as well as with Tom Haverford for her ego and self-serious ridiculousness (Tom would probably hire Gina’s dance troupe Floorgasm for an Entertainment Seven-Twenty event), and Donna Meagle for her undeniable fabulousness and financial savvy. Gina’s a broad amalgam of a character but she works because Chelsea Peretti holds her together with the same enchantingly dry delivery whether she’s speaking in emoji or soliciting crime from her desk in the precinct or offering surprisingly sincere advice laced with references to The Little Mermaid.

[caption id="attachment_13934" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Gina thinks she is "The Paris of people." Gina thinks she is “The Paris of people.”[/caption]

Aside from the great characters, female and otherwise, I also want to give props to Brooklyn Nine-Nine for being a sitcom set in Brooklyn that isn’t all about white people. In fact, more than half the regular cast are people of color. Even more refreshingly, Brooklyn Nine-Nine doesn’t take a Puzzle Place approach to diversity where one-and-done token characters fill each “slot” and make room for more white people. And aside from being more like the real world, avoiding tokenism allows for stronger characters who aren’t required to be the sole representative of a supposedly monolithic race. Rosa Diaz is not the be all and end all of Latina women on this show, there’s Amy Santiago one desk over, and they’re completely different. Their race is a part of their characters, but not the point of their characters.

Terry Crews, who plays Sergeant Jeffords, one of the two Black men in command of the precinct, told NBC news:

I was working on this thing for a month before I realized that there’s two black guys running the precinct—and I work on the show! I didn’t even think about that, which is so cool because, oh my God, we have all been there. I’ve turned down a lot of stuff where the message was “We’re going to be diverse!” Give me a break. We’re in Brooklyn. If you don’t make it diverse, it looks funny. We are what Friends should have been.

Have I convinced you to watch this show yet? Season 2 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine premieres on FOX on Sept. 28, so catch up now.


Robin Hitchcock is an American writer living in Cape Town who wishes she had a dance troupe, a dress that makes her look like a mermaid, and a formal leather jacket.