Police TV show brings rewrites to the table

By Katie Sanchez, Guest Writer

As the murder of George Floyd forced Americans to challenge societal images of police, NBC’s police comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine was faced with a problem: How do you make a show about police that will appease a woke audience, while maintaining the humor that made the show popular in the first place?

Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a sitcom that details the heists and hijinks of Brooklyn’s 99th police precinct, has been largely praised throughout the past eight years for the diversity of its cast, as well as its willingness to talk about social issues.

However, the cultural reckoning over the Summer 2020 meant that the show’s young, liberal audience was becoming more uncomfortable with enjoying a glorified image of the police.

The show’s creators responded to this problem by announcing that they had scrapped large portions of the show’s eighth (and final) season and were going to reevaluate how to make a show about police in an increasingly race-aware world. 

The show makes an effort to present a group of police officers that are aware of their problems and are trying to solve them. The lovable lead of the series, Detective Jake Peralta, has to come to grips with the fact that his profession makes him part of a problem, and the season sees him grapple with that in a lot of genuine ways. 

Photo courtesy of Creativecommons.org

He tries to hold other officers accountable to be “one of the good ones” and accepts a suspension instead of accepting a cover-up from the police union when he objectively does something wrong.

Sergeant Amy Santiago’s proposal for reform in the NYPD is eventually chosen to be implemented, and she and  Captain Raymond Holt receive promotions which will presumably allow them to enact significant change as they gain influence in the top levels of the NYPD.

There was certainly an effort to change the show’s narrative to be more critical of the police and to advocate for reform, but a lot of that importance of that gets lost as the show tries to go on as usual in a large portion of the season. 

There are plot lines in many of the episodes that deal with critical issues, but these events become isolated as some characters have little to no interaction with these plotlines and do not develop personal growth.

The series finale, which should tie up the most important ideas of the season, makes little mention of the police reform plotline, and the antagonist of the season, a symbol of police corruption, is notably absent.

Although the final season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine is flawed, I truly respect the fact that a light television comedy attempted to make a stance on serious issues. It would be nearly impossible to balance exposing and fixing every problem with the police while maintaining a level of comedy and casualness in the show’s farewell season.

The reform for which that Brooklyn Nine-Nine claims to advocate is not explored in depth and often feels contrived and performative, but Brooklyn Nine-Nine is ultimately optimistic for a future in policing that is shaped by good people and strives to be truly equitable.