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Tonight Fox launches its worst comedy and its best comedy, back-to-back. In a perfect world nobody would watch the insipid, pandering, racist and unfunny Dads at 8 p.m. and simply tune in a half hour later for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, one of the funniest comedies in a long time.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine had either the audacity or smarts to attempt to breathe life into a genre that hasn’t been exploited much, mostly because it’s really hard to do — a comedy about cops. Yes, Barney Miller and Police Squad are the gold standards, and Denis Leary‘s The Job isn’t too far behind. But that’s it. The genre is usually too difficult to pull off (crime, it turns out, is pretty serious), and Americans simply like their cops to be in dramas.
But Brooklyn Nine-Nine gets the formula right immediately. It’s broad, but funny because it’s broad — you get the tone immediately and go with it. Created by Dan Goor and Michael Schur (Parks and Recreation), it stars Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta, a detective who jokes around constantly but is amazingly effective at his job. He drives the other detectives crazy with his ongoing schtick, particularly Det. Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) who is a super-competitive rule-follower.
This group of detectives had been overseen previously by Sgt. Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews), a formerly tough cop and detective who went soft after his wife gave birth to two baby girls — named Cagney and Lacey — that won’t have a father if he goes down in the line of fire.
So in comes straight-laced, no-nonsense commanding officer Capt. Ray Holt (Andre Braugher), whose stone face puts a damper on Peralta’s comic hijinks, at least initially. He also wants everybody to wear a tie and be professional. He’s also gay — a wonderfully constructed idea because by not “acting like it,” the Holt character spoofs how television treats gay characters.
Clearly the relationship between Samberg’s nonstop joking and Braugher’s unflinching seriousness will be central to the show. But Brooklyn Nine-Nine works because it has a diverse cast of characters each with his or her own set of quirks (few pilots come this polished in that viewers will know what each character is like without having to wait; Goor and Schur achieve that without having to dumb them down or make them ludicrously loud like on, say, CBS’ The Millers).
That’s proof that the writing is solid and the characters are well-drawn. It also helps that the supporting cast completely nails it. There’s Det. Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio), who works harder than anyone — mostly because he’s a clutz and clueless, but he gains your admiration for effort. Occasionally, Boyle does something super clueless like try to date fellow detective Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz), whose pugnacious badassery has everybody walking on egg shells around her for fear that she’ll flip out, which she often does.
Lastly there’s the civilian office secretary, Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti) who knows everybody’s business and sarcastically relays that information to Holt when asked.
As for Dads, well, there’s not much to say about this retro stink bomb that, with its overly eager laugh track and broad-but-not-funny humor, might have been a better fit on CBS. (Because if it was, it would make all those race-and-vagina jokes on 2 Broke Girls look like Seinfeld material.)
Fox is hoping that because critics are offended by the racist jokes (they don’t really mention that we’re offended by what’s being passed off as humor), then Dads can be seen as some cutting-edge series that’s too controversial to be missed. Or something like that.
Mostly it’s just stupid and offensive — but that hasn’t stopped similar shows from becoming hits, so all bets are off on Dads. Executive produced by Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy), Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild (Ted), Dads appears to be something like a non-animated Family Guy — except that Family Guy is actually funny. Mostly it’s just Fox’s lone attempt to kill you with a laugh track, by beating you over the head repeatedly with the premise: Two friends have their dads move in with them and it ruins their lives.
Those friends are Eli (Seth Green) and Warner (Giovanni Ribisi), who run a video game company. Eli’s dad is David (Peter Riegert) and Warner’s dad is Crawford (Martin Mull). So what we have here are two young bucks whose super-old-school and annoying fathers move in with them, separately, and complicated their lives by saying an endless string of unfunny jokes and otherwise being super-obviously cantankerous and clueless.
Again, this show should have been on CBS. Or not picked up. But hey, it could be a smash hit. Americans have shown a penchant for wanting that anvil to land on their heads. Besides, talking any more about Dads is more wearying than actually watching it. Which was torture.
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