Fox hopes a rare TV genre - the cop comedy - will arrest viewers' interest on Tuesday nights this fall.
The hit-hungry network is adding Brooklyn Nine-Nine, from Michael Schur and Dan Goor, the creators of Parks and Recreation, to a lineup that includes New Girl and The Mindy Project (Sept. 17, 8:30 ET/PT).
Parks and Brooklyn feature Saturday Night Live alums Amy Poehler and Andy Samberg in lead roles, respectively, but the similarities mostly stop there. Small-town Parks, filmed in a fake-documentary style like The Office and Modern Family, is "very much about public service and optimism and a dog-headed belief that one person can change the world," Schur says, while in Brooklyn, "the central dynamic is about a guy who needs to grow up a little bit and the man who can maybe help him do that."
The guy is Det. Jake Peralta (Samberg). And the man is newly installed Capt. Ray Holt (Andre Braugher), a stern, by-the-book leader and straight man (though he's not, it turns out, straight) who quickly tires of Peralta's goofball antics.
The show is not a police parody; instead, it's a workplace comedy that happens to be set in a far-flung Brooklyn precinct, though it's filmed entirely in Los Angeles. There are cases - an electronics-store theft, naughtily vandalized police cars - along with high jinks among the show's ensemble of seven diverse characters, including those played by Terry Crews, Stephanie Beatriz, Joe Lo Truglio, Melissa Fumero and Chelsea Peretti, a former Parks writer. And celebrities including Fred Armisen, Andy Richter and Dean Winters turn up in amusing cameos as local residents.
"The plots are interesting guaranteed, because it's detective work, so the bones of it every week ... are something substantial," Samberg says. "And then on top of that you have the relationships with the characters, and then on top of that is just pure comedy fluff, which is the most fun part for me. It gives it a different thrust than some shows that you could argue are slightly meandering."
Though cops "do a lot of unpleasant stuff in real life," Schur says the show won't delve into "the horrific ways people are murdered and disemboweled." (Don't look for any crossover episodes with Criminal Minds.) "The reality of being a cop is sitting and goofing around with friends in the precinct," a world explored most memorably in ABC's late-1970s sitcom Barney Miller, he says.
And in Samberg they found their perfect detective, someone "who was very good at his job but didn't take anything that seriously," Goor says. "Our touchstone was Hawkeye from M*A*S*H. He's not a stickler for rules, and his new captain would be the opposite of that."
Braugher appeared in TNT's darkly comic Men of a Certain Age, but had never done a sitcom: He's most known for serious police or military roles in Homicide: Life on the Street. By way of contrast, the new role has been more fun than the one he had on last season's short-lived ABC drama Last Resort, he says: "We're not launching nukes at Pakistan."
Once again, "he's not trying to be funny, which is the whole point," Schur says. "He's hilarious by playing that role."
Samberg says he was looking for some time off when he left SNL in May 2012, but couldn't help respond to a text message from Schur asking if he'd consider the role. Best known for his skillfull, if quickly made, "digital shorts" with the likes of Justin Timberlake, he planned a new album with The Lonely Island, his film collaborators.
"I was not thinking I was going to try and do TV," he says. "I was thinking I'd see what was out there movie-wise, do the album and kinda just do things that interested me in pockets for awhile. I had basically just left the show. But it was also immediately like, if I was ever going to do this, these were the people I would do it with. Their sense of humor is exactly in line with mine, Parks is one of my favorite comedies on television and they were offering me the keys to the city, basically. It was a plush gig." (Or, "stupid money," as Braugher says. )
"I said yes because there was no other answer."