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Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher, man-child and man’s man, make their debuts as sitcom leads in Fox’s new cop comedy, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” on Tuesday night. That the show isn’t nearly as distinctive as its two stars is a disappointment, but, in a way, it’s also a virtue. Mild, affable and familiar, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is a show the whole family can snicker at.
And there’s something to be said for that in a season when most of the other new sitcoms are self-conscious star vehicles (“The Crazy Ones,” “The Michael J. Fox Show”), portraits of family dysfunction (“Mom,” “The Millers”) or salutes to unchecked testosterone (“Dads,” “We Are Men”). In that context, a loose, jokey workplace comedy looks like a relief.
The throwback feel of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is built into the premise. It belongs to a narrow genre, the squad room sitcom, whose most notable example remains the 1970s classic “Barney Miller.” And the relationship between Mr. Samberg’s Detective Jake Peralta and Mr. Braugher’s Capt. Ray Holt stems from an even older and more celebrated show: they’re a modern, manscaped version of Hawkeye Pierce and Colonel Potter in “M*A*S*H.”
Not that you want to think about that comparison for more than a second. Like Pierce, Peralta is both anti-establishment and supercompetent: he organizes fire extinguisher races and refuses to wear a tie but he’s also, we’re told, the best detective in the precinct. Unlike Pierce, he doesn’t have a serious edge or an excuse (artillery fire, incessant carnage) for his manic immaturity, beyond being the central character in a 21st-century sitcom.
And despite its fond associations, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” — created by Dan Goor and Michael Schur, who were writers and producers on “Parks and Recreation” — is thoroughly contemporary in its sketch-comedy-style structure, emphasizing throwaway jokes, physical humor and visual punch lines (like an amusing “Mod Squad” reference) while avoiding anything resembling story development.
Crimes are solved in the pilot episode, but you won’t remember who did what, or why. You’ll remember that Andy Samberg tied a tie around his waist and wore a psychedelic Speedo, and that deli meats and cheeses were thrown, leading someone to yell, “That’s a waste of manchego!,” and that Andre Braugher said, “It’s over, Disco Man; put down the yo-yo and back away from the girl” in his voice-of-God baritone.
Whether “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” will be consistently humorous enough to warrant attention is debatable from the pilot — it’s not great that the hoary “he’s right behind me, isn’t he?” gag is used several times, or that the funniest thing in the episode is a nearly silent 26-second cameo by Fred Armisen.
It should continue to score well in likability, though. Mr. Braugher shows that deadpan humor is a solid component of his formidable arsenal, and Mr. Samberg is charming and nicely self-effacing. In the supporting cast of cops, Joe Lo Truglio and Stephanie Beatriz stand out as the well-meaning klutz and the scary-tough cookie. Like “Parks and Recreation” or even “Barney Miller,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” could — just possibly — grow into something greater than the sum of its quirks.
Fox, Tuesday nights at 8:30, Eastern and Pacific times; 7:30, Central time.
Produced by Universal Television, 3 Arts Entertainment and Fremulon. Created and written by Dan Goor and Michael Schur; Mr. Goor, Mr. Schur and David Miner, executive producers.
WITH: Andy Samberg (Detective Jake Peralta), Andre Braugher (Capt. Ray Holt), Terry Crews (Sgt. Terry Jeffords), Melissa Fumero (Detective Amy Santiago), Joe Lo Truglio (Detective Charles Boyle), Stephanie Beatriz (Detective Rosa Diaz) and Chelsea Peretti (Gina Linetti).