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Brooklyn 99

New York's Finest?

In a time when policing is synonymous with racial profiling, unhinged brutality, outright murder and corruption, Brooklyn 99 is a warm comedy set in an alternative universe in which cops are approachable, diverse, fun-loving and fair. The people they catch are guilty (of crimes, rather than some perceived slight their existence imposes), and the cases they build are properly investigated and verified. It's a sitcom filled with lovable characters and relationships that feel genuine and good-natured. It presents the police as the sort of force for good that is unrecognisable against its real life counterpart.

It's currently difficult to reconcile that representation, given the frequent horrors of the real-world, and that's a criticism that's been thrown at the show — to the extent that it was suggested that they suddenly switch the show to be about paramedics or firefighters, without drawing any attention at all to the change — but despite the fact that it could credibly be considered propaganda Brooklyn 99 manages to be inviting, friendly and funny. It's conflicting to enjoy a show so much, but to also be aware of the potential harm its beyond rose-tinted view of reality might be doing.

The strength of its cast is no doubt a contributing factor to its ability to create fans in spite of the baggage (that and there are, at least according to twitter, plenty that would view me as a snowflake and won't see any issues with its premise). Each character, even those that are ostensibly there to be the butt of jokes manage to be played as human and with more depth than you'd normally expect from a show so tonally light and breezy.

Hitchcock and Scully who in their incompetence and insensitivity may be the closest to reality Brooklyn gets, still manage to feel part of the team despite obviously representing the antithesis of what a police service should be. Their professional failings are highlighted and mocked, and the rest of the team is always struggling to improve them.

The characters of Santiago, Boyle, Peralta, Diaz and Jeffords — the main brunt of the detective unit — are each flawed, but likeable and compensate for one another's shortcomings in frequently heart-warming ways without becoming overly slushy and sentimental. At the head is indefatigably sensible Captain Raymond Holt played brilliantly by Andre Braugher, as the mentor that endeavours to lift his squad, as they in turn slowly round his sharp edges.

The great cast, and the aforementioned depth of their characters was highlighted recently with the release of the trailer for the Quebecois remake in which the characters (as well as being whitewashed) were presented as flatter stereotypes. This was especially apparent in the change of Santiago's bookish, nerdy character to something "sexier"; something that Melissa Fumero (the actor portraying the original incarnation) found disappointing.

So Brooklyn 99, funny and conflicting, but if you're able to view it not as a propaganda about what is, but as an aspiration of what the police could be: caring, humane, and universally beneficial to society, it remains one of the top comedies of recent times.

Also, and in a deviation from the odd tone of this post, it's also responsible for one of the best cold opens in TV comedy.