What is it about Brooklyn 99? I’ve got so many friends who love the show. It could be the comedy, which is awesome, but I think it is more than the comedy. There is something deeper on going that speaks to our hearts during the laughs.
Brooklyn 99’s comedy formula is simple but brilliant. It takes the foibles of ordinary people, sticks them in a police uniform and allows them to be magnified by the situations. Often the characters are their foibles: Amy’s perfectionism and desire to succeed; Jake’s inability to take anyone or anything seriously, until he must; Terry’s love of his family, his muscles and his food; Rosa’s fierce independence with a hint of badass; Gina’s narcissistic self-interest; Charles’s desperate desire to be loved and Holt’s almost perfect reserve.
Take a bucket of foibles and then mix in the variety and complexity of a local police station dealing with crime, the possibility of harm, rules, police politics and inter station rivalry and you have the perfect recipe for those foibles to be exposed. It makes great comedy.
We love Brooklyn 99 because it is a picture of the relationships and community we all long for. It is almost a picture of the community called the church.
But, it could so easily be tragedy. When weaknesses win out again and again it usually isn’t comedic. It’s tragic, even if it started funny.
How is it that the show is uplifting and celebratory when it a show about character-flaws? Is it that the characters win out despite their weaknesses? It could be. But I don’t think so.
I think we love Brooklyn 99 because it is a picture of the relationships and community we all long for. It is almost a picture of the community called the church. Here’s four things that take the show beyond tragedy and comedy to deep relationships and community.
- They see each other a lot! They are a constant in each other’s lives. Every workday they turn up and there they all are – day in and day out. This means they know each other well, for better or for worse.
- They admit when they fail. The characters say I’m sorry when they stuff up. I’ve been amazed at how many times Jake or Charles say, ‘I’m sorry.’ In one episode, I counted 8 apologies. In one Terry says to Gina, ‘I’m sorry I blamed you. ’
The police force of Brooklyn 99 are flawed people who make mistakes and admit their mistakes. Sometimes it takes time for them to admit their failures and sometimes their apologies are given out grudgingly. But, again and again, these characters will say to another ‘I’m sorry!’ And they will make the apology specific and clear, ‘I’m sorry for….’ My guess is that it happens in every episode.
- The characters restore relationships with each other. When someone says I’m sorry their team mate replies, ‘I forgive you.’ Okay, this is not true. But do they say, ‘that’s all right.’ (Which in the real world usually isn’t enough to restore relationships). Now, the offer of forgiveness might be weak but the way they treat each other after this shows they have forgiven each other – the relationship is restored. The incident isn’t necessarily forgotten, but they don’t hold it against each other (except when it provides comic fodder in future episodes.) At the start of each episode it’s a clean sweet start. There is no hidden simmering hatred because of unresolved issues (mostly)
- And perhaps, the last one is the biggest of all. They love each other sacrificially. Sure, it’s a police force and they are trained to do it. But it’s surprising how often they make sacrifices for each other. And, not just in their police work. It extends way beyond that into the rest of each other’s lives. They know each other, and they love each other and they show this by their sacrificial relationships. It’s awesome.
This is beyond comedy. It’s what we long for. That’s why we love this show. It’s a picture of the community that we all desire. The writers know we’ve got foibles, and worse, streaks of darkness that so easily (and often) destroy our relationships. So they [the writers] compensate by depicting people bound together with the fabric of forgiveness and sacrifice. This resonates—because it’s what we all deeply desire. Charles’ desire for gourmet food and Amy’s pursuit of perfectionism have nothing on our desire to be accepted, loved sacrificial, forgiven and deeply connected with others.
The place to find this in the real world isn’t the local police station. Nor is it most work places. The place to find it is a local church
But, the place to find this in the real world isn’t the local police station. Nor is it most work places. The place to find it is a local church. I’ve been in local churches where it has been just like this. In churches where Jesus is loved and honoured, the Bible is taught and lived under I’ve experienced all of the above and more, month after month.
Christians in a growing local church community living under Jesus:
- See each other a lot! They keep turning up as often as they can to be with each other, hang out, get to know each other, and love each other.
- Know each other’s foibles. We see each other so much that we start to know each other’s foibles and even step on each other’s toes.
- Admit when we fail and we restore relationships with each other. We say sorry when we hurt people and when we muck it up. We make mistakes and we see each other’s mistakes. In other words, we say, ‘I’m sorry that I …’ And we say, ‘I forgive you.’ And when this is done in truth and love the relationships don’t start again – they grow stronger and deeper.
- Christians love each other sacrificially. Christians don’t do this perfectly. But, I’ve seen an incredible number of Christians live for others at cost to themselves.
These things are what make a local church so wonderful and why so many people love Brooklyn 99.
But there are some issues. The peeps at Brooklyn 99 are so judgmental. They spend a lot of their time declaring that some things are right, and some things are wrong. And, in a ruthlessly conservative way, they enforce their understanding on others—even arresting those who transgress. Even in a show labelled as one of the most progressive shows on TV everyone is making judgements about what is right and wrong. The question is, who gets to determine what is right and wrong, what is good and bad?
Even in a show labelled as one of the most progressive shows on TV everyone is making judgements about what is right and wrong. Who gets to determine what is right and wrong, what is good and bad?
Finally, Brooklyn 99 is missing Jesus. A Christian Church has Jesus as its captain. Captain Holt is awesome in a stoic counterbalance to most of the other characters. But Captain Holt, despite his ‘loving’ authority isn’t Jesus. Captain Holt didn’t die to make Brooklyn 99 and nor does his death and resurrection bind the precinct into a new people dependent on him.
Jesus is the source and power of forgiveness, sacrifice and love in his people. He is the one who takes the foibles of Christians and uses them for his glory. He is the source and life of the church. This is something that you’ll never get from Brooklyn 99 no matter how many episodes you watch.
First published at risenchurch.org.au