At the TCA 2013 press tour, the show’s cast and creators talk about the past cop shows that influence their work, plus something that a police program hasn’t really done before — an openly gay police captain.
“This is not like ‘Police Squad,’ as big a fan as I am of ‘Police Squad,'” says creator Michael Schur. “This is a workplace comedy that happens to be set in a police precinct, is the simplest way to put it. The idea is that they’re real cops and the crimes they’re investigating are real crimes. They’re real human beings and they’re doing real things. We want it to seem like it’s a real police precinct.”
But creators Schur and Dan Goor admit that it’s hard to stay on the “real” side of the line and not cross over to the “parody” side of the line.
“It’s hard sometimes, I think, because of ‘Police Squad’ and ‘Naked Gun’ … it’s hard not to write those jokes sometimes. But we have a cat o’nine tails and when one of us pitches a joke like that, we whip each other,” says Schur.
“Sometimes we pitch those jokes just to be whipped,” cracks Goor.
But the show doesn’t want to be a parody of cop shows and in doing so, it has to feature a team of detectives who can actually do their jobs well.
“That’s a key component to make sure it wasn’t a goofy parody, that people understood that these are really good detectives,” says Schur.
“It’s important for the show to work [that way] because why else do you care to track the stories?” adds Samberg. “[But] the spirit of the show is irreverent and silly.”
In not being a parody of cop shows, the creators say that “Barney Miller” was definitely an influence, in terms of focusing on the relationships and not being a case-of-the-week procedural.
“We didn’t want to do a case of the week, necessarily. [The cops] could be on parade duty and frustrated they’re not solving a crime,” says Goor. “That being said, when we do do a crime, there will be some very high stakes, kind of murder-y crimes. And there will be some silly stories.”
“I loved ‘Barney Miller.’ We read this survey of actual police officers and detectives and the question was what is the most realistic depiction of police work on TV and overwhelmingly they said ‘Barney Miller,'” says Schur. “You’re not constantly running at top speed down the street chasing a criminal. A lot of it is life in the police house and the relationships you form with other detectives.”
In exploring these relationships, the make-up of the squad is meant to be reflective of the real world — there are two Latina actresses and two African-American actors, which is reflective of a real New York City precinct.
“The New York City police force is roughly 50% Caucasian and roughly 50% non-Caucasian, so that was our guideline. … We set it in Brooklyn because we wanted it to look like that,” says Schur.
The diversity does make it stand out among most network shows, but it isn’t just because of racial diversity. Andre Braugher‘s Captain Ray Holt is an openly gay police captain on the show and his love life is something that would be fun to explore on the show.
“Our intention is to play his relationship in the same way you would play a heterosexual relationship between the captain and his wife,” says Goor. “I think that that would definitely be a fun thing to explore. There are two married characters on the show, there’s [Terry Crews‘ Sgt. Jeffords] and there’s Holt. In talking to cops, we talked a lot about how the job impacts relationships and we’d really like to explore that through both of their relationships.”
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” premieres Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on FOX. Watch the trailer here for a sneak peek.