I love autumn: it’s TV’s cuffing season, when all sitcoms suddenly become rom coms. In both The Mindy Project’s Season 4 premiere earlier this month and Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s start to Season 3 this week, relationships got serious. For two seasons, Brooklyn Nine-Nine ran on the steam of detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and Amy Santiago’s (Melissa Fumero) sexual tension, but the “Will They or Won’t They But Obviously They Will” between them was finally acted upon in this week’s premiere. Is this the moment in which Brooklyn Nine-Nine stretches out and settles into official coupledom?
Up until now, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has seemed invested in playing the long game. The first season ended with Jake confessing his love to Amy, and the most recent closed with them finally making out. But since this isn’t the first time the show has flirted with Amy and Jake’s dating potential, a makeout scene wasn’t any particular reason for us to hold our breath.
But, this week’s premiere laid it out: Amy and Jake began—and are still!—dating. For the world of sitcoms, this is a major game changer. Everything about the show, which significantly revolves around Jake and Amy’s sexually-charged and endearingly mean banter, has to shift with this new romantic commitment. And since Brooklyn Nine-Nine is technically a workplace sitcom, the consequences of its two main characters working—on top of sleeping—with each other means there will be adjustments for everyone.
After Frasier, The Office, Parks and Recreation, and, I guess, The Mindy Project now, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is certainly not unaware of the risks that come with blurring the work/life binary. But as co-creator and executive producer Dan Goor said in an interview, the show is not so much interested in Trying A New Meta-TV Trick, as it is in relationship realism:
[I]t’s very difficult in a will-they-won’t-they situation on television, given that there’s been 47,600 episodes of television, to find a new playbook. Or to do it right. Our philosophy all along has been to play things out as realistically as possible between these two people, so we looked at the two of them and said, “They’re both adults. They’re both attracted to each other. They told each other that they’re attracted to each other. It’s hard to come up with a realistic impediment to them trying to give it a go.
It’s an interesting take, given that so much of Brooklyn Nine-Nine is precisely not about any sort of realism. The show is set in a police precinct where the general vibe is not any serious danger or drama, but one filled with slapstick, low-stakes stakeouts, and revelatory emoji jokes courtesy of Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti). It is, after all, a show where the character who often makes the most hard sense is the lady wearing leopard and being portrayed by Chelsea Peretti. As it should be, but y’know, is usually not.
The show isn’t exactly gunning for naturalism.
But, as with other somewhat surreal workplace comedies such as 30 Rock, Brooklyn Nine-Nine also manages to communicate a genuinely touching tenderness among its characters. Behind the barrage of ongoing jokes, there’s (perhaps predictably) a lot of vulnerability there. Jake has mercilessly teased Amy for the past two seasons because he—by which we also mean the show—is not quite sure how to balance the levity of a situational comedy (apparently, you can make a police precinct funny) with an earnest romance. And there’s a lot at stake in making the leap between a long-term crush and something more serious. Dating is tantamount to reorienting one’s generic relationship to the world, and as we all know, it rarely works out—if we’re going realism and all.
In the same way that there’s more at stake for Amy and Jake because they work together, the new relationship affects the real work of the Brooklyn Nine-Nine creators too. If these characters can’t sustain the relationship or potential break-up, this has direct consequences for the show. Throughout this season premiere, Amy and Jake repeatedly reassure each other by describing their new liaison as “light and breezy.” Amy suggests that they date but not sleep together. (All good suggestions when you sense that your life might be about to jump the shark.) A different kind of show might take this rule to heart, drawing out this erotic suspense and satisfaction. But, this being Brooklyn Nine-Nine, they almost immediately sleep together afterwards, and this, as in real life, doesn’t tell us much.
There’s a baseline zaniness in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which means that the natural rhythms and dramatic beats of a relationship don’t necessarily translate or hold in the same way that it might in something like The Good Wife. This opens up space for a lot of generic experimentation, especially because Amy and Jake’s affection and desire for one another never feels less real than a more serious version might. First as sex, then as a season-long narrative: I hope it lasts.
Images via Hulu.
Jane Hu is a writer and grad student living in Berkeley.