Ranking the Brooklyn Nine-Nine Seasons

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is set in an imaginary world where the biggest problem with the police is that they were racist and working on their homophobia…**within** the police force. As in, whites cops used to be racist to black…cops…and now slowly but surely straight cops are now much less homophobic to gay…cops.

The police are accepted as this benign institution that never does anything wrong and merely is just a moderately high-functioning government institution that solves crimes. This is a major and dangerous myth.

What is strange about this dynamic is that that fantastical premise is asked to be accepted for very little drama about actual police work that the characters do. They might as well just work in a post-office or DMV or a school or animal control. Which is to say unlike other Michael Schur created shows, this show is less about saying anything about anything and really just about being funny and doing jokes. And Brooklyn Nine-Nine is almost shockingly good at being funny and telling jokes.

8. Season 8: ACAB

Despite all the knowledge in the world about the awfulness of policing accessible to them in a magic tiny rectangle in their pocket, it took until 2020 for the makers of Brooklyn Nine-Nine to question of the ethics of how they made their show. So, 18 months after the pandemic started, the show returned and tried to reconcile the show they had been and the things the show makers finally learned about the world they lived in.

It was all handled very poorly.

The only ethical to do (if the show were that hellbent on doing one final season) was just turning the show’s setting into a post office or animal control without acknowledging what happened at all. On principle alone, this has to be considered to the weakest season of the show. Much too little, too late. (Though to be honest, it was a much funnier season than seasons 6 & 7. What can you do.)


7. Season 6: The Drop-Off

Situational comedies all inevitably decline in quality for a variety of reasons. The countdown for BK99 falling off began immediately at the start of the show. There were just so many potholes for the show to fall into. The underlying nicecore nature of the show. The Michael Schur political worldview. The copaganda. The classic sitcom pitfall of relying on the LCD character traits to mine for humor until the land is bone dry.

But Brooklyn Nine-Nine? The cause of the show’s drop-off was just that it stopped being funny. Perhaps the biggest source of the problem is that the structure of many episodes became way too focused on just two characters at any one point in time. The strength of the show is when the whole ensemble is doing something together or there is a relatively equal distribution of the A, B, and C plots. Somehow they got away from that here one too many times and it made many episodes feel like a slog.


6. Season 7: Jake & Amy have a baby

The second season on NBC for Brooklyn Nine-Nine was the first of two abbreviated seasons that the show went out on. While the show was far from the peak of its powers, it did clearly get back some of the mojo that was mostly inexplicably missing from season 6.

There is always going to be a pretty clear dividing line between the good seasons (1-5) and the weak seasons (6-8), but at least it is not heading for an Office situation (where it just completely falls off the tracks) or a Parks & Rec situation (where the show just falls too deeply into the nicecore well).

There is nothing really terribly bad about this season, but the show had really just run out of steam by this point. There was a half-hearted Vanessa Bayer multi-episode arc. There were a few follow-ups on long-running gags. But it just seemed like the show had ran out of things to do.


5. Season 4: Florida -> Night Shift -> Prison

Season 4 was rather eventful with many significant stories. Jake and Holt started the year in protective custody down in Florida. The Squad rescued them but got punished for their efforts and sentenced to working The Night Shift. Terry learned that cops are racist to black people even if said black person is a cop. And then the season ended with Jake and Rosa being sentenced to prison. The Florida stuff was solid, and it was nice to see the show commit to the bit that Jake and Holt were in WitSec instead of just writing it completely off in the offseason of the show like Jake going undercover in the mob.

The Night Shift idea was a real stroke of genius that unfortunately went completely to waste. That was the kernel of an idea that could have been mined for a whole year’s worth of weird and offbeat stories for the 9-9 to tackle. Instead, it only lasted half a season and mostly resulted in giving the characters something to whinge about. Not satisfying at all.

Then there was The Very Special Episode About Racism. As discussed, this show works despite the downright evil premise (the NYPD is/can be good with a diversified workforce) because at its core the show prioritizes jokes, gags, and workplace hijinks. The show gets into trouble when they get away from the funny. The episode in season four where Terry Crews learns that white cops are still racist was just brutal.


4. Season 5: Jake & Amy Get Married

Season 5 continued the same level of quality that BK99 managed to reach in season 4. It’s a comfortable level where the show is still pretty damn funny but also clearly not quite at its peak. The aspect of this season that gives it the nod over Season 4 is that there were NO VERY SPECIAL EPISODES ABOUT RACISM. That goes a long way!


3. Season 3: Jake and Amy are together

Season 3 of Brooklyn saw them move the characters forward in their lives to a certain degree which is fine. It does always seem unnatural to not have characters grow or change over the years of a sitcom. Jake and Amy got together. Rosa almost got married. Terry had a third child. Captain Holt expressed more love, appreciation, and admiration for the crew. Etc. Simultaneously though, the show seemed to be losing its fastball a little bit. It was starting to lose a little of its bite. Is there a connection between these two things? The characters growing up and the show being less funny?


2. Season 1: Hijinks Ensued

Going into a Michael Schur show set inside a police department was not something I did easily. It just seemed like a terrible combination: Hollywood liberal copaganda and a showrunner who is more concerned with saying something than being funny. Much to my surprise, very little is being said about anything in this first season of the show. A ridiculous tone is established early on which gives the show a very broad sense of humor to play with. The priority is always jokes and being funny. Almost all the characters are funny and figured out right away. Not only was this one of the best seasons of this show, but it was by far one of the best seasons of any Michael Schur show.


1. Season 2 – Multi-episode stories-ish

Season 2 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine was mostly more of the same from season one with one development in the making of the show. The show did a lot more multi-episode arcs with far more side characters and stories continuing on past their debut episode. Rosa started dating the captain’s nephew, Nick Cannon. Jake was with Eva Longoria. Rosa was leading a task force against an ecstasy drug ring. Gina and Boyle were sleeping with each other, and it somehow led to their mom and dad marrying each other. Kyra Sedgwick and the captain were (and continue after this season to be) feuding. Amy and Jake finally started hooking up at the end. This development neither made the show tangibly better nor worse, but it was probably a wise move to ensure there was less of a chance of the show growing stale. A fine sequel to their strong debut season.


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