As mass demonstrations against police violence and institutional racism continue, an NYPD-based sitcom following the hijinks of a diverse group of bumbling but well-meaning cops just hits differently.
So NBC’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is going back to the drawing board for its next season as television continues to reckon with its history of glorifying police officers and their tactics, a practice many have dubbed “copaganda.”
The sitcom — which has been on the air since 2013 and ended its seventh season in April — apparently had “four [new] episodes all ready to go, and they just threw them in the trash,” series star Terry Crews said.
“We have to start over. Right now we don’t know which direction it’s going to go in,” the actor told “Access Daily” in an interview on Tuesday.
Crews added that the cast — which collectively made a $100,000 donation to the National Bail Fund Network in support of Black Lives Matter last month — has had “a lot of somber talks about it and deep conversations” about how the show can respond to the current moment.
“We hope through this we’re going to make something that will be truly groundbreaking this year,” Crews continued. “We have an opportunity here, and we plan to use it in the best way possible.”
The actor also spoke candidly about his own interactions with the police and reflected on the recent reckoning for racial justice, which he described as “Black America’s Me Too movement.”
“You’ve seen me in movies or whatever, but before all this, I was always a threat. I would be going to the mall or going different places. I’ve had guns pointed at me by police officers in L.A. This was before I was famous,” Crews said. “The thing is, they had the wrong guy. It’s something that every Black man has been through, and it’s hard to really try to get other people to understand. I have to say, right here, what is going on right now is Black America’s Me Too movement. We always knew this was happening, but now white people are understanding.”
The typically lighthearted sitcom, which also stars Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher, has intermittently addressed racism and the realities of policing, most notably in the 2017 episode “Moo Moo,” in which Crews’ character is harassed by a white police officer during a stop and frisk.
Showrunner Dan Goor has said that he long intended to tackle racist cops earlier in the show’s run but “had so much trouble finding a way in and then figuring out exactly how to pull it off.”
“The difficulty was that our guys are cops, and we portray the cops as good guys, and so it’s very difficult,” he told The Washington Post. “I didn’t want to compromise our cops, and I also felt like something such as stop-and-frisking or racial profiling wasn’t in the character of our cops. So then it became a question of who’s it happening to, and how is it happening?”
But criticism of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” has been bubbling for years. A Twitter thread from editor and journalism professor Steven Thrasher sparked a conversation back in 2018 about the show’s irresponsible messaging after it was saved from cancellation amid a fan outcry.
“I’m really disappointed in how many of y’all are so uncritical of seeing Brooklyn Nine-Nine for what it is: an interracial police buddy comedy meant to make white & Black cops seem like your friendly neighborhood jokesters (& to culturally gentrify ‘Brooklyn’ as sitcom fodder),” he wrote at the time.
He added: “The cop on TV is a VERY powerful form of social control — and I can’t imagine a better one than Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”
Earlier this month, “Cops,” one of the country’s longest-airing television shows, was canceled amid the police brutality protests.