Not noice! Farewell Brooklyn Nine-Nine, you absolute joy of a comedy

Uncoolcoolcoolcoolcool! Not noice! After eight glorious seasons – 153 gag-filled 22-minute episodes – Brooklyn Nine-Nine ends tonight. This has happened before. Fox cancelled it in 2018, five years after it premiered on the network, but a social media campaign by outraged viewers – bolstered by high-profile fans such as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Guillermo del Toro and Mark Hamill – saw it picked up quickly by NBC for three more seasons.

This time the goodbye to beloved detectives Jake, Amy, Rosa, Terry, Charles (yes, OK, Hitchcock and Scully as well) and to their boss, Captain Raymond Holt, is for real, as it bows out with a final double bill of episodes on E4. And it’s probably for the best. It goes out on the high it has maintained since it began in 2013, and before the radically changed real-life context hobbled a US show based on the collective belief in the intrinsic goodness of cops.

What a joy it has been. Blessed from the beginning with a supple ensemble cast full of brilliant and generous players, even better together – in any combination – than they are separately, and from whom it is impossible to pick a best actor, favourite character or even preferred pairing. Andy Samberg’s extraordinary energy as the impetuous, perennial part-teenager Jake Peralta could easily have made him into a Jim Carrey-ish figure, pulling focus and unbalancing the show. Instead, he – and creators Dan Goor and Michael Schur – made him warm and lovable, emblematic of the spirit of the whole.

Melissa Fumero’s Amy Santiago could have been a straightforward nerd, an oppressive force at the precinct and the butt of every cooler character’s jokes. Instead, she was only the target of Gina’s gags, and wasn’t everyone? Her fetish for ring-binders was a long-running joke, but like all Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s jokes – pulling off perhaps the hardest feat in comedy – it grew out of the character and her relationships with the rest of the squad.

The precinct’s antics might have been set in a heightened reality – and thank God, for that is what allowed us the extravagant delights of Gina (“a complete overlap of ego and id,” as one of the psychiatrist guests at a Raymond-Kevin party marvelled), Doug Judy and Adrian Pimento, of whom more later – but within it, there was never a moment when anyone acted inconsistently or merely in the service of a plot. You could escape into their world and settle in to see what your proxy – and pleasingly functional – family were up to without any fear of being jolted out of it.

Sergeant Terry (Terry Crews) was the father figure (and, of course, a devoted father to the twins Cagney and Lacey) trying to keep his unruly brood in line and safe. A mountain of a man who, inside, was softer than Scully’s paunch, Crews carried one of the first storylines that dealt with a “headline” issue: Terry is looking for a twin’s lost toy in the street and gets racially profiled by an aggressive and then unrepentant officer. The politics and ramifications are twisted further when his Black captain initially discourages Terry from putting in a complaint in case it hurts his career. In later series, other forays into discussions of racism, sexism (Amy detailing instances of harassment to her then-husband Jake that he had never imagined), homophobia, motherhood and fatherhood and gun crime were made, to varying degrees of success but never derailing the show or descending into platitudes.

It could pivot easily into such things in part because of its uniquely (on mainstream television) diverse cast, present from the start. Fumero has spoken of her own and Stefanie Beatriz’s (Rosa) disbelief that there were two Latina women in the show instead of none – or a token one. Crews and Andre Braugher (Holt), as two Black actors, may have felt similarly.

Holt is also gay, and married to Kevin (Marc Evan Jackson) – a match made in pedant-heaven, and if I had to choose a favourite recurring character I would probably choose this water-snacking professor. And in season five Rosa came out, painfully, to her parents as bisexual. The homophobia and racism Holt had experienced throughout his career was always part of his story, and Rosa negotiating her new identity became an equally organic part of hers.

This makes it sound hopelessly earnest and worthy. It wasn’t. It isn’t. It’s endlessly funny, from its famous and much lionised cold opens (I could watch the Dianne Wiest one for ever) via perfect eccentricity, built in tiny increments over the seasons so that you believe in every inch of what is objectively a towering insanity, of Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio), and of Halloween heists – as immaculately plotted as any farce. It’s full of Holt’s exacting standards (small talk is for strangers and con men) and eternal wisdom (“Do not trust any child that chews bubblegum-flavoured bubble gum. Do not trust any adult that chews gum at all. Never vacation in Banff”), and guest stars that were never less than sensational.

Special mention must go to two of them, however. Craig Robinson’s purity of vision and purpose as Jake’s nemesis/singing soulmate, the career criminal Doug Judy and Jason Mantzoukas’s commitment to his turn as agent of chaos Adrian Pimento (“No, no, no, I don’t mess with computers, OK? Ever since I died of dysentery on the Oregon Trail, I was like, no thank you. I’m done with this”) I hope will be enjoyed and revered for as long as streaming platforms exist.

It has been wonderful. A rare gift – and rarer still as one that the whole family could enjoy, at least when Pimento wasn’t on screen – that will be missed, however well repeated viewings hold up (and they do – the first five seasons on a Netflix loop were all that stood between me and the pit of despair for two years of pandemic and lockdown). Forgive the sentimentality, Captain Holt, but I love you all. Nine-nine!