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'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' review: A welcome return on a new network

Melissa Fumero as Sgt. Amy Santiago and

 Melissa Fumero as Sgt. Amy Santiago and Andy Samberg as Det. Jake Peralta are back in "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" on NBC/4. Credit: NBC/Vivian Zink

SERIES "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"

WHEN | WHERE Season premiere Thursday at 9  p.m. on NBC/4

WHAT IT'S ABOUT The last we saw of the (thankfully fictional) 99th Precinct of the NYPD, Det. Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) was at long last married to former colleague, now Sgt. Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) in a ceremony delayed — and very nearly demolished — by a bomb. Det. Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) had decided to publicize the impending nuptials in a local newspaper, leading a foe of Santiago's to embark on a mission of revenge. All ended well, or did it? Capt. Ray Holt (Andre Braugher) received a text that informed him whether he had been named NYPD commissioner. "So, I'd like to receive this news with all of you," he said as he stared blankly at the screen on the phone. And ... cut.

The sixth season — now on NBC — picks up at that moment. No spoilers. The full cast — including Terry Crews (Sgt. Terry Jeffords) and Stephanie Beatriz (Det. Rosa Diaz) — will be back. But fan favorite and essential cast member Chelsea Peretti — who plays administrative assistant Gina Linetti -- will no longer be a series regular.

The first two episodes of the sixth season were available for review.   

MY SAY Under normal circumstances five years would seem like a long time. Obvious examples: Five years in dog years is 35 years. Five years-plus-two-years-ago was the last time the Giants won the Super Bowl (but, really, who's counting?) Five years was also the life span of "Nine-Nine" which — actually — was all too brief, given the vitality and occasional brilliance of this lightly viewed Fox series.

 In a last-minute reprieve, literally hours after the ax came down at Fox, NBC stepped in to order a sixth season. The save wasn't just dramatic but emotional. Following cancellation, a fan outcry ensued — and not just your normal everyday fans were outcrying, but ones like Lin-Manuel Miranda and Guillermo Del Toro. ("Nine-Nine" fans. Who knew?) NBC ultimately gave "Nine-Nine" an 18-episode order, or four short of the fifth-season total. That can be read one of two ways: The network is playing it safe (ratings really were terrible at Fox) or giving it just enough time to wrap whatever storyline the sixth decides to pursue. There are no guarantees in television, not even for back-from-the-dead "Nine-Nine."

 The first two episodes play it safe too — which is the smart play. Without giving too much away, at least beyond the title of the first one ("Honeymoon"), Jake and Amy do go away on that honeymoon, while in the second,  fans get a little more of the back story of three key figures here — Dets. Hickcock (Dirk Blocker) and Scully (Joel McKinnon Miller) and their beloved Marine Basin chicken wings establishment, Wings Slutz.  They're good episodes although the second feels a little more familiar, or typical — fast, irreverent, bound to logic by only the most fragile of threads.

But watching these may leave some viewers (or fans) with the sensation of witnessing life after certain death. (Show reprieves aren't all that rare but ones this quick are.) "Nine-Nine" almost seemed to sense its own mortality by the end of the fifth season, with a sweet, funny marriage episode, filled with enough hugs and "I love yous" to in fact suggest the end was near. Showrunner Dan Goor threw in a shrewd closing scene just in case Hulu stepped up for a sixth. Nevertheless, it all still felt like a series wrap.

 Did "Nine-Nine" deserve to wrap last May? Well, considering the show helped salvage the career of one of TV's greatest actors (Braugher), broke ground with gay and lesbian storylines and reinvigorated the dying art of verbal swordplay on a network sitcom, the answer is self-evident. There was lots of life left here. If these first couple of episodes are at all representative, there still is. (But still too bad about Peretti's departure.)

BOTTOM LINE New network, same show, and all is well.

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