Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

References You Missed In Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Since 2013, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been one of the most reliably funny and well-made comedies on television. Set in a Brooklyn police precinct, the series is led by former SNL star Andy Samberg as silly but talented detective Jake Peralta, whose loose style often clashes with that of his extremely by-the-book captain, Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher).

With nine main characters, a case-of-the-week to solve, side stories, and tons of jokes, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has to move pretty quick. In order to get everything in, the average episode flies by in a barrage of brief scenes and rapid-fire dialogue. The result is that Brooklyn Nine-Nine is one of those shows that requires more than one viewing for even the biggest fans to catch every joke, bit, and detail jam-packed into each installment. The show is especially subtle with references — to pop culture, world events, or its own fictional universe. These nods and allusions can be so quiet and seamless that they're easy to miss on first viewing. Here are some times when Brooklyn Nine-Nine laid out some fun, crafty, and "noice" references that even super-attentive viewers could have overlooked. Nine-nine!

Andy Samberg pays homage to a predecessor in every episode

The opening credit sequence of most any show serves to introduce the actors who play the characters and impart to the audience a few details about them. In the Brooklyn Nine-Nine introductory sequence, audiences see Andy Samberg stare down a police officer action figure. It shows that his character, Jake Peralta, is a goofball but also a detective who can really focus in on things. The little plastic doll faces away from the camera, so it's hard to make out exactly what it looks like or what line it's from. That action figure is relatively obscure: It's an Officer Carey Mahoney doll from Police Academy — and not the Police Academy movies, but the short-lived late '80s animated series. That's an arcane reference, but it's also a nod from Brooklyn Nine-Nine to its forebears — there could be no wacky police officer hijinks on this series without the Police Academy franchise leading the way. (And Samberg's clownish but competent detective Jake Peralta is a clear descendant of the similar Officer Mahoney, as portrayed by Steve Guttenberg.)

The Florida episodes reveals a place obsessed with the Miami Dolphins

At the end of Brooklyn Nine-Nine's third season, the 99th precinct's attempts to take down crime boss Jimmy Figgis and his operation hit some snags, and it sends Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) and Detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) into the Federal Witness Protection Program to stay alive. They're shipped off to a community in Florida called Coral Palms, where they stay for three episodes posing as two regular guys named Greg and Larry, respectively. They try mightily to adjust to the situation but deeply miss their lives and loved ones back in New York, which, unlike Coral Palms, doesn't name local landmarks and businesses after important figures from the local professional football team. It's a sly, gentle send-up of Florida culture that so many things in these episodes refer to Miami Dolphins greats. There's a street called Shula Lane (as in legendary Dolphins coach Don Shula), a facility called Csonka Storage (after star Dolphins fullback Larry Csonka), and Dan Marino High School (named for the team's quarterback in the '80s and '90s).

Character names bear secret meanings

TV writers aren't a sloppy bunch, particularly those that work for a half-hour sitcom. After commercials, they've got 20 minutes to tell a complete and compelling story. A pilot episode has to do that while also introducing and differentiating a slew of characters. Writers squeeze in jokes and clues with every possible opportunity, even making gags and references out of characters' names, which most viewers will likely never notice. Take Brooklyn Nine-Nine, for example. Andy Samberg's NYPD detective Jake Peralta has a name that suggests a Western European heritage. In the sixth-season episode "The Crime Scene," Jake mentions he's half-Italian, but in reality the name "Peralta" is Portuguese. That translates in English to "the brat" — a pretty good summation of his goofy, mischievous personality in Brooklyn Nine-Nine's early seasons.

Writers repeated the gag with unhinged detective Adrian Pimento (Jason Mantzoukas). He's lost touch with reality because he's been so deep undercover for so long — in darkness, in other words. In Finnish, "pimento" means "darkness." Other names are just a reference to people who work on the show. Patton Oswalt guests on two episodes as Fire Marshal Boone — a play on the name of Brooklyn Nine-Nine executive producer Marshall Boone.

References abound to classic pop-rock

The very first episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine brings veteran NYPD officer Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher) into the 99th precinct as its new captain. Viewers get a taste of Captain Holt's backstory, including one of his greatest moments as a police detective: In 1981, he caught in mid-act a serial killer who used yo-yo string to kill people. As the majority of the murders took place in the late 1970s, the mysterious criminal was widely known as "the Disco Strangler." That's an appropriate nickname, but the character shares it with another relic of the 1970s. "The Disco Strangler" is a deep cut off of the 1979 Eagles album The Long Run, and its lyrics describe a nefarious man.

The Eagles were huge in the '70s, but in the '80s rock radio moved on to other bands, like Tommy Tutone, who had its one big hit in 1982 with "867-5309/Jenny." Look closely for a nod to that song in the background of a scene in the 2017 Nine-Nine episode "Your Honor." When Gina and Amy converse in a police parking garage, one squad car bears an "8675" license plate and one next to it has the number "3099."

Peralta's car is straight out of a classic police movie

Jake Peralta might say otherwise — his vote obviously goes to Die Hard — but arguably the best police movie of all time is the 1968 classic Bullitt. Steve McQueen starred as Lt. Frank Bullitt, caught in the middle of a violent organized crime battle, but the most memorable thing about Bullitt is the landmark car chase scene. For about 10 minutes, McQueen speeds up and over the hilly streets of San Francisco with the assistance of the film's second-most-prominent actor: a 1968 Mustang GT fastback in Highland Green. And while Jake Peralta may think that Die Hard beats Bullitt, he clearly has a soft spot for the older film, even to the extent that he takes a piece of it wherever he goes. In the first-season Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode "The Bet," Jake wagers his car in a who-can-catch-the-most-perps battle with Amy Santiago. He wins the bet and gets to keep his muscle car: a 1967 Ford Mustang fastback that looks almost exactly like the one Frank Bullitt abused.

Of blue dresses and bat mitzvahs

In the first season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, writers lay the groundwork for a reference that wouldn't pay off for more than two months — if viewers even noticed it at all, that is. The bit connects the January 2014 episode "The Bet" and the March 2014 episode "Charges and Specs," a callback that hints at and wades into Jake Peralta's developing feelings for co-worker Amy Santiago. In the first installment, Amy (Melissa Fumero) loses a bet with Jake (Andy Samberg) and he gets to take her on "the worst date ever," which includes his selection of her wardrobe: an unattractive, ruffly blue dress. "You look like every girl at every bat mitzvah I ever had a crush on," Jake comments, "just like Jenny Gildenhorn." Cut to the other episode, when Jake recalls his "worst breakup," when Jenny Gildenhorn dumps him at his own bar mitzvah. Jenny is wearing the same dress future Amy wears in "The Bet."

Peralta is a diehard Die Hard fan

Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Jake Peralta loves two things in this world: Detective Amy Santiago and the movie Die Hard. He's loved the 1988 action classic since he was a child, and having adventures like main character John McClane (Bruce Willis) helped inspire him to join the police force. As such, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is brimming with Die Hard references. Some are obvious, such as Amy's honeymoon gift to Jake of dressing up like Bonnie Bedelia as her Die Hard character Holly Gennaro. Others are more esoteric, like how Jake's practice of wearing his police badge on a chain around his neck is straight out of the John McClane playbook, or how Jake once assured Charles that "Die Hard 5" was "gonna be fine," which turned out to be not so fine — A Good Die to Die Hard earned a lowly 15 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and killed the franchise for the foreseeable future.

The Lonely Island is well represented

Before Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Andy Samberg was a cast member on Saturday Night Live for seven years. While he occasionally appeared in sketches, he made a name for himself with pre-taped sketches made with Jorma Taccone and Akiva Shaffer, the other two members of his comedy troupe the Lonely Island. Altogether, the threesome produced more than 100 "SNL Digital Shorts," many of which became viral phenomena, including "I'm on a Boat," "Motherlover," and "Like a Boss." Brooklyn Nine-Nine has coyly referenced all those clips. In the 2015 episode "Into the Woods," Jake (Samberg) scoffs at a phone app that would make him sound like rapper T-Pain — the guest rapper in "I'm on a Boat." Then in the 2017 installment "Your Honor," Jake (Andy Samberg) informs Holt that Holt's mother has a new man in her life, and refers to him as "your mother's lover, he is lovering your mother," which approximates the lyrics of "Motherlover." On another occasion, Jake threatens to take down a criminal "like a boss."

A clock-not-bomb plot was ripped from the headlines

"Captain Latvia" is Brooklyn Nine-Nine's fourth season holiday episode. Jake assists Charles in helping him locate an extremely hard to find toy (a Captain Latvia action figure) to make Christmas extra-special for Charles' adopted son, while most of the rest of the 99 is concerned with a caroling contest against its hated rivals at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. This year, the team has recruited a ringer, a drunk guy named Patrick (Lance Barber), who experiences stage fright and runs away when it's time to sing. Holt gets the rest of the squad off the stage in a hurry by falsely claiming that they have an urgent police emergency that they need to address. Patrick admits that his stage fright dissipates if he's drunk, and with that, the singing team heads back out in front of the audience, as Holt explains that the emergency he spoke of was no big deal. "Turns out there wasn't a bomb," he explains. "It was a clock made by an overachieving minority student."

That excuse may sound curiously specific as well as familiar — that's because it's a terse summary of a strange news story from 2015. A 14-year-old budding engineer named Ahmed Mohamed brought a homemade digital clock to his Texas high school...which called the police, because they thought he'd built a bomb.

Boyle has a very famous relative

One of Brooklyn Nine-Nine's most prominent running gags is the increasingly large and bizarre extended family of Detective Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio). They're a tight-knit bunch who buy beige pants at Mervyn's, say "I love you" to strangers, all have sleep apnea, and enjoy hard-boiled eggs. Many Boyles have been revealed by name, including Milton, Tina, Lynn, and Grammy Boyle. In the 2019 episode "Return of the King," Charles brings up yet another previously unheard of member of his extended family, and how her unique gifts remained latent until middle age: "My cousin Susan didn't know she could sing until her late forties!" As all of Boyle's relatives seem to be on his paternal side, they share the surname Boyle, meaning his talented singer cousin is named Susan Boyle. It's strongly implied then that this Susan Boyle is the Susan Boyle, the 47-year-old Scottish woman who appeared on Britain's Got Talent in 2009 and became a worldwide singing sensation after delivering her stirring rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine frequently shouts out its actors previous projects

The Brooklyn Nine-Nine third season finale, "Greg and Larry," is an action-packed affair. The 99 has to go undercover to infiltrate a hospital heavily guarded by a crime boss's minions. The various police officers try to blend in by putting on scrubs and hoping they'll be mistaken for doctors and nurses. When they're all dressed, Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher) quips, "This brings back memories. I loved playing doctor as a child." Now, Captain Holt is often inscrutable and an intensely private man who only occasionally reveals any details about his professional past or personal life. A punchline alluding to a risqué game of childhood discovery seems out of character for Holt, and that could because it's just a bit to move on from a quiet reference to the history of the actor, not the character. The memories to which he's referring may have to do with Gideon's Crossing, a short-lived medical drama from 2000 — Braugher starred as Dr. Ben Gideon, and earned an Emmy nomination for it.

And recurring side character Adrian Pimento gets a callout to another one of actor Jason Mantzoukas' gigs. In the 2018 episode "Gray Star Mutual," he greets other police officers with a quick "What's up, jerks?" That's how Mantzoukas greets the audience when he takes the stage for live tapings of his popular bad-movie podcast, How Did This Get Made?

Brooklyn Nine-Nine rocks the 30 Rock references

Character actor Dean Winters isn't exactly a household name, but his face is extremely familiar to television audiences — he's portrayed the personification of the concept of mayhem in numerous Allstate Insurance commercials, Ryan O'Reily on the harrowing HBO prison drama Oz, and, probably most famously, Dennis Duffy, Liz Lemon's sleazy on-again, off-again boyfriend Dennis Duffy on 30 Rock. When his recurring role on that series ended when the series did in 2013, Winters hopped over to another acclaimed network show to take on a new occasional part: shifty hotshot detective Keith Pembroke, a.k.a. "The Vulture," because of his method of scavenging for cases where others have done all the work and then taking the credit. The Vulture is similar to Dennis Duffy in that they're both self-serving miscreants, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine writers have subtly pointed this out. In the 2015 episode "The Oolong Slayer," Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz) calls The Vulture a "dummy," a nod to Dennis' messed-up affectionate nickname for Liz Lemon (Tina Fey). In the 2019 episode "Suicide Squad," the Vulture and Jake discuss the retro technology of pagers — funny, since Dennis Duffy was an unsuccessful pager salesman, the self-styled "Beeper King" well into the age of cell phones.