The untold truth of Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Driven by its talented ensemble cast, the Golden Globe-winning Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been one of the funniest shows on TV since its debut in 2013. With a cast led by Saturday Night Live veteran Andy Samberg as the Die Hard-loving Detective Jake Peralta and Andre Braugher as the inscrutable Captain Raymond Holt, Brooklyn Nine-Nine somehow mines goofy, silly humor out of both big-city law enforcement and kind, decent people that are good at their jobs. Here's a look into Brooklyn's finest fictional police precinct.

There was a bidding war for the show

Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been a hit for Fox, but it was almost an NBC show. In 2012, production company Universal Television approached all four major broadcast networks—ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox—and all four were quite interested. It ultimately came down to Fox and NBC, and producers signed with Fox, despite NBC being home to Brooklyn Nine-Nine co-creator Michael Schur's previous creation, Parks and Recreation. 

What's especially surprising about the bidding war is that it went down in the summer of 2012—more than a year before Brooklyn Nine-Nine would ultimately premiere. Schur and co-creator Dan Goor (previously a staff writer for Parks and Recreation and The Daily Show) didn't yet have a pilot episode produced, cast, or even completely written. Their bona fides consisted of little more than Schur's reputation as the creator and showrunner of Parks and Recreation, along with the implication that the new show would be a lot like that one, only about a group of police officers instead of city employees.

Andy Samberg didn't want to do a TV show…at first

Also all-in on Brooklyn Nine-Nine because it was a Michael Schur creation: Andy Samberg. He'd appeared in a few movies since leaving Saturday Night Live in 2012 (Celeste and Jesse Forever, That's My Boy) and wasn't planning on jumping back into the rigorous schedule of a weekly TV series, but the pedigree of the show-in-progress made it hard to say no. While doing press before the premiere of Brooklyn Nine-Nine in 2013, he admitted he "was not looking to do a TV series at all, but I was a huge fan of Parks, and I saw what these guys had done with Amy [Poehler], who is basically my hero." Signing on so early also allowed him to be part of the casting process. Some of the actors who auditioned, including Melissa Fumero, were required to prove their comic chops by improvising with Samberg.

Jake was inspired by M*A*S*H

While the role of Jake Peralta seems tailor-made for Andy Samberg, creators Michael Schur and Dan Goor didn't have anyone in particular in mind when they conceived the character. Instead, they knew exactly how they wanted to character to be played: like Hawkeye Pierce, the wisecracking doctor Alan Alda portrayed on M*A*S*H from 1972 to 1983. While Hawkeye was a little cocky and cracked a lot of jokes, he was also a very skilled surgeon that genuinely cared about people. That's the vibe Goor and Schur wanted for Jake Peralta: an amiable guy who goofs off a lot, but who's actually an amazing cop. While searching for the right actor, they got word that Andy Samberg was willing to commit to a weekly TV series. The creators cleared the choice of Samberg with Fox executives, who immediately and enthusiastically told them to pursue the SNL star.

Neither Gina nor Rosa was originally part of the show

Gina is such an integral part of Brooklyn Nine-Nine that it's strange to think that the character wasn't initially a part of the show. Chelsea Peretti had written for Michael Schur's Parks and Recreation, but she really wanted to be in the cast of Schur's cop comedy—so when Schur and Goor learned Peretti was available, they created the character of Gina just for her. 

Rosa wasn't around in the earlier stages either. Stephanie Beatriz auditioned for the show, although for the part of Detective Amy Santiago (which went to Melissa Fumero), as well as for a character named Megan. Megan was renamed Rosa, and Beatriz got the gig.

The role of Terry Jeffords was written for Terry Crews

While some characters evolved from idea to screen, one who was part of the show from the beginning was the physically tough but emotionally sensitive Sergeant Terry Jeffords. Schur and Goor wrote the part specifically with Crews in mind—even naming him "Terry"—before they'd signed Crews to do the pilot. 

The writers have also taken moments from Crews' life and made them part of the show. For example, in the 2013 episode "M.E. Time," the regular police sketch artist falls ill, and Terry has to fill in. It just so happens that in real life, Crews is a very talented artist who, in the '80s, worked as a courtroom sketch artist in Flint, Michigan. When he was a pro football player, he sold his art to help pay the bills.

Stephanie Beatriz is legally blind

The same night in 2014 that Brooklyn Nine-Nine won the award for Best Television Series—Musical or Comedy in the middle of its first season, cast member Stephanie Beatriz (Det. Rosa Diaz) caused a minor stir by pairing her fancy evening gown with some large-framed eyeglasses. They weren't so much a sartorial choice as they were a necessity—Beatriz can't go without them. Literally—she's legally blind. She doesn't wear them on camera because glasses probably wouldn't suit the tough and proud Rosa, and contacts bother Beatriz's eyes. She's left with no choice but to act blind. She can't see much of anything going on in front of her on set.

Andy Samberg and Chelsea Peretti were friends as kids, but like Jake and Gina

The "Nine-Nine" is a tight-knit group, bound by strong friendships as much as the badge. Many of the cops have known each other for years, especially Detective Peralta (Andy Samberg) and civilian administrator Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti). Their characters are both from the same Brooklyn neighborhood and attended the same elementary school. This is couched in reality: The actors who play those characters grew up together, too. Samberg and Peretti attended the same San Francisco Bay Area elementary school and middle school in the 1980s and '90s. Peretti says that at one point she even had a crush on her future co-star.

Kwazy Cupcakes is real now

The 2014 episode "Tactical Village" includes a subplot about Gina and Captain Holt obsessing over an addictive smartphone game called Kwazy Cupcakes. It sounds like the name of a fictional smartphone game meant to make the audience think of something like Candy Crush, and that's exactly what it was—or at least it was at the time. Fox worked with RED Games to make that fake game real, and less than a year after "Tactical Village" aired, Brooklyn Nine-Nine fans were able to download a real-life version of Kwazy Cupcakes and get just as addicted as Captain Holt.

There are lots of Lonely Island references

During his seven years on Saturday Night Live, Samberg's biggest contributions were arguably his "SNL Digital Shorts." These pre-taped bits brought a new flavor and format to the show courtesy of the Lonely Island, the sketch troupe/rap group Samberg had formed years earlier with friends Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone. Schaffer and Taccone joined SNL as writers in 2005, the same time that Samberg joined the cast, and the trio took SNL into the viral age with frequently-shared videos like "Lazy Sunday," "Like a Boss," and "I'm On a Boat." 

Subtle references to those shorts occasionally pop up on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. For example, Craig Robinson's recurring car thief character Doug Judy remarks that Samberg's character played somebody "like a boss." In another episode, Jake is messing around with a phone app that makes him sound like Auto-tuned singer/rapper T-Pain…who sang the hook on the Lonely Island's "I'm On a Boat."

The set is on Samberg's old stomping grounds

There are only so many studio lots in Hollywood, which means each one is rich with movie and TV history. For example, Brooklyn Nine-Nine shoots where the hit '90s ABC comedy Spin City once taped. This is extra significant for Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Andy Samberg. One of his first jobs in showbiz was working as a production assistant on Spin City. Today, in roughly the same location, he's no longer a low-level gofer, but the star of his own network sitcom. "I went and got everybody's lunches every day," Samberg told the New York Times. "And now I have my own parking space."

It came back from the dead

The show's acclaim and accolades were never much reflected in terms of viewership. Brooklyn Nine-Nine never ranked higher than 98th place in the Nielsen ratings — and that was in its first season. Total average viewership ultimately dropped to under three million, so when Fox schedulers started putting together their lineup for the 2018-19 TV season, they canceled Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Other factors: a new programming strategy at Fox turning away from single-camera comedies (The Mick and The Last Man on Earth were also canceled) in favor of traditional sitcoms, including a revival of Last Man Standing. Fox also acquired the rights to Thursday Night Football, which meant fewer time slots for scripted shows.

But behind the scenes, Brooklyn Nine-Nine studio Universal TV was in talks with other outlets about a sixth season. According to Deadline, Hulu dropped out early, and TBS and Netflix were dead ends, but then, just over a day after its cancellation, NBC nabbed the series. Apparently, Bob Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment (a corporate sibling of Universal TV), never got over losing that bidding war. "Ever since we sold this show to Fox I've regretted letting it get away, and it's high time it came back to its rightful home," Greenblatt said, referring to co-creators Michael Schur and Dan Goor's time on Parks and Recreation, and Andy Samberg's roots on Saturday Night Live. Brooklyn Nine-Nine will return for 13 episodes during the 2018-19 season. Nine-nine!