Sunday, November 30, 2014

Barney Miller vs. Brooklyn Nine Nine


Barney Miller is a show about a police department featuring racially diverse cops within its headquarters of the 12th precinct. The racially diverse police force includes an African-American officer, an Asian officer, an Puerto Rican officer, one Jewish officer, one Polish officer and their Caucasian police chief. Each officer has their own individual personalities but constantly make jokes about their stereotypical backgrounds. The show was set in the 1970s after the Civil Rights Movement and is showing a glimpse into an integrated police force. Each character is represented with the ethnic stereotype presented within the era. Like the grumpy Jew, the smart Asian, the hard working Hispanic, etc. This show can be seen as transgressive in pushing the boundaries within regards to race and ethnicity.


Like Barney Miller, Brooklyn Nine Nine is a show about a racially diverse police squad at their headquarters, the 99th precinct. However, these officers break their stereotypes and reinforce other perceptions about them through various actions. The diverse police squad include three Caucasian officers, two Hispanic officers, an African-American officer and their African-American police captain. The show is set today, where racial divisions are less of an issue than maturity, gender and sexual orientation. Each character's stereotype is displayed and mocked, an example is the police captain mocking the main character's immaturity. This is also transgressive on the boundaries it pushes with issues of personalities and personal choices.

Barney Miller's main character is the Caucasian police captain, Barney Miller, and the troubles he has in his daily life struggling between his crew and his family in their crime-filled neighborhood. Meanwhile, the African-American police captain, Raymond "Ray" Holt of Brooklyn Nine Nine is not the main character of his narrative, but the most mature out of his fellow colleagues. Like Barney, he deals with the daily struggles of his police crew. However, since he is gay he does not have a family. Both men are constantly saving their crew from the daily complications with criminals. Barney is the stereotypical cop of his times, an older white man whom is stern, stubborn and straight, while Ray is the stereotypical "closeted homosexual" cop, maintaining a manly attitude while hiding his gayness until questioned about it. Both men struggle with their own problems. For Barney Miller, its his worried wife and clumsy crew. For Ray Holt, its primarily one of his crew, the main character of Brooklyn Nine Nine, Jacob Peralta.

The intro of Barney Miller tells of the integrated police force and their personalities. Most of the crew are seen as positive with the exception of the Jewish officer, whom is grumpy. The intro of season one of Brooklyn Nine Nine sets up the characters for the rest of the series, and their distinct attitudes. The officers of Brooklyn Nine Nine seem happy, though stressed with their jobs. Both shows setup the characteristics of their respective crews and the overall theme of the shows. However they contradict by featuring the stereotypes in Barney Miller and just a glimpse of the characters in Brooklyn Nine Nine.

All of the characters in both shows fit into their respective stereotypes while also breaking away from it. Each character in Barney Miller is sensitive when it comes to their ethnicity but is more focused on their work, helping reinforce the idea that integration is a good thing. Even though there are racial divisions in the precinct of Brooklyn Nine Nine, the show focuses on individual stereotypes that have nothing to do with ethnicity and more to do with personal backgrounds from nationality to sexual orientation to immaturity. The stereotypes do not describe the characters fully as they all have their own personalities in both series. There are multiple other characters that come along with their own perspectives but do not really challenge the either shows look into how the Civil Rights changed the American system or the comic stereotypes presented today. The shows represent two different sides of discrimination in American society.

The shows additionally take different stances on their main leads. In Barney Miller, the clear lead role is Barney Miller himself and his leadership over the precinct. In Brooklyn Nine Nine, it isn't so easy to spot the lead role but the closest is Jake Peralta and his crazy antics and battles against the criminals surrounding his area and the competition with his fellow coworkers. Barney is more stern, strict and wiser than the immature Peralta and uses his wit to outsmart criminals that mess with his district, although he can seem to outwit his wife on key issues of their safety and his need to be the police captain. Jake is younger, stealthier and more fast paced than Barney and leads his crew through his primal detective skills on picking up hints, although he misses key clues, like his captain being gay.
Also, although both shows are comedies they relate in different ways. Barney Miller takes a more realistic approach to working in the police force and adds drama and stupidity to its members as well as family ties to make itself funnier. On the other hand, Brooklyn Nine Nine, takes the aspect of general silliness and applies it to the police force, through making a family unit of friends. This allows for Barney Miller to fit more into the "dramedy" (mixing drama and comedy) through its serious moods set throughout certain episodes, while also being funny throughout other parts of the episodes. Frequently, Barney's crew is outwitted in his department and everyone's lives are risked until Barney controls the situation. In Holt's department, no lives are threatened and each officer playfully pulls pranks on the other members to win bets.
The settings affect the shows' narratives similarly because it is where most, if not all situations will occur. The setting of Barney's police squad shows that the officers have a comfortable position and are fine in their daily lives. Its mise-en-scene help identify the era it is in and a few policemen stereotypes. The office is surrounded by 1980s products and each officer has a coffee mug and donuts, a reference to the policeman's favorite things. The setting of Holt's police squad is more closed-in and feels more like cubicles. Its mise-en-scene is more modern, with each character getting their own products, in which corresponds to each characters personality. Barney Miller also takes advantage of placing the domestic sitcom into the overall story to greater develop the character of its lead. However, Brooklyn Nine Nine takes place at actual crime scenes, the streets and small stores.

The two shows are so different its like comparing The Mary Tyler Moore Show to The Office. Even the shooting style is similar, Barney Miller uses the three-headed monster like The Mary Tyler Moore Show while Brooklyn Nine Nine uses single camera like The Office. Barney Miller like The Mary Tyler Moore is centered on the office and home life of the character, and obviously done in the 1970s-1980s period. Contrastingly, Barney Miller has an actual family when at his home, Mary Tyler Moore is surrounded by friends that are her family.  Brooklyn Nine Nine like The Office is all shot in the office and done in the modern style of graphics. Both also kinda of are done in the documentary style of television-making. Additionally, both are focused on a friendship within the workforce, however, The Office is more about surviving your coworkers while Brooklyn Nine Nine is about enjoy your friends as if they are your family. Neither Barney Miller nor Brooklyn Nine Nine  really focuses on the issue of the nuclear family, but Barney Miller features the issues of marriage and the domestic environment, while Brooklyn Nine Nine are all singles without real family-oriented responsibilities.

Overall, each show fits into its perspective time period while maintaining to change the definitions of stereotypes throughout. Lastly, both shows maintain a positive image of the police force and its diverse aspects on issues of race, sexuality, etc. while being in retrospect completely different in the stereotypes portrayed and the level of seriousness. Barney Miller is in essence done in a regular, more realistic while Brooklyn Nine Nine is over-the-top and silly.


  1. I know this is an old post but really? "However, since he is gay he does not have a family."

    He's also not closeted at all. There is literally a pride flag in the screenshot you used.