Chris Philpott 's Opinion

Chris Philpott is nzherald.co.nz's resident TV expert.

Chris Philpott: Where, oh where, is Brooklyn Nine-Nine?

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine won two major Golden Globe awards. Why isn't it coming to our screens? Chris Philpott investigates.
Andy Samberg in award-winning comedy show Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Photo / AP
Andy Samberg in award-winning comedy show Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Photo / AP

Like most New Zealand television fans, you were probably surprised when Brooklyn Nine-Nine was named the winner of the Golden Globe award for Best Television Series (Comedy).

"What on earth is a 'brooklyn nine-nine'," you may have wondered. "And why did it just win the most prestigious comedy award the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has to offer?"

Brooklyn Nine-Nine didn't just win best comedy: lead actor Andy Samberg also took home the gong for Best Actor In A Television Series (Musical or Comedy).

Known primarily as a member of musical comedy trio The Lonely Island, Samberg plays Jake Peralta, a star detective in Brooklyn's 99th precinct who is forced to tone down his mischievous ways when a no-nonsense new captain (Andre Braugher, Homicide: Life On The Street) takes over the team.

The cast is rounded out by Terry Crews (Everybody Hates Chris), Joe Lo Truglio (Paul), Chelsea Peretti (writer, Parks & Recreation), Stephanie Beatriz (Short Term 12) and Melissa Fumero (Gossip Girl).

Brooklyn Nine-Nine has a strong creative pedigree, having been developed by Parks & Recreation creator Mike Schur and producer Dan Goor.

From what I've seen, Nine-Nine is a clever workplace-police comedy mashup, with a little of the friendship element that Community employs to such great effect. I'll be honest, it looks really funny. I can't wait to see it.

If you're like me, you're probably wondering when Brooklyn Nine-Nine will be on TV in New Zealand. Well, I have bad news on that front: Nine-Nine has not, at the time of writing, been picked up by any of the networks in this fair country and, as such, will not be airing in New Zealand at any point in the near future.

Nine-Nine didn't appear on the new season lineups announced by TVNZ, Mediaworks and Prime toward the end of last year. Just to be sure, I approached every major network we have and even chatted to a few of the individual channels, and not a single one has picked up Brooklyn Nine-Nine. A Golden Globe-winning comedy has somehow slipped through the fingers of the local television industry.

The obvious defence is that awards don't guarantee ratings success. In most cases, awards don't even guarantee ratings mediocrity; some of the most acclaimed free-to-air comedies of our time - 30 Rock, Community, New Girl - have failed to attract large audiences, with most staying alive purely by the grace of the television gods.

Still, how could this happen? Award voters clearly saw something in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, yet it was overlooked by programmers in this country - so what could have possessed them to ignore a show with such obvious potential?

Actually, I have a [lengthy] theory about this.

Local networks, like Mediaworks and TVNZ, obtain their shows through content deals with international distributors. The deals come in different flavours: output deals, in which the network takes every show offered by a distributor, and partial deals, in which networks pick and choose which shows to take, are most common.

Programmers can also spot buy shows on the open market if they get passed over by other networks.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is distributed by NBCUniversal Television; Mediaworks TV have a content deal in place with NBCUniversal that doesn't require them to take every show. I'm speculating here, but it's possible that Mediaworks programmers passed on the show because they figured it wouldn't appeal to New Zealand audiences. Maybe it wasn't even available for them to choose and had been held back for this market for one reason or another.

On the other hand, maybe Mediaworks simply overlooked it. Before you laugh and call them silly names, consider that the US television development process, up to and including selling shows to overseas networks, is so antiquated that Kevin Reilly, the chairman of US channel Fox (who, incidentally, broadcast Nine-Nine in America), recently announced his channel was pulling out of the decades-old development system, saying the process was "highly inefficient. It is nothing short of a miracle talent can still produce anything of quality in that environment."

For decades, US broadcast network executives have chosen a small number of new shows from a large number of individual pilots (the first, test episode of a new show) that they've watched over the course of only a couple of weeks, which were made based on selections from an even larger number of pitches and scripts. Then the selections are foisted onto unsuspecting international networks who have no say in the process. You wouldn't blame the likes of TVNZ and Mediaworks for being wary.

The point is, in finding and ordering new shows, Kiwi networks are forced to take part in a system that even its participants are starting to realise is an unmitigated disaster. No wonder a show like Brooklyn Nine-Nine could be overlooked in such an unhealthy environment.

As viewers, all we can do is hope that somebody figures out what we're missing and picks up the show before long.

* Do you want to see Brooklyn Nine-Nine on New Zealand screens? Post your comments below.

Chris Philpott

Chris Philpott is nzherald.co.nz's resident TV expert.

In a strange way, Chris Philpott has grown up with television: his first big addiction was The X Files, which he watched as a teenager, enthralled by what was possible with the form. Chris’ love of TV grew over the years, parallel to the popularity and quality of serial dramas like The Sopranos, Lost, Mad Men and Breaking Bad. He began writing about TV professionally in 2010, before joining the NZ Herald in late 2013, and considers writing about TV more than a passing interest or hobby: he genuinely loves sharing new series and discussing the big shows with readers. Chris is based in Whangarei, and lives with his wife and daughter. When he isn’t watching television … just kidding, he’s always watching television.

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