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Television

‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ is known for tackling hot-button issues. In its sights: ICE

Dan Goor, co-creator and executive producer of the cop comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” in his office on the CBS Studios lot.
Dan Goor, co-creator and executive producer of the cop comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” in his office on the CBS Studios lot.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Dan Goor, the co-creator of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” is ready to find the funny.

It’s mid-October on the CBS Studios lot in Studio City. Goor is in the throes of production on the show’s seventh season when he takes a brief interlude for a photo shoot in his office — now brightly decorated after superstitiously working in more austere surroundings in the show’s early years. He’s ad-libbing for the camera, placing his hands on his face to look exhausted and curling into the fetal position on his couch.

For the record:
7:16 AM, Jan. 30, 2020 An earlier version of this article misidentified the National Institutes of Health as the National Museum of Health. Additionally, only Goor’s father worked on a cholesterol study in the ‘80s, not both of his parents, as the article reported.

“None of this is gonna be funny,” he deadpans. At least he knows how to keep a devoted fan base amused in his day job.

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” — starring Andy Samberg, Melissa Fumero, Stephanie Beatriz, Terry Crews, Joe Lo Truglio, Andre Braugher, Dirk Blocker and Joel McKinnon Miller as a ragtag group of NYPD officers — returns for its seventh season with an hourlong premiere on Feb. 6. The season will see recently demoted Capt. Holt (Andre Braugher) adjusting to his new role on patrol duty and trying to reclaim his former position; “Saturday Night Live” alumna Vanessa Bayer will appear in multiple episodes as Debbie Fogel, a uniformed officer who gets paired with Holt.

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“The inversion of Holt’s standing has really led to a lot of great comedy,” says Goor, who serves as showrunner. He also teased there would be an episode dedicated to Hitchcock’s (Blocker) love life — “I think people will think it’s funny, hopefully, but not too disturbing” — and said viewers will at long last find out if Kelly is Scully’s (Miller) dog or ex-wife.

In a fitting setup even he couldn’t have written, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” co-creator Dan Goor was in the bathroom when he got the call last May that Fox had canceled the comedy after five seasons.

The season mark’s the show’s second on NBC, which picked up the series following its cancellation on Fox in 2018. And the peacock network seems to be enjoying the comedy’s company: It’s already renewed the series for an eighth season.

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is the first series Goor, 44, has helmed. He co-created the series with longtime friend and TV writer Michael Schur; the two previously worked together on “Parks and Recreation,” which Schur co-created with “The Office’s” Greg Daniels. Before moving into the sitcom space, Goor wrote for talk shows including “The Daily Show,” “Last Call With Carson Daly” and “Late Night With Conan O’Brien.”

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Inside his office, Goor talked about his far-from-Hollywood upbringing, getting topical on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and aiming for an everyday ending for the workplace comedy.

‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” cast members Andy Samberg, left, Stephanie Beatriz, Melissa Fumero, Terry Crews, Joel McKinnon Miller and Joe Lo Truglio.
(John Fleenor / Fox)

‘It felt like an issue for which there is no nuance’

We’re trying to figure out [a topical episode]. It’s tough. We don’t ever want to rush them. ... We really wanted to do an immigration one, and it just — we like doing them when we have a nuanced view, and it felt like an issue for which there is no nuance. So it felt hard to do it in a way that didn’t just seem [like a] PSA. And there’s an argument that maybe that’s worthwhile anyway. So that’s a thing we’ve talked about a lot. I mean, we talked about “Moo Moo” [an episode about racial profiling] for two seasons before we figured out how to do it.

I think a thing that’s very interesting about police and immigration is that the police are often really anti-ICE, because it prevents immigrants and undocumented people from coming forward and being participants in the community. So it has this real rebound effect, which makes the world a less safe place. We’ve been trying to figure out a story that sort of gets at that element of it, because that’s a thing that people might not think about, or realize. But I feel like our characters are so woke that it’s very hard to do just a standard issue ... It’s like, what’s happening is so horrible and so it’s a little harder to figure out a story. And also, our mandate is always, when we do these, to be really funny still.

‘Everything is subjective and there’s no right answer’

My parents [Ron and Nancy Goor] have done a million things. My dad was a PhD in biochemistry and he was a lab scientist. And then he worked on that big cholesterol study that came out in the ’80s. They wrote books on lowering cholesterol called “Eater’s Choice: A Food Lover’s Guide to Lower Cholesterol.” But they also did other things. They wrote seven children’s books. My dad was a professional photographer and he took photos for the books and my mom wrote them. So they had kind of a varied career. They really pursued things they were interested in. But my dad always had a “real” job and then they had outside passions that they pursued. And they always pursued everything together. They started the insect zoo at the Natural History Museum.

I was studying to be a biochemist, initially. I grew up in Bethesda, Md. If you walk out my parents’ front door and you look to the left, you see the National Institutes of Health. I’m not exaggerating. I was a block away. It was something I was really interested in and I like math and science a lot. So I did that. I think there’s also an element of this job, which is true of all writing, that’s very difficult, which is that everything is subjective and there’s no right answer. I think in school, one thing I gravitated toward was a subject that had a right and wrong answer.

‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ co-creator Dan Goor’s office
Some inspirational memories in the office of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” co-creator Dan Goor, including a college photo of Goor and co-creator Michael Schur, as well as a Billie Jean King quote.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

‘We started as nemeses’

Mike and I, we started as nemeses. We were in the same class at Harvard and we did theater together and there was sort of two cliques in the theater crew. He was friends with one and I was friends with the other and they kind of pitted us against each other. Then I think second semester of freshman year we actually met and hung out and just instantly fell for each other and we became really very, very close friends and we started doing tons of theater and plays. We would write plays together and comedy one-acts together. We also did some very serious plays that were movement-based and Blackbox theater-y that were ... really highfalutin and self-serious.

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I started as an executive story editor [on “Parks and Recreation”], but I had Mike’s ear because we had a shared history and I was never afraid to argue with him about anything and he was never allergic to me questioning him.

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” co-creator Dan Goor
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” co-creator Dan Goor with one of the show’s scripts in his office on the CBS Studios lot.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

‘The world will exist after you stop looking at it’

We always had a vision of the show being about this group of characters, of them as a family, of it slowly charting the maturation of Jake Peralta (Samberg) and slowly charting, not the descent of Capt. Holt, but the mellowing of Capt. Holt. So in that way, I think we’ve stayed true to our original design. I never would have envisioned that we would do an episode like “Moo Moo” or “He Said, She Said,” or “The Box.” So there are certain types of either form-breaking or stylistically different shows that I’m surprised and excited that we have done and will continue to do.

The show was designed to be a show that doesn’t have an end. That doesn’t mean it won’t end, but it’s not like “The Good Place.” Mike envisioned that as a beginning, middle and end. And so, it’s interesting now as we get into this late middle-age of the show to think about what an end would be. When we get there, we want it to feel right, but in some ways it’s hard because it’s like I want to feel like these guys and gals, that they’re all going to hang out together forever.

I was talking to [“Everybody Loves Raymond” creator] Phil Rosenthal about just this. I think he was saying it’s context-dependent, but one of the best ways to end a show is with the suggestion that it’s still going to go on, that you came into a world that existed and then the world will exist after you stop looking at it.

Stephanie Beatriz and Melissa Fumero of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” are sitting alfresco at a Hollywood restaurant on a windy February afternoon uttering phrases pretty common in conversations between women who are seeking new challenges in their work.

Dan Goor’s office
Inside Dan Goor’s office: The 1988 action film “Die Hard,” staring Bruce Willis, is often referenced by lead Andy Samberg’s character, Det. Jake Peralta, spawning many fan creations mocking the original movie poster, with the inclusion of Samberg’s character.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Conan O’Brien still makes him ‘incredibly nervous’

He’s such a genius and he’s a standard deviation funnier than any man, woman or child I’ve ever been around. He still makes me incredibly nervous. I’ve bumped into him a couple of times in the last few months and every time I break into a sweat. The last time I shook his hand and he goes, “A little bit clammy,” and it was true. I don’t know why. I worked with him for five years. My only thing with him that I was always bummed about was he always had a bit with every writer. I feel like he never had a bit with me.

I was there [“Late Night With Conan O’Brien”] from basically the day after the 10th anniversary to right before the 15th anniversary. [Conan] would frequently come into the head writer’s office and joke around and it was almost like a perk of the job that you’d have like a Conan show right there. I learned a lot about joke writing, about trusting audiences, about making comedy comedy and not anti-comedy. I learned a lot about writing and rewriting and being willing to acknowledge that it’s an iterative process.

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For a while I thought the secret to being a good sitcom writer was having been a late-night writer, because on late-night shows like “The Daily Show” and “Conan,” for every one thing that gets on the air, you’ve written 30 things that get rejected. And because you do that day in and day out, every day, you have to learn how not to be too precious about it.


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