All of Hollywood is at a turning point on how they write police and policing narratives on TV.
After the murder of George Floyd, America was forced to look at a wound many swore had been closed a long time. But no amount of band-aids could cover the festering and pervasive infection of racism and police brutality.
We marched. We shouted. But this time, unlike too many other times, we knew the only way forward was to demand change...and to not stop shouting until it was achieved.
Laws need to change, policies need to be revised, more diverse voices need to be lifted, and this country needs to seriously look at how we herald the "off the rails cop" in our most powerful art forms: film and television.
One of my favorite shows is Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It's so funny and has a lovable and diverse cast of characters who all work for the NYPD in Brooklyn. It's a funny show that rarely digs inside the darker side of the police and enforcement.
But that's about to change.
Because everything has changed and it has to continue to change if we're going to get better.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine Scraps Written Episodes to Confront Police Brutality
NBC has renewed the Golden Globe Award-winning series for an 8th season last November and everything seemed like it was working out perfectly for Brooklyn Nine-Nine but this season, things just feel different.
The show wrapped its 7th season in April and was prepping episodes for Season 8 when George Floyd was murdered, and they had to reconcile the message of the show.
How can you crack jokes about being cops when policing presents a huge issue in America?
One of the stars, Terry Crews, said on Tuesday that showrunner Dan Goor “had four [new] episodes all ready to go and they just threw them in the trash. We have to start over. Right now we don’t know which direction it’s going to go in.”
Crews added that the cast has had “a lot of somber talks about it and deep conversations and we hope through this we’re going to make something that will be truly groundbreaking this year. We have an opportunity here, and we plan to use it in the best way possible.”
Talking is a great start, but action is better.
The show is no stranger to controversial topics. A Season 4 episode saw Crews’ character get racially profiled by a white cop while off-duty in his own neighborhood. And they have a character, Adrian Pimento, built around PTSD. In Season 5 they even did an episode about an active shooter.
It will be interesting to see how Brooklyn Nine-Nine rises to the occasion here, and I have to applaud them for trying as well. Change only happens if we work to sew up the wound, take our medicine, and don't cover it up.
Up Next: How to Write a Sitcom That Sells
Learning how to write a sitcom can open your career to more opportunities and get your ideas on the small screen. But first, you have to master the sitcom structure and format. Keep reading.