Congratulations, you made it… inside. Officer Tuck Wedge stands to the side of a podium, a toothpick dangling from the corner of his mouth. You’ve already passed the first portion of our exam: the endurance portion. Good job, you waited for four hours in the San Diego sun! I wipe the sweat from my brow and settle into a desk, ready to begin my recruitment exam for a Detective position during San Diego Comic-Con. Int. Officer Wedge continues: We need detectives! There’s super villains walking around unchecked. People see Thanos walking around and run over for a picture – come on, it’s Thanos! After a brief introduction, we initiate a drum-roll and Officer Wedge turns on the television – revealing Sergeant Terry Jeffords, Detective Jake Peralta, and Detective Pikachu… I mean, Charles Boyle. I think Brooklyn Nine-Nine will be a good fit for me.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the cornerstone experiential activation in NBC’s lineup at San Diego Comic-Con. Produced by Giant Spoon and NBC, and created by Tin Can Brothers (Corey Lubowich, Brian Rosenthal, and Joey Richter), Brooklyn Nine-Nine expertly blends witty humor, clever puzzles, and a high-energy atmosphere to elevate an already hilarious television show. Separating audiences into three groups (red team, green team, and blue team) of eight (and once again into two groups of four per team), the experience is segmented into a comedy-heavy introduction to the experience and a puzzle-heavy section, emulating their annual Halloween Heist to determine who is The Ultimate Human/Genius! The experience runs almost twenty minutes, clocking in at one of the longest SDCC activations – ten of those minutes are devoted to the heist portion alone.
While it accommodates a large number of participants, Brooklyn Nine-Nine still allows for comradery, connection, and interaction across all participants. One detective is assigned to each group, and multiple perps can be found in a holding cell or being questioned by other detectives. This yields over ten actors for participants to interact with, ensuring everyone has a memorable moment in this experience. The small group sizes allow each member of the team to have a portion of the puzzle to influence and allows teamwork – especially if you came with a friend or two. Further, the large number of players, detectives, and perps in the space only adds to the frenetic atmosphere and hustle of the busy precinct, with voices spilling over, shouts serving to distract, and bodies moving constantly.
The objective is to solve two crimes per team group (four crimes total) and then rush to the front of the precinct to claim The Heist Belt. Each team has different puzzles, allowing for replayability for die-hard fans, and all are wonderfully balanced in terms of difficulty and time. While some are your standard escape-room puzzles, the creative team has taken the time to add a SDCC spin to all of the crimes. Our first puzzle found us interrogating a belligerent Harley Quinn (Alexandria Churchwell), who stole a Pontiac from the show-floor, to determine which TV show it came from: Smokey and the Bandit, Night Rider, or Last Action Hero. Asking their thoughts on technology and Arnold Schwarzenegger and an outright accusal revealed the solution. This was incredibly fun, clever, and exciting. Our second puzzle had us connecting bank robberies on a real map of San Diego using yarn to determine which bank will be hit next – while not as interactive as the first, it was still fun and in-world. These puzzles are approachable by hardened escape room veterans as well as the average SDCC spectator, and memorable for all.
While the puzzles are what you’re doing, the actors determine how you’re doing it – and most often the how involves laughter. Every actor here is full of comedy gold – constantly referencing San Diego Comic-Con, its fans, and the long lines. Mikie Beatty ((E)levator, Students & Friends; Bacchanalia; and Dream Study #114) excels as our host, MC, and recruitment officer for the day. He delivers the rules in the most entertaining way possible: Don’t run, don’t jump, don’t climb, don’t jump, don’t dig, don’t fish, don’t go through the wall like the Kool-Aid guy. But beyond making us laugh, he keeps energies high by engaging the audience, hyping them up for what’s to come. Early on, he identifies his super-fans of the television show and utilizes them to interact with show’s catchphrases. This interactivity encourages others to shout back, clap, and drum-roll their way right into the game. And when we enter the Brooklyn Nine-Nine mobile office, our group’s detective (Josh Wittge) maintains this level of excitement using megaphones, quick movements, and a sense of urgency. There is not moment of silence, as all team leaders are talking at once, on top of interrogations, phone calls, and more.
Placing almost thirty participants and ten actors in a small office in the heart of SDCC, the precinct is bustling with plenty to witness. But slow down for a moment and appreciate the gorgeous set design and numerous Easter eggs spread throughout the room. Each detective from the show has a desk filled with iconic moments from the show. And your team leader will lead you from desk to desk, informing you of what to keep an eye out for: You can tell this is Detective Peralta’s desk because his name is on it… but also because it’s covered in crap. He has two Rubik’s cubes, but neither of them are solved. When we arrive at Terry Jeffords’ desk, we see it is full of yogurt cups stacked high (referencing the running gag of his love for yogurt) and filled with pictures of his beautiful family. This is just the tip of the iceberg – as the set designers cared about recreating the tone and feel of the show, and the attention to detail ensures that it feels like these characters truly work here.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a breath of fresh air in the world of immersive theater; it’s funny, it’s interactive, and it’s engaging. More experiences need to embrace comedy and utilize this strength to bring audiences into their world. Strong acting, perfect world-building, and meaningful game mechanics make this experience one of the best at SDCC – and the 4+ hour lines reinforce it. So, grab your number two pencil and police badge, and get ready to prove that you’re The Ultimate Human/Genius!
Check out Season 6 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine when it airs on NBC next year, and catch up on more of our Comic-Con 2019 coverage here. Follow our Event Guide for more immersive entertainment throughout the year.