A review of TBS’s new comedy Angie Tribeca, in five parts:
1) Angie Tribeca is a police procedural spoof from executive producers Steve Carell and Nancy Walls, and it stars Rashida Jones as the titular character. That’s a heck of a comedic pedigree, what with Walls’ history with The Daily Show, and Jones’ history with Parks and Recreation, and Carell’s history with, well, everything, most notably — for our purposes here, at least — the film remake of Get Smart, another goofy, spoofy show from years past. It also features Jere Burns (Wynn Duffy from Justified!) as the shouting chief who always has the mayor up his ass, and Alfred Molina as a wacky CSI-style lab technician, and an absolute slew of notable guest stars, including everyone from James Franco to Lisa Kudrow to Bill Murray. If you were putting together a show on paper, you could do a hell of a lot worse.
2) The series takes on two noble missions. The first is to pay tribute to movies like The Naked Gun — and its television predecessor, Police Squad! — by putting a present-day spin on them. Where The Naked Gun poked fun at the police procedurals and films of the 1970s and 1980s, Angie Tribeca pokes fun at shows like CSI and Rizzoli & Isles and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. This is important and good because those old Zucker parodies were and are terrific (see also, Airplane!), and any attempt to honor them is appreciated.
The second mission is more of a byproduct of the first, and might not even be intentional, and might be just me plopping my values about comedy onto their television series: to steal back the parody genre from the Seltzer/Friedbergs of the world and make it respectable again. Films like Date Movie and Meet the Spartans have turned the genre into a bit of a diaper fire. It is badly in need of a hero.
That second mission, “Be Better Than Some Awful, Lazy Movies,” is pretty easily achievable. The first, “Live Up To Police Squad!,” is much more difficult, in part because Police Squad! contains maybe the greatest line in television history.
3) All of which brings us to the big question: Angie Tribeca, good or nah? And the answer is… yeah, kind of!
I’ll explain: Think of a free-swinging power hitter in baseball, a guy who takes huge grunting cuts at everything he sees, sometimes sending the ball on a glorious arc toward the third deck, but sometimes missing with such gusto that his helmet falls off. Think of, like, Jim Thome. Angie Tribeca is a little like Jim Thome. It takes a lot of swings in each half-hour episode. When it connects on a joke, it really connects. There were plenty of moments where something so profoundly silly happened that laughter just kind of jumped out of me before I realized what happened. When it doesn’t connect, though, it can produce some groaners. If you’re willing to live with a few of those to get rewarded with the dingers, you’ll probably enjoy Angie Tribeca quite a bit. I did.
4) TBS is doing something weird with the show, which you might have heard about. It’s running the entire 10-episode first season five times through in a single 25-hour marathon on January 17. This, on its face, is crazy, and when I first heard TBS was doing it, I pictured them as a 35-year-old narc sitting next to Netflix and Amazon Prime in the high school cafeteria and saying, “You guys like binge-watching, too?”
Upon further review, however, after binge-watching most of the episodes myself in a 36-hour period, it’s actually kind of brilliant. The show seems to build up steam the more you watch it. I came out of the first episode pretty cool on it, but by about episode four, I had done, if not a 180, at least a 140 on it. I’m still not sure if that’s because the episodes had gotten that much better or if it just took a while to break down my walls and suck me into its goofy world, but by the time Rashida Jones was singing an innuendo-laden song called “Fruit Salad” to a crowded night club as part of an undercover operation, the show had charmed me. If all that comes out of Angie Tribeca is Rashida Jones becoming the new Leslie Nielsen, I’ll consider it a win.
5) The unit Angie Tribeca works in, the Really Heinous Crimes Unit, includes a cop (Deon Cole) who has a dog for a partner, and the dog does people things. Here he is using a computer. There has been a real lack of dogs using computers on television since Dog with a Blog went off the air. I’m glad someone is finally addressing it.
Angie Tribeca premieres this Sunday on TBS, repeatedly.