On Sunday night, TBS will unleash its newest original series in a most unusual way. Beginning at 9 PM ET, the first season of Angie Tribeca will air commercial-free for 25 hours, allowing curious viewers to either fulfill their animal urges to binge in one sitting, or to fill up the DVR with yet another show that they’ll totally get to next weekend. Either way, the network is being ballsy with Angie Tribeca just as the show is being ballsy by bringing back a genre that has long been beaten to death by the likes of Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg, the Wayans brothers, and the Shamwow guy, Vince Offer. The spoof comedy is back, and Rashida Jones is its newest star.
The good news is that Angie Tribeca is more likely to remind viewers of the spoof comedy’s golden age, as its subtle one-liners and visual gimmicks will have people imagining Leslie Nielsen walking through the door of Police Squad! once more. Not every joke is a grand slam, but coming from the minds of Steve and Nancy Carell, Angie Tribeca has clearly been made by people who care about the genre, and the cast is up to the task of breathing fresh life into a genre that desperately needs an exorcism from the [Insert generic word] Movie era. TBS certainly has faith in the concept, already renewing Tribeca for a second season (which will begin airing on January 25).
According to Nancy, the idea came to her and Steve in the kitchen after a laugh over something unrelated led to the creation of the character’s name. The idea snowballed into something that didn’t necessarily make fun of the television cop procedural as much as it paid tribute. “It’s an homage to TV detectives, I think, more than trying to mock them,” Nancy explains. “Taking what they do and flipping it. Making it sort of absurd. It’s a mix of Airplane! meets SVU.” Specifically, she says, Law & Order: SVU is “an obsession,” one that she doesn’t always have time for, but it has always been one of her favorites.
That’s why, when it comes to Jones’s portrayal of the titular detective, this isn’t just Frank Drebin in a pantsuit. Nor is Angie Tribeca a lovable goofball sitcom character like Jake Peralta on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Jones is also a fan of today’s popular dramatic procedurals, and so Tribeca is an amalgam of every style of TV cop, from the absurd Drebin to the more by-the-book blue collar detective Joe Friday. But mostly Jones’s character is inspired by SVU’s heroine.
“I play Angie Tribeca, the titular character, and I’m a hard-nosed L.A. cop,” Jones says. “I take no prisoners. I’m a little bit of a sensitive, mushy mess on the inside, but I’m very good at keeping up my tough exterior for my job. It is in the spirit of procedurals that I love – CSI, Law & Order – and we treat each case and every moment of the case with the same level of intensity as those actors do, we just have a dog as a detective who drives. And we have all types of silliness and gags, but for my character it’s her life’s work.”
Yes, there is a police dog named Detective Huffman that drives cars, brings his puppy to work, trains his human partner in a sparring session, and handles his paperwork at the end of the day. It’s as wonderful as it sounds. Joining Jones and Jagger the German Shepherd in the show’s core cast are Hayes MacArthur as Tribeca’s new partner Jay Geils, Jere Burns as the always pissed off (and hilarious) Lt. Chet Atkins, Deon Cole as Detective Huffman’s human partner, and Andrée Vermeulen as the medical examiner, Dr. Monica Scholls. While she had to go through several rounds of auditioning, Vermeulen relied on her sketch comedy and improv background and actually reinvented her character in the process.
“I love describing her as a human robot, she’s just so cold and dry and takes everything literally,” Vermeulen tells us. “She’s not a very warm, sunny, animated person, which is pretty fun to play with. It’s pretty far from my natural personality, so it’s really cool to slip into that. It’s like putting on a snowsuit [laughs]. You step into a new body, it feels like a new toy.”
When it comes to Jones, though, she’s not exactly the first actress that comes to mind when people want hilarity. For the role of Angie Tribeca, Nancy doesn’t say which actress she and Steve were thinking of when they developed the idea in their kitchen (if they had one in mind at all), but once they knew that Jones was available, they knew that she was the perfect fit. And once Jones was on board, she definitely did her homework.