Some thoughts on TBS’ Angie Tribeca

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Unlike most of the east coast, we didn’t get any snow here in Albany this past weekend. That’s A-OK in my book, since I pretty much hate winter, but in solidarity with the people of New York City, Philly and DC, I decided to spend most of my Saturday pretending like I was snowed in by hanging out on my couch all day. It certainly wasn’t because I was lazy 😉 Since I’m in pretty decent shape with my Oscar death race, I decided to spend my Saturday clearing out my DVR. There hasn’t been a lot of new programming lately, but that didn’t prevent me from recording random things to the point where the DVR was hovering at 45% full. That needed to be depleted before shows returned from their winter hiatus, so I set to work.

One of the things that I had recorded was the new TBS show Angie Tribeca. The network had made the interesting choice of airing the entire first season in one day; the show was on a 25 hour loop on the network with limited commercial interruptions, much like they do on Christmas with A Christmas Story. The 10 episode first season, therefore, circled through in its entirety five times Sunday night into Monday. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this programming decision – was TBS simply creating a binge-watching event to keep up with the Netflix trend or were they burning off a show that they didn’t have a ton of confidence in? Angie Tribeca has a good pedigree – it stars Rashida Jones and was created by Steve Carell and his wife Nancy Walls Carell – so my instinct was that it was more the former rather than the later. I sat down to watch the show not quite sure what to expect; I knew very little about it or its premise.

Turns out Angie Tribeca is a comedy very much in the style of Police Squad and the Naked Gun series, in that it is very silly, very slapsticky and has one of the highest joke densities for any show that I’ve ever seen. On its surface, it’s a parody of cop shows, but the jokes aren’t confined to making fun of that genre; pretty much anything and everything is in service of a joke on Angie Tribeca. If you don’t like a joke, wait two seconds and there will be another one. It’s all very low-brow humor, but it’s smart in its execution. This show is completely in on the joke; Angie Tribeca knows that it is moronic and fully embraces that. It takes some very smart people to make a show this silly yet this amusing. There are so many puns and sight gags and random lunacy that I’ll admit I groaned a few times, but all in all the show really worked for me. Angie Tribeca is a show that you don’t have to work very hard at watching, which is kind of refreshing for me. I tend to watch a lot of “prestige TV” which requires your full attention, but watching Angie Tribeca I could just kind of turn my brain off and let the silliness do the work for me.

For me what was most interesting about Angie Tribeca was its star, Rashida Jones. I know that Jones can do comedy from her work on The Office and Parks and Recreation, but she typically plays the role of the straight woman. Her characters generally are the more grounded in whatever show that she’s on and her primary role is to provide the contrast for all the foolishness and more colorful characters that surround her. I was interested to see whether she could pull off being part of the silliness herself, since that flexes a different kind of comedy muscle. It turns out that Jones can be as just as dumb as everyone else and by the third episode or so, she really finds her stride as Angie Tribeca. She’s just as willing to make a fool of herself as the rest of the cast and has a great deadpan delivery that helps sell some of the more ridiculous things that the show does. The rest of the main cast – her partner (Hayes MacArthur), her captain (Jere Burns), the coroner (Andree Vermeulen), a fellow cop (Deon Cole) who is partnered with a dog – are also as committed to delivering whatever foolishness the writers come up with and work really well together. The first season is also littered with impressive guest stars like Bill Murray and James Franco. There are a few running gags – like the police officer that throws up at every crime scene or the parody of the CSI theme song– that make me chuckle every single time.

Overall, I really enjoyed Angie Tribeca; it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel or pushing new boundaries, but it’s funny enough where that doesn’t really matter. TBS did a terrible job of explaining what this show was before it aired, but if you enjoyed Airplane! or other such movies back in the day, you’ll probably want to give Angie Tribeca a shot. I’ll be curious how long they can play this premise out – season two will debut tonight in the more traditional weekly format – but I’m on board for the foreseeable future. Sometimes you just need a little ridiculousness in your life and for me Angie Tribeca fills that void. There are so many jokes in any one episode that even when some don’t hit – and some certainly do not – there is so much going on that even a few stinkers don’t kill the overall episode. Angie Tribeca is a total trifle and its slapstick farce premise may run out of steam sooner rather than later, but for now it’s a welcome addition to my television rotation.

The first season of Angie Tribeca is available on demand; new episodes will air Mondays at 9 pm (EST).

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