[This is a review of Angie Tribeca season 1, episode 1. There will be SPOILERS.]
Angie Tribeca is a half hour police procedural comedy created by Steve Carell (The Office, Foxcatcher) and his wife Nancy Carell. In an innovative programming move TBS is airing the full ten episode first season uninterrupted on network TV and on demand in one long 25 hour block. The show has already been renewed for an additional ten episode second season, which will begin airing the week of January 25th, one week after season 1 premieres.
It’s an unconventional broadcast for an unconventional show. As a spoof comedy, Tribeca is in a category all on its own and how you feel about it will largely depend on your affinity for slapstick humor and satire. We meet Angie Tribeca (Rashida Jones) as she does her morning workout routine, destroying her apartment and smashing a few watermelons along the way. She dresses for work packing every weapon possible — including a crossbow slung across her back. By the time the title flashes, it is clear that this show is not to be taken seriously, and is committed to its Airplane! style humor.
The catalyst is police drama 101: lone wolf cop is reluctantly assigned her new (237th to be precise) partner by her no-nonsense boss. The dialogue is intentionally on the nose and summarizes the key players nicely. “I work better alone,” Tribeca protests, “I’m tough, but I’m fair!” The police chief calls out as he kicks the odd couple out of his office with a new assignment. Together, Tribeca and new partner Jay Geils (Hayes MacArthur) work together to crack the case of a blackmailed mayor. Along the way they encounter a rich, ribs-loving wife (Nancy Carell), a vaping fake mistress (Lisa Kudrow), and Tribeca does a stint undercover as a nude model. Hijinks ensue, as does a shirtless slap fight and a whole lot of awkward flirting.
As the titular hero, Jones is at her most deadpan, and despite seeing her in comedic roles on both The Office and Parks and Recreation, her turn as Tribeca feels new and exciting, like an old friend revealing a hidden talent. There is not hint of Ann Perkins when Jones starts throwing ninja stars or examines a corpse that is very much alive. She goes all in on both the physical humor and the dry, straight-faced delivery of some very absurd punchlines like “I don’t drink beer, I rent it!” followed by maniacal wide-eyed laughing.
MacArthur is serviceable as her partner, excelling at physical comedy — his gymnastics routine as he chased down a suspect was particularly credible — and his chemistry with Jones feels easy and natural. Jere Burns (Justified, Burn Notice) is always a welcome addition to any cast, and he is perfectly suited to the gruff-but-loving boss role. There is also a Medical Examiner, a police dog, and another detective in the mix, though they weren’t onscreen for long.
The pilot is a volley of jokes and sight gags, burning through the cop-show cliches at a breakneck pace. The show quickly finds an easy rhythm, repeating words and lines regularly (“All due respect I feel very disrespected”). Silly is an adjective that seems effortless, bit is actually very difficult to pull off on a television show, and that is where Tribeca excels: with silly, absurd humor.
While the humor is there — in its own very direct slapstick style — it’s missing the one element that made Carrel’s previous forays into comedy so successful: heart. The characters are all so busy cracking wise there is no time for anyone to really connect, build relationships, or even flesh out fully dimensional personalities. This is not to say that all comedies need heart and character growth to be funny or effective — Get Smart is a great example of this — but it does help to feel involved with the show, and want to follow their antics through to the end.
That being said, one thing is certain, there is nothing quite like this on TV, which is quite the feat considering the current “too much TV” epidemic. Perhaps the closest thing airing today you could compare Tribeca to is FOX’s police comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine, though that is really more of a workplace comedy that happens to be set in a precinct. At its core, Tribeca is a slapstick show with plentiful cheesy wordplay and double entendres. For viewers who enjoyed The Naked Gun films, this will likely be a great fit. For anyone else, this show will probably not be worth revisiting.
Angie Tribeca season 1 is now available on TBS. Season 2 will begin airing Monday, January 25th 2016.
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