Angie Tribeca is the kind of sitcom that finds its roots in stuff like the Police Academy movies, Family Guy, 30 Rock, Get Smart, and other million-jokes-per-minute shows that mine humor from goofy pun, sight gags, and silly visuals. Set in L.A., the show centers on the title character, played by Rashida Jones, who gets a new partner, Jay Geils (Hayes MacArthur). Her boss is the comically-blustery Lieutenant Atkins (Jere Burns), and she works with another cop, DJ Tanner (Deon Cole), whose partner is a super-smart German Shepherd (yup, a dog). Along with the police officers, Angie gets support from the efficient medical examiner, Dr. Monica Scholls (Andrée Vermeulen), and the absent-minded Dr. Edelweiss (Alfred Molina, in a casting coup).
Created by Steve Carell and Nancy Walls Carell, Angie Tribeca is the kind of comedy that throws gags at the audience, never stopping for breath. When Angie asks a doctor to look at a mole, she pulls out an actual mole. It’s that kind of humor. So Angie Tribeca is skewed for a very specific audience, one that doesn’t need much character development or intricate plots, and is satisfied with solid jokes. With those parameters, Angie Tribeca is a very enjoyable show.
What makes the show work is how committed it is to teasing out cliches, while simultaneously offering a wide range of jokes: none of it gets too highbrow, but thankfully, we don’t have too many fart jokes, either. Instead, Angie Tribeca coasts along, busy distracting the audience that there isn’t a whole lot to the show. Whether its traumatic childhoods, sexual tension, or complicated interoffice relationships, no TV trope is left alone. And none of the gags are done tongue-in-cheek: it’s all done with such abandon and such joy, that it’s impossible not to get sucked into the silliness.
Because of its pedigree, Angie Tribeca has scored some top-shelf guest stars including Jones’ Parks and Recreation pal Adam Scott, Lisa Kudrow, James Franco, Gary Cole, Cecily Strong, David Koechner, Keegan-Michael Key, Kerri Kenney-Silver, and John Michael Higgins. The loose and ridiculous scripts allow for these comic talents just to go in, balls deep, and they all seem to have a ball. And there are some fantastic comic moments that elicit belly laughs, such as when Geils is chasing a middle-aged perp through a series of increasingly-complicated locales, the writers do away with any pretense of a stunt double, and MacArthur’s double performs death-defying feats of acrobatic wonder, all while wearing a terrible wig, in an intentionally-bad attempt to look like him (meanwhile, Gary Cole’s villain manages to stay a few steps ahead even though he’s barely jogging).
The cast is also strong, with special kudos to Vermeulen and Molina, who both do some nifty scene-stealing work. Vermeulen, especially, plays her character’s cool, icy competence well. Rashida Jones takes a few episodes to find her rhythm and place in such a stylized setting. Her work as a comedienne has been the straight man – whether it’s to Amy Poehler’s manic Leslie Knope, or to Steve Carell’s manic Michael Scott, Jones has always been the relatable, down-to-earth presence in worlds populated by mad men. In Angie Tribeca, she performs with a tight-lipped grimness for the first few episodes before she loosens up and the scripts accommodate for her silliness.
To unveil the first season, TBS premiered Angie Tribeca in a 25-hour marathon, running all of the season’s 10 episodes, back-to-back, on a loop for more than a whole day. It’s was a smart move as it reflected the new ways in which we watch TV. Given the success of Netlfix’s original programming, binge-watching seems to be a prevalent model for TV-viewership. Also, it showed just how smart the writers are in crafting a show that cares little about fussy things like character and plot development and simply wants to make people laugh: you can drop in on any episode, and still enjoy the show, as there are no long story-arcs, nor is there any real character growth. It’s all self-contained in each episode, which hits far more often than it misses.