‘Angie Tribeca’ is goofy, silly fun

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.

 

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Filed under Celeb, Comedy, Sitcom, Television, Writing

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