'Angie Tribeca': TV Review

TBS
A lot of hits, a lot of misses.
1/17/2016

You've got to be in the mood for the new TBS cop spoof starring Rashida Jones — but if you are, you'll be rewarded with non-stop silly jokes.

I fully endorse the weird promotional tactic that TBS is employing on Sunday with its newest comedy, Angie Tribeca: 25 (yes, 25) hours of non-stop, commercial-free showings of the 10-episode first season. Why? Because when you have a show this silly, you need to be all-in. And even though you can figure out the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink, non-stop joking of Angie Tribeca pretty quickly, immersing yourself in it utterly is really the way to go. If you have even the slightest resistance to things that are “ridonkulous” then you might as well avoid it.

The series comes from Steve and Nancy Carell, trying to tap into the comedic void left by such of-their-kind comedies as Police Squad!, Airplane! and Sledge Hammer. What better way to spoof our overabundance of police procedurals than to put one on the air that’s going for absurd in every line reading?

Everybody reading said lines has to play it straight, of course. That’s how the comedy works. When a woman tells Det. Angie Tribeca (Rashida Jones), “I hope you catch the animal who did this,” Tribeca says, “Thank you, ma’am, but we think it was a human who did it.” When her partner, Jay Geils (Hayes MacArthur), finishes a separate interview, he says, “Thank you for your time,” and then takes the woman’s Time magazine. Yes, it’s that kind of show. 

It might take a few minutes of eye-rolling to be all in, but eventually you’ll get there. That’s the fun of this show. It does so much heavy lifting — there’s at least a joke or two in every line uttered — that you can’t help but be impressed. And with machine-gun absurdity comes a whole lot of jokes that fall flat. But if you’re patient, the show hits five in a row after missing three. Volume is key. And eventually you get worn down and start to giggle, giving way to bigger laughs and then some smiles and back around again.

With all that sweat, you really start to appreciate the cast, Jones especially.

She’s up for anything and never breaks character. When she says, “Let’s just say” — well, you know what’s coming: Everyone repeats what she says. There’s a running joke that nobody knows she’s a woman; yes, it’s absurd, but absurdity gets funnier the more you stretch it.

There’s a cop character on Angie Tribeca whose sole function is to throw up every episode upon seeing the dead body at a crime scene. It’s always funny, and you look forward to him appearing and seeing how the writers tweak the joke.

And it doesn’t take long before you start smiling as you see the jokes being set up. That doesn’t mean they all work; in fact, the show suffers from consistency issues, and for some people it won’t work at all. When the misfires pile up, it’s corny on top of absurdity on top of silly and three strikes are noticeable in that context (the show mines tons of visual jokes at the same time as the one-liners, naturally).

The show has a strong cast, with Jere Burns as Lt. Chet Atkins (yep); Deon Cole as Det. DJ Tanner (who gets to work with a canine partner, Hoffman, played by a dog named Jagger, thus adding exponential amounts of jokes to the show about dogs working at their desk or driving); and Andree Vermeulen, who is very good as medical examiner Monica Scholls, aka Dr. Scholls (yep).

The series also has a number of celebrity cameos, including Bill Murray (though I didn’t think that was one of the better ones).

While I liked Angie Tribeca and can see myself watching many of the episodes, especially when the mood strikes for absolute goofiness, more straightforward shows like the new Teachers on TV Land or, say, Review on Comedy Central are more my thing, mostly because you don’t have to be in the mood to watch them. But comedy is subjective, and Angie Tribeca puts the exclamation point on that notion. You’ll know whether you’re in or out pretty quickly on Sunday.

Email: Tim.Goodman@THR.com

Twitter: @BastardMachine

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