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TBS' "Angie Tribeca" is Rampantly and Wonderfully Dorky

Watching “Angie Tribeca” is like seeing the film “Airplane!” for the first time, again and again. It’s not an experience often offered—mostly because few dare to shamelessly pack a script with this amount of sight gags and non sequiturs and then fire at will—but it does make for this new gem from TBS. Resurrecting the previous comedy style from the likes of writers Jim Abrahams and David & Jerry Zucker (also of “The Naked Gun” films), “Angie Tribeca” is 110% attempts to be funny, which it reliably is, as condensed into "CSI"-esque detective tales. Each episode is like a slice of cake, but TBS wants you to binge the whole thing sometime during its 25-hour series premiere of the first season’s ten episodes. If my sampling of five various episodes is correct, I will indeed cherish this show, while accepting that some won’t laugh, but I won’t be privately envying them in the least. 

Rashida Jones often played the straight woman on the likes of “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office,” but now that she gets to be the head jester, she gets the best jokes—in Abrahams & Zucker context, she gets to be the Leslie Nielsen character. And while Jones displays a fantastic comedic flexibility, her cast-mates aren’t too far behind her, like her police lieutenant boss played by Jere Berns, a fellow detective played by Deon Cole, or the resident medical examiner played by Andree Vermuelen. Tribeca’s detective partner is Hayes MacArthur’s J Geils, who while he does have some good notes, confirms how tough it must be to compete with Jones’ charisma—in this sense, the two are distractingly unmatched. Cameo appearances from Cecily Strong, Bill Murray, Lisa Kudrow, Adam Scott, James Franco and Quincy Jones, the latter playing Mr. Tribeca, are great surprises after settling in with the main crew. 

To explain the different detective cases of the series’ episodes would be as pointless as sharing its best jokes. “Angie Tribeca” is simply pure jokes, always and forever, till death do they part, sink or swim, ashes to ashes, et cetera. There are indeed recurring characters and mini crime plots, but both exist for gags—either those continuing throughout the series, or the ones that pop up with welcome unpredictability. Its life force is how creative it can be with its dedication, and while the series premiere felt to be a highlight, other episodes did not leave my increased giddiness for the show untapped. Its peak jokes consistently elicited the most idiotic howls of laughter from this embarrassed reviewer, always a sucker for a left turn on a common joke. I can, however, divulge that “Angie Tribeca” raises the bar on primo dog reaction shots, which is no small feat. 

Once hooked on its humor, there’s plenty of kooky traits to love about “Angie Tribeca,” like its stubbornly weird obsession with naming its characters after musical figures (from James Franco’s Sgt. Pepper cop to someone named Franz Schubert). Or, there’s Steve Carell yowling away in the series’ eight-second theme song, which can only be described as a mad man’s karaoke version of “The Who’s” opening credits cue to “CSI” (before said mad man was kicked out of the club). Not to mention that Carell executive produced the series with his wife Nancy (and they wrote the pilot together, which she has a hilarious appearance in). Most of all, like “Airplane!” before it, “Angie Tribeca” honors the hyperactive yet attentive viewing that is rewarding of such specific comedy, its commitment to the smallest, possibly cheesiest gags within thorough production design and performance. Along with the fast pace editing to each episode's melee of jokes, everyone makes the vigorous passion of comedy look easy. 

A show as rampantly and wonderfully dorky as “Angie Tribeca” has no business on TV. That's an idiom in this case, but when Abrahams & the Zuckers had their own very similar cop show for only six episodes with “Police Squad!” in 1982, it became a literal sentiment, despite the cult following that came (along with the three “Naked Gun” movies in the wake of its six-episode only season). For now, the bonkers “Angie Tribeca” is a refreshing gift for people of a certain humor, a specific taste that wins for at least ten more episodes—TBS has already made a second season (which will air some time later in 2016). Whatever happens to it from there, “Angie Tribeca’s” craft is special enough it only needs 25 minutes—not 25 hours—to be an event.  

Nick Allen

Nick Allen is the Senior Editor at and a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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