Considering the abundance of crime-based shows on American television, it seems almost implausible that networks keep creating more. In fact, most of these programs, such as “CSI” and “Law & Order,” are so common and similar that their closed narrative storylines, suspenseful plots and tough as nails protagonists have become predictable tropes. With TBS’s newest comedy “Angie Tribeca,” these shows receive the ultimate satirical treatment, though its conflicting cleverness and stupidity come with some repercussions.
Created by Steve Carell (“The Big Short”) and his wife Nancy Carell (“Bridesmaids”), “Angie Tribeca” is an ordinary buddy cop show disguised as a surreal, absurdist parody more in the vein of “The Naked Gun” and “Police Squad!” than “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” It matches the traits of any other crime show, from the cookie-cutter characters to the over-the-top cases. The only difference is “Angie Tribeca” is incredibly self-aware of its own exaggerated nature and offers several obvious references to crime clichés, such as its title sequence: a dizzyingly, fast-paced montage backed by the sound of a screaming man.
But while “Angie Tribeca” can be overwhelmingly droll at times, it contains a plethora of brilliant attributes, especially with Rashida Jones as its winning lead. Taking off from her role as Ann Perkins on NBC’s critically acclaimed “Parks & Recreation,” Jones plays the title character, a no-nonsense female cop archetype who retains both an unwavering conviction to seek justice and a wacky personality. Think Olivia Benson from “Law & Order: SVU,” but younger and sillier. Her partner is Jay Geils (Hayes MacArthur, “She’s Out of My League”), a handsome male cop archetype who is also just as strange and committed to fighting crime as Tribeca. The two bring down bad guys together and form a friendly, ambiguous relationship, which is typical of most crime shows. Regardless of how easily they draw from other leading roles in crime shows, Jones and MacArthur have actual great comedic and romantic chemistry.
Like its two leads, most of the characters in “Angie Tribeca” poke fun at crime show stereotypes, but have their own distinctively odd quirks. Jere Burns (“Justified”) is the hard-around-the-edges LAPD lieutenant Chet Atkins; Alfred Molina (“Love Is Strange”) plays the LAPD’s forensics pathologist Dr. Edelweiss, who starts out each episode physically disabled and then seems perfectly fine in the end; Deon Cole (“Black-ish”) is DJ Tanner, a fierce cop with a German shepherd sidekick. Along with the cast is an exhaustingly talented list of cameos that includes Lisa Kudrow (“Friends”), James Franco (“Palo Alto”), Adam Scott (“Parks & Rec”), Sarah Chalke (“Scrubs”) and beloved ventriloquist Jeff Dunham (“Dinner for Schmucks”).
“Angie Tribeca” ’s reliance on satirizing conventions of crime shows is both its biggest strength and weakness. Many of the show’s gags are hysterical and gut-busting, though they can easily become tiresome after watching them over and over again. A perfect example is a recurring visual gag of the Ford logo in the pilot episode, which appears in every scene with a Ford car and even some scenes that don’t. The overtly obvious product placement seems funny, but it’s like repeating the same joke every five minutes — it may sound hilarious at first, but when told too many times, it’s essentially beating a dead horse. Of course, that’s not to say that there aren’t moments of fantastic wit, the strongest being its spoof of classic crime show conventions, such as dramatic flashbacks, over-the-top action sequences and insanely wild cases. One delves into the mysterious death of a wedding cake baker and another investigates the missing painting of a thumb.
Instead of using the conventional week-by-week episode format, TBS showed the entire first season of “Angie Tribeca” in a back-to-back marathon. Though it made for an interesting marketing move, the show is much easier to watch in smaller doses. At its worst, “Angie Tribeca” is an aggravating half-hour comedy that’s too repetitive for its own good. But at its best, “Angie Tribeca” is an intelligent, amusing satire that boasts a view on how the crime genre can be both captivating and utterly outrageous.