On a summer day when I was 12, most of my friends (and the rest of the entire school) went to Kennywood for the school picnic. Not me, though. Instead, a buddy and I went to Cinema I II III to see the yet-to-be-HIV-positive Charlie Sheen turn in a hilarious performance in Hot Shots. That parody of action movies struck the same chord in me that The Naked Gun, Space Balls, and Airplane! did earlier. Their takes on crime procedurals, space flicks, and 70s disaster movies were enough to get me laughing even though I hardly had an idea of the source material they were spoofing, except for Star Wars of course.
The comedy was surreal, absurd, and slapstick. Adults were being silly and breaking the rules of logic and rationality. It was easy for a young person to digest while being entertaining enough for the adults in my life to like as well. The material is inclusive on a multigenerational level in the same way that fathers and sons will be laughing at The Three Stooges until the end of time. Unless, that is, it is a Shemp episode.
But where has this genre been for the last 20 years? Ok, the Scary Movie franchise played into this scene a bit. Where has this genre been for the last 10 years, and why has there never been a lasting foray into television. The Police Squad series that The Naked Gun movies were based on only lasted 6 episodes.
Enter Angie Tribeca. To be honest, I had no idea what this Rashida Jones project was until my lovely wife said that she was recording a new TBS show that was being promoted by a 25-hour marathon. Less than 13 hours later (including time for sleeping) the binge was completed, and I was very impressed, happy, and satisfied. The humor is an homage to the previously mentioned comedies. In fact, the opening scene of the series showing Jones completing her workout routine and loading up with weapons before heading to the station is an obvious reference to Sheen loading up with weapons in Hot Shots (possibly Part Deux).
The jokes are flying at you fast and furious requiring your strict attention to catch the jokes while being sure some references are flying way over your head. Be happy to get what you can and watch out for the vomiting cop early in each episode. Repeat watching will be helpful in getting the whole joke.
There are so many interesting and engaging facets of this show, I don’t if I can do it justice, but I’ll try:
- Steve Carell and his wife Nancy, who is hilarious in her own right, created the series with Steve writing and directing the pilot.
- The cast is small but dynamic and well developed throughout the first season, which can be rare on a program using different writers and directors on most episodes.
One of the best laugh-getters is the character naming. With the likes of Dr. Scholls, Jay Geils, Chet Atkins, DJ Tanner, Fisher Price, Joe Perry, Helmet Frontbut, and so many more.
- The literal use of puns in the show is amazing as they completely deconstruct the language and build it back up. My favorite example is when Tribeca says “Let’s just say …” and the everyone on screen repeats what she just said. Genius writing.
- The shows gives the comedy time. Certainly Family Guy is not the first to do so, but perhaps, the best example like when Peter Griffin bumps his shin and groans about it for a full half minute. It’s funny, then mildly annoying, then hilarious again. Jay Geils follows a similar path as he is brainstorming based on an apple in a ferret’s stomach. Apple, orchard, old people, applesauce, apples, and around three more times.
- The deadpan delivery. No one laughs. No one on the show is ever having a good time, which leaves all of the pleasure to the audience.
- The pilot ends with Geils played by Hayes MacArthur falling down an elevator shaft. This move opens up the rest of the season for a rotating door of partners, which sounds appealing until you realize how good he and Jones are with each other. MacArthur first made an impression on me in She’s Out of My League – a hugely underrated comedy – so I was happy to see him back in episodes two through ten.
- The tenth episode finale ends with the cliffhanger of the bomb timer counting down to zero on Geils’ vest as Tribeca cuts the green wire. Does it work?
I can say if cutting the green wire will stop the bomb. I do know that it will not stop this show. It comes as a breath of fresh air that I would gladly miss a school picnic at Kennywood for. I can’t wait for the next 10 episodes, and from the sounds of it, I won’t have to. New episodes start soon. Until then …
Consume.Review.Repeat gives Angie Tribeca 9 spoofs out of 10. Surely, you can’t be serious. I am serious and don’t call me Shirley.