As an unabashed fan of Hot Shots and the original Naked Gun, it’s safe to say a show like Angie Tribeca falls neatly into my wheelhouse. However, while it’s easy to admire Angie Tribeca‘s first episode for how effortlessly it constructs itself as a parody of police procedurals, it’s not really a surprise there are moments where it feels like the show’s fighting an uphill battle against its own length and style. How much can Angie Tribeca really wring out of a well worn, increasingly niche brand of comedy?
Written by Steve and Nancy Walls Carrell (and directed by Steve Carrell), “Pilot” is both a promising introduction to TNT’s first comedy in ages – unless you consider Franklin & Bash a ‘comedy’ – and a reminder of how limited the well of slapstick comedy can be, particularly in long-form. From beginning to end, “Pilot” follows the ever-familiar rhythms of the many late 1970’s-early 1990’s comedies it homages; the ridiculous physical gags, the constant reality and fourth wall breaking, and abundance of outlandish characters and moments don’t exactly offer the most original material, but everyone from stars Rashida Jones and Hayes McArthur, to the many, many guest stars the show ropes in (in “Pilot”, there’s Gary Cole, Lisa Kudrow, and Nancy Walls Carrell herself) are so game, it’s hard not to laugh when the show spirals into absolute stupidity.
There are a few legitimately great gags in the first episode, which follows Angie and her partner Jay Geils around as they hunt down someone trying to blackmail a tattooed, philandering mayor – the best of them when Steve Carrell’s camera wanders around an art class Angie’s trying to infiltrate. But there are moments, even in the best scenes, where Anige Tribeca feels unbalanced; where the show is willing to meander and let two characters riff on nonsense for extended periods of time, the great jokes and images of the art room scene (along with others, like the too-long chase sequence) are rapidly edited, undercutting a lot of the great humor contained in its smallest, most unique moments. When Angie is being broad and conventional with its parody, it feels like a lesser Sledge Hammer! – which is no insult, but Angie Tribeca isn’t a show that should lurk in the shadows of its predecessors.
It all comes down to the material; for Angie to work, it’s not going to be able to rely on character development or an engaging overarching plot for audience investment. For better or worse, Angie Tribeca is a show that will rise and fall with the quality of its jokes in any given episode; given this, the editing decisions the pilot makes make it a little worrisome Angie will be able to fill its potential in season two (which it has already garnered) before its premise begins to run out of steam. Of course, being a ridiculous, satirical comedy means Angie Tribeca can be a little more flexible than the cop shows it’s making fun of; it’s a show designed completely around the random humor it can generate from any given scene, offering it freedom to play with the form and setting in ways most traditional, straightforward cop shows (drama or comedy) really can’t do.
That’s in the future, however; after one episode, Angie Tribeca certainly proves it has the comedic chops to generate laughs – the question is how long can the writers keep the creative energy flowing. The cast can certainly bring it, but I’m curious to see how far Angie Tribeca can take its premise and format over the next nine episodes, and whether it can find ways to craft its wonderful, superficial sense of humor with something truly unique, lest it be lost and quickly forgotten against the saturated landscape of modern television.