‘Angie Tribeca’ Premiere Recap: “Sticks and Stones… And Puppy Dog Tails”

Taking a cue from Netflix, the TBS network premiered the entire first season of its new comedy ‘Angie Tribeca’ all at once on Sunday night in what was advertised as a 25-hour, commercial free “Binge-a-thon.” How a basic cable network could possibly make money from such an event is a mystery even our detective heroine couldn’t solve.

To be clear, the show doesn’t actually have a full 25 hours of content yet. The first season consists of ten half-hour episodes, which were then repeated in sequence five or so times. Although each episode was technically commercial free, they were all bookended with live bumper segments hosted by co-star Deon Cole, in which he filled time by talking to other cast members, taking pre-arranged calls from celebrity friends, and reading viewer tweets. I saw zero need for these to be performed live, and the ones I watched were all super-awkward.

The show itself is a screwball spoof of formulaic cop dramas, in the vein of ‘The Naked Gun’ (or, I suppose more accurately, ‘Police Squad!’). The specific target here is modern police procedurals. The opening credits hilariously mock the ‘CSI’ and ‘NCIS’ franchises. The first scene of the pilot episode is a pretty spot-on riff on the Season 2 premiere of ‘True Detective’. Various other familiar series are skewered throughout.

Rashida Jones stars as the title character, a no-nonsense detective in the LAPD. When her lieutenant (Jere Burns) assigns her a new partner, Angie resists, because no-nonsense detectives never like working with partners. The new partner’s name is Jay Geils (Hayes MacArthur from ‘Perfect Couples’). Other cops in the precinct include D.J. Tanner (that’s Deon Cole) and Det. Hoffman. At absolutely no point in the series does anyone acknowledge that Hoffman is a dog – as in, literally, a German Shepherd.

I’m writing this recap after having watched the first two episodes. In the pilot, someone is trying to blackmail the city’s mayor with compromising photos of his very embarrassing tattoos. Suspects include his bitter wife (Nancy Carell) and his mistress (Lisa Kudrow) who turns out to not really be his mistress. Ultimately, the culprit is a tattoo-hating art teacher (Gary Cole) he’d done nude modeling for

In the second episode, called ‘The Wedding Planner Did It’, Angie and Geils investigate the murders of a string of bakers. As the episode title makes clear, the killer is a bitchy wedding planner who’d been running drugs by baking them into wedding cakes. The case is complicated by the fact that Angie has suffered a PTSD terror of weddings ever since her former fiancé (James Franco) went missing.

The series was created by Steve and Nancy Carell, who also wrote or co-wrote all of the episodes. (Steve directed the pilot episode as well.) The jokes are very broad, mostly centered around silly puns and visual gags, all in the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker spirit. It feels very much like Steve Carell’s sense of humor.

The show’s pretty funny, but it’s unfortunately not as gut-bustingly funny as I might have hoped. It elicited more mild snickers than hearty laughs from me. In fact, I think the network’s teaser ads (which mocked the dark and brooding tone of shows like ‘True Detective’ or ‘American Crime’) were funnier than the program itself.

Still, I enjoyed what I’ve watched so far. I’ll finish off the season when I find the time.

Grade: B

9 comments

  1. Deaditelord

    Reducing TV ads is something the networks are experimenting with to fight declining TV viewership. The thinking is that by reducing ads, current TV viewers will continue to watch them on TV rather than on Netflix or Hulu. To recover the lost money from reducing the number of ads, the networks are hoping that companies will pay more to ensure that their ads appear in the limited ad space. Personally, I don’t see how that is going to work, but if TNT, TBS and others networks are willing to reduce the number of ads I have to fast forward through on my DVR, then I’m not going to complain about it.

    The other idea being implemented to help cover the lost revenue from less commercials (which I can’t find the link to now) is to have companies pay to sponsor an entire episode of the show or to integrate their ad into the show. (I seem to recall reading about Angie Tribeca doing something like that with Snickers?) While I’m not a big fan of blatant product placement, I think this has a better chance of making back some of the lost money.

    • The ‘Snickers’ example is true, because Josh said: ‘It elicited more mild snickers than hearty laughs from me.’

      Sorry, that was a horrible joke. I’ll close the door behind me.

    • EM

      This is actually a return to television days of yore, when a show did have a single sponsor and when its stars might even tout the product. The product pushing wasn’t always integrated into the story, but sometimes it was. Burns and Allen, in which George Burns often broke the fourth wall, remains a hilarious example of integrating advertising with the world of its characters.

      If product placement becomes a sine qua non, TV will be a hostile place for certain scripted genres, such as historical dramas (unless, perhaps, set in the last several decades) and space adventures. Yeah, it was fun to see Scotty try to talk to a Mac’s mouse in the film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, but on a weekly basis it could quickly grate. I shudder to think of Seven of Nine consulting Captain Janeway and Lieutenant Torres about feminine products…but maybe Lieutenant Paris could just keep his 20th Century holodeck programs running 24/7, with plenty of promotional opportunities there. Ugh.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      The product placement in Angie Tribeca was made into an overt joke. Every time Angie goes to her car, a giant Ford logo and ford.com web address conspicuously appear on the screen over the vehicle. It’s also a different Ford car every time the camera cuts back to it.

      • HuskerGuy

        I actually am okay with that overt kind of advertising when it is done comically. A couple of shows have pulled it off pretty well imo. What Chuck and Community did with Subway for example.

        • HuskerGuy

          Meant to add that my wife and I loved the show. Some of the jokes/gags fall flat, but there are so many of them it doesn’t really matter and a much funnier usually comes not long after. Looking foward to season 2.

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