A few months ago, I watched the 1980 comedy classic Airplane! with my 8-year-old. I figured he was ready for it – who better than an 8-year-old to appreciate a movie so silly and committed to packing in as many gags as possible that it borders on narrative incoherence?
As it turned out, he was ready for Airplane!, but Airplane! wasn’t quite ready for him; though he got enough laughs out of it to be worthwhile, the movie has aged quite a bit, with more than a few extended gags that depend on being familiar with the zeitgeist of 1980 (try explaining the 8-minute Saturday Night Fever dance sequence), and lots of details that just don’t make sense in 2015. (Sample question from the boy: “Why is everyone on the plane dressed up?”)
Into this yawning comedy void steps Angie Tribeca, a new half-hour cop show executive produced by Steve Carell and his wife Nancy Walls Carell, who was a castmember on Saturday Night Live in the ‘90s, and starring Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation) in the title role: an LAPD detective who does things her own way.
Where Airplane! spoofed ‘70s disaster movies like Airport and The Towering Inferno, Angie Tribeca mines the rich vein of modern police procedurals like Law and Order: SVU and the CSI franchise, starting with a funny riff on CSI: Miami’s trademark screaming intro. With episode titles like “The Wedding Planner Did It,” it’s clear that the mystery in each episode is little more than a clothesline to hang gags on. Sight gags, verbal gags, product placement gags, gags on the clichés and conventions of these shows that we all know so well.
Where she was usually relegated to playing the straight man on Parks and Recreation, Jones gets to play just as silly as everyone else here – everyone else including Hayes MacArthur as Tribeca’s new partner Jay Geils, Jere Burns (Wynn Duffy on Justified) as Captain Chet Atkins, Alfred Molina (Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2) as medical examiner Dr. Edelweiss, Andree Vermeulen as medical examiner Dr. Scholls, and a who’s who of rising and established comedy stars popping up in cameos and guest appearances, including Adam Scott, Lisa Kudrow, John Michael Higgins, Jeff Dunham, Gary Cole, Cecily Strong, even James Franco and someone named Bill Murray?
I found this show really funny, with at least a couple LOLs in each episode. Even having a pretty good idea what I was getting into as I watched it, every one of the ten season 1 episodes managed to keep me off-balance and surprised, which is the most important ingredient in any comedy.
A couple of favorite gags:
Geils: “What happened to him?”
Tribeca: “Let’s say he disappeared under mysterious circumstances.”
Tribeca and Geils in unison: “He disappeared under mysterious circumstances.”
Tribeca: “What’s the cause of death?”
Dr. Scholls: “His heart and brain stopped. After that, he had no chance.”
To give away any more would be to ruin some really funny moments, which I am duty bound as both a reviewer and a comedy fan not to do. Suffice to say, if you can’t find anything to laugh at in this show, you should maybe get your funny bone checked.
TBS is doing something really unusual with the first season of this show, premiering all ten episodes back-to-back-to-back, commercial-free, in five-hour blocks, repeating five times over, for a 25-hour marathon starting this Sunday night at 9pm ET. After that, you should have a pretty good idea whether or not you like it. Season 2 will commence next week, Monday January 25 at 8:30pm ET.