My first real exposure to comedy came from seeing “Airplane” on TV at the supple age of 6 or 7. I didn’t quite know, nor could I fully appreciate, what I was seeing, but I couldn’t stop laughing. Some time after that, I turned on the TV and saw a truck slowly dink a Pinto that immediately exploded. I didn’t know what that was either, but I knew I loved it (turns out it was “Top Secret”).
As I grew older, I pursued more parody and farce in the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker atmosphere: “Naked Gun,” (the admittedly lesser) “Hot Shots, and (also lesser) “Mafia” followed. Eventually, once technology and availability allowed, I got my hands on “Police Squad.” I’ve also pined for a proper replacement for most of my adult life. The likes of “Children’s Hospital,” “NTSF:SD::SUV,” The Onion (RIP ONN and SportsDome), and sporadic “South Park” and “Community” episodes have filled my spoof hole from time to time, often brilliantly.
However, these shows frequently rely on specific knowledge of what they’re parodying. In addition, they’re often simply too weird, meta, gross, or smug for most people to embrace. Regardless, none of these ever consistently captured the combination of slapstick, lampoonery, and self-seriousness of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker works. So my search continued.
Enter ‘Angie Tribeca’
Until TBS and Steve Carell brought us “Angie Tribeca,” a spoof of police procedurals that serves as a spiritual successor to “Police Squad” or “Naked Gun.” Plots range from the cliché (art theft, prostitution ring, hacking) to the silly (ventriloquist murder, a British chimney sweep gang, a “Point Break”-esque lifeguard cult). Each episode manages to squeeze in almost every conceivable pun, homophone/homonym misunderstanding, literalized idiom, and sight gag possible.
“Angie Tribeca” stars Rashida Jones, Jere Burns, a German shepherd, and some relative unknowns. The show also features cameos from comedy-cameo mainstays like Adam Scott, James Franco, Jon Hamm, David Koechner, Keegan-Michael Key, Bill Murray, and plenty more.
The cast and crew has plenty of history in comedy, drawing from experiences at “Conan,” “Parks and Recreation,” “The Office,” “The State,” “Reno 911!,” “The Daily Show,” “Friends,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Groundlings,” and UCB Comedy.
The first season of “Angie Tribeca” (initially aired in one-day marathon) was good, but seemed like more of a straight reimagining of “Police Squad.” However, the show has grown into its own in its second season (currently airing on Mondays at 9 p.m. Eastern). It now feels more “inspired by” “Police Squad” or “Naked Gun,” but stands on its own.
“Angie Tribeca” is also significantly more accessible than a “Children’s Hospital” or “South Park” parody episode. Tribeca, while spoofing police procedurals broadly, more uses the genre as a vehicle to deliver farce. You might miss jokes because you weren’t paying attention. But you don’t need to be a pop-culture savant to fully appreciate it. In addition, the show mostly avoids sex and cursing-based humor, making it an easier (albeit not completely safe) choice when training your own comedy padawan.
If you’re a student of the ZAZ comedy school who has longed for some continuing education, give “Angie Tribeca” a shot.