TBS’ Angie Tribeca is one of the funniest shows on TV, and also one of the most unusual. Police comedies are rare, but we have seen some standouts like Brooklyn Nine-Nine that mostly deal with a relatively normal, relatively grounded world and offer some sitcom-standard fare while finding ways to revise and improve the form.
Angie Tribeca goes to the opposite pole, though, offering a madcap, joke-a-minute romp full of sight gags and puns that’s only loosely connected to the real world, something that’s best described as a cop-show parody in the vein of Police Squad and The Naked Gun series.
Through two seasons, that approach has been a recipe for remarkable success. However, it’s been an approach that hasn’t stayed the same. The season two finale Monday and the second season as a whole demonstrated that the show’s move to darker, more serialized storytelling paid off. Creators and executive producers Steve Carell and Nancy Walls Carell, along with their writing staff found a way to maintain the laughter and jokes of the first season while also setting up new angles for the writers and actors to explore, and those angles paid plenty of dividends.
The second season of Angie Tribeca proved that a show can be serious and ludicrous at the same time. The main cast of police officers Angie Tribeca (Rashida Jones), Jay Geils (Hayes McArthur), Pritikin “Chet” Atkins (Jere Burns), DJ Tanner (Deon Cole) and Dr. Monica Scholls (Andrée Vermeulen) got some interesting new angles to play this year, between Tribeca’s year unconscious in the hospital (which included delivering her and Geils’ baby) after a bomb explosion, Geils leaving her for Scholls and raising the kid with her, Scholls’ unawareness of the baby’s parentage and much more. All of those storylines had their dark moments, but these actors are capable and very funny, and they managed to use those dramatic angles to create a lot of jokes.
The serialized approach to storytelling worked out quite well, too. Season one was largely crime-of-the-week based, but while season two kept that general approach, it also featured a slow-burning arc about Tribeca’s former partner Eddie Pepper (James Franco), the Mayhem Global group that featured Diane Duran (Heather Graham), and the plot against Mayor Joe Perry (Matthew Glave) that spanned much of this season.
There were still great and ludicrous crimes of the week, including “Boyz II Dead” seeing a boy band star having his head blown off by a sabotaged t-shirt cannon (which led to Cole’s highlight of the season, when Tanner went undercover as a replacement boy band performer), “Organ Trail” seeing Tribeca and Giles paired with a romance novelist (Maya Rudolph), and “Beach Blanket Sting-O” depicting Giles going undercover as a lifeguard. But most episodes also played into the larger arc in one way or another.
In the end, that arc culminated perfectly, and that illustrated how this show is able to blend the insane and the grounded. Monday’s finale, “Electoral Dysfunction,” wrapped up the very serious murder plot against the mayor while including ludicrous moments such as an Advent calendar with “Kill mayor,” a baby shipped overnight, a lightsaber, a very unsafe safe house, a garbage truck getaway and a whole lot of masks. It demonstrated a lot of the laugh categories that are working for this show right now, from puns (“The mayor’s going to let you go.” “Pardon me?” “THE MAYOR’S GOING TO LET YOU GO!”) to sight gags (the knight in full armor walking through a hotel lobby was particularly good) to character moments (like the scream of “NOOOO!” Perry’s wife, perfectly played by Walls Carell herself, let out when her martini glass got shot).
Season two also had some killer back-and-forth dialogue that’s a nice parody of cop shows (“You’re asking me to choose between the woman I love and the mayor who has done a pretty crappy job of running our city.” “Hey! That’s our mayor! How would you like it if he said mean things about you!”), and it had both the serious conclusion to the arc and a lot of ridiculous moments (such as the final mask reveals).
The guest star lineup and performances this show has been able to get also deserve a lot of praise. Season two featured Franco, Graham and Glave in regular recurring roles, but also guest stars ranging from Jon Hamm to Busy Philipps to real-life boy band members like Aaron Carter and Joey McIntyre. Season one had everyone from Adam Scott to Bill Murray to Gene Simmons.
The show’s been smart in how it utilizes its guests, too, giving them excellent chances to be funny and wacky roles to play, but still driving much of the comedy from the main cast, how they interact with each other, and how they play off the guests.
Angie Tribeca will be returning for a third season in 2017, and this second season illustrates how this show seems to still have more to offer. The first season was great, and incredibly unique compared to other comedies on TV, but there was a bit of a worry that they’d run out of jokes for the joke-a-minute structure. Added serialization has helped there, providing some opportunities for different locations and interactions as well as character development, and the darker, more dramatic moments have also been a boon. The Tribeca-Geils-Scholls love triangle and baby saga is at once dark, sad and hilarious given the jokes it creates.
Season one proved Angie Tribeca was shaking things up, season two proved it has some staying power. Season three should be a lot of fun.