Police-show spoof Angie Tribeca to debut on OSN First Comedy

The brilliant stillness of Steve and Nancy Carrell shines in this new series. We spoke to the couple and cast about the show.

Hayes MacArthur, left, and Rashida Jones in the cop comedy Angie Tribeca. Turner Entertainment Networks
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Angie Tribeca is a glorious breath of fresh laughing gas, a send-up of police procedurals of a calibre we haven't seen since the late, great Leslie Nielsen ruled the twisted roost of Police Squad! and the Naked Gun film series it inspired.

A brainchild of the husband-and-wife team of Steve and Nancy Carell, who serve as its executive producers, this new TBS series pulls off the hardest coup in comedy – characters who play it ramrod straight in the face of chaos, calamity and danger, clueless to the hilarity unfolding around them – thanks to the assured performances of a cast who make it all look easy.

The 10-episode series spins around the misadventures of the lone-wolf veteran detective Angie Tribeca, played by Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation, The Office), who leads her squad of Los Angeles Police Department detectives as they investigate the most serious cases – from the murder of a ventriloquist to a rash of baker suicides – as part the elite RHCU (Really Heinous Crimes Unit).

Just for laughs

The half-hour comedy, which debuts tonight on OSN First Comedy, came into being in the silliest but sweetest of ways.

"We got to talking; Nancy and I like to make each other laugh in our spare time, and we came up with this name. It was just a name," says Steve Carell, whose comedy pedigree rose from five years as a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to starring as Michael Scott in The Office (2005-2013, the role that won him a Golden Globe), and in movies, from The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) to last year's The Big Short.

“It was ‘Tribeca’ first,” says Nancy Carell. “We just thought: what a funny last name it would be for somebody to have the name Tribeca. And what would her first name be? And ‘Angie’ seemed perfect. And then we were just riffing on who Angie Tribeca was.”

Steve adds: “And it turned into this incredible idea for a cop show. But we weren’t pitching this idea. We were just making each other laugh. And then we started building ... her hobbies ... her world ... who she is. And then we thought, maybe we should just write some of this stuff down.”

In the Really Heinous Crimes Unit

Playing second banana to Angie in the RHCU is Jay Geils (Hayes MacArthur, Life As We Know It, Go On), her pain-in-the-side partner and sometimes love interest.

"I've never been given the chance to do this kind of comedy," says Jones, the daughter of actress Peggy Lipton (Mod Squad) and musician and record producer Quincy Jones. "So much of it has to be choreographed perfectly and [it's] so visual that it's hard to get right."

MacArthur adds: “I’ve been watching cop procedurals my entire life, so when I saw an opportunity to make fun of one, I jumped at it.”

Adding to the comic firepower are: Jere Burns (Justified, Breaking Bad) as the squad's apoplectic captain and Angie's boss Lieutenant Pritikin "Chet" Atkins; Deon Cole (Conan, Black-ish) as detective Danny "DJ" Tanner; Andrée Vermeulen (Laid Off, How To Train Your Dragon TV series) as the quirky, bespectacled coroner Monica Scholls; Alfred Molina (Spider-­Man 2, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot) as Dr Edelweiss, the expert scientist; and Jagger the German Shepherd, who steals scenes as Tanner's K9 partner Max.

Both Carells also want it known that “not involved with the series is Martin Scorsese”.

What’s so funny

It's hard to believe Police Squad!, the 1982 TV series that lasted all of six episodes for its legendary funnymen creators David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams, continues to influence our love of sight gags, wordplay and non sequiturs.

But there’s nothing simple about this stripe of comedy, says Steve, who lavishes praise on how Jones has stepped up to the plate.

“There’s such a high level of difficulty with what she’s doing in this,” he says. “It’s such a specific tone. And she makes it look effortless. And to play that part and to be so committed to it and to actually give it depth, in a strange way, amid all of this absurdity and silliness, that was the key component – and that’s the linchpin for the entire show.”

Guest stars

The Carells must be onto something, because the cool array of guest stars on board this season includes Bill Murray, James Franco, Jeff Dunham, Amy Smart, Cecily Strong and Danny Trejo. “The Carells are huge fans of comedy,” says MacArthur. “To get in there and see how sick and twisted their mind is, is fun to do.”

Angie Tribeca debuts tonight at 8:30pm on OSN First Comedy; it will be broadcast on Tuesdays

artslife@thenational.ae