Private joke morphs into new TBS comedy series, "Angie Tribeca"
PASADENA, CALIF. >> In the grandly silly tradition of "Airplane!" and "The Naked Gun" comes TV police show parody "Angie Tribeca," which started as a husband and wife's private joke.
The clout-wielding couple in this case are movie and TV star Steve Carell ("The Office," "The Big Short") and his wife, Nancy, formerly of "The Daily Show."
"We try to make each other laugh, and we were batting around ideas and the name 'Tribeca' was funny," Nancy Carell said.
Steve Carell casually mentioned the concept during a production-deal meeting with TBS, the channel snapped it up, and he broke the good news at home.
"I said, 'Honey, you know that really stupid thing we were talking about? Now we need to write a script,'" he recalled.
The series, starring his former "Office" castmate Rashida Jones, is getting an appropriately offbeat launch, a 25-hour loop-reel marathon of its 10 episodes beginning 9 p.m. Sunday. Viewers who prefer their belly laughs in half-hour doses can tune in on a weekly basis starting at 9 p.m. Monday.
Jones' title character is a no-nonsense Los Angeles police detective in a stubbornly goofy world, a la Leslie Nielsen in the short-lived 1982 TV show "Police Squad!" and "The Naked Gun" movies it spawned.
"It's not a brand-new idea, this type of comedy. But there wasn't anything like this going on right now (on TV), and that's what was appealing to us about it," Carell said.
Steve Carell counts as comic inspiration his friend Adam McKay, the filmmaker whose work ranges from "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" to the newly Oscar-nominated "The Big Short." He's also a professed fan of the 1960s spy parody "Get Smart."
"Angie Tribeca" wisely adheres to the genre's mandatory and rapid-fire wordplay, sight gags and general willingness to do anything for a laugh. Jones describes it as "wall-to-wall jokes."
Jere Burns plays Angie's commander, Chet Atkins (wink, nudge), in charge of the LAPD's Really Heinous Crimes Unit. Hayes MacArthur, Deon Cole and Andree Vermeulen co-star.
"Just give me a name," Angie demands during an interrogation-room interview.
"Don't you have a name?" replies the man being questioned.
"Yeah, but it's 'Angie' and I never liked it," she snaps back at him.
In another bit, Atkins has a run-in with Apple's digital answer lady, Siri.
"How do you fly a 767?" he urgently asks of his iPhone in a scene that — why not? — puts him in the cockpit of a troubled jetliner, a friendly tip of the hat to "Airplane!"
Replies Siri: "Play James Taylor's 'You've Got a Friend."
The comedy may appear loose and spontaneous but is anything but, according to the cast.
A required focus on timing and precision leads to "a bunch of grown people sitting around having conversations about the most serious way to do the most ridiculous things," MacArthur said.
"There's moments when you're on set and there's an animal trainer between your legs and you have a costume change and you're ripping off your pants and you have, like, a crossbow stuck down your leg," said Jones.
"Angie Tribeca" is part of a slate of new shows that Kevin Reilly, named entertainment chief for TBS and TNT a year ago, is counting on to transform the channels into destinations for edgier fare.
Nancy Carell is seen in a small role as the mayor's wife, but the Carells said they are focused on guiding their baby to success as behind-the-scenes producers.
That's not assured, given the parody genre's relatively unimpressive small-screen track record compared with movies (although TBS ordered a second season before the show's debut).
"With a film, it's an hour-and-a-half and you're done," Steve Carell said. In TV, "you have to pace yourself. It can't be everything all at once. It's also a bit different than 'Airplane!' or 'Naked Gun,' maybe a little drier and the characters a bit more grounded than those characters."
Added Nancy Carell: "Ultimately, you have to like these people."
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