There’s an old showbiz saying: Dying is easy, comedy is hard.
Rashida Jones knows the feeling.
She says she could die laughing every day on the set of Angie Tribeca, a blissfully stupid new cop-show parody, yet it’s essential that she “sell” the off-the-wall one-liners and sight gags with a straight face.
“It’s definitely a challenge for me,” says Jones, who plays the title character, a deadpan police detective. “I thought it was going to be easier than it is. This type of comedy is so easy to watch that you just think it’s easy to make.”
Angie Tribeca belongs to the Get Smart/Airplane/Blazing Saddles school of genre-busting humor: No joke is too silly, no situation too outrageous.
It debuts at 8 p.m. Sunday on TBS in the form of a binge marathon: 10 half-hour episodes airing over and over in a 25-hour loop.
There’s something magical about playing things really seriously that are really stupid.
“This is my kind of comedy,” says Jones, who has already demonstrated a flair for the funny in such shows as Parks and Recreation and The Office. “There’s something magical about playing things really seriously that are really stupid.”
In the premiere episode, for example, we meet Angie in a montage of images that document her energetic morning workout ritual. Some of the shots use an obvious stand-in: a fat-fingered, hairy-armed man!
Later, at police headquarters, the lone-wolf beauty protests when she is introduced to her new partner, Detective J. Geils (played by Hayes MacArthur). She insists she works better alone, that her partners have a nasty habit of getting killed.
But her always-yelling lieutenant (Jere Burns) is convinced that partner No. 237 will be the charm.
Then Tribeca and Geils get cracking on a blackmailing case, which requires that Angie go undercover as a nude model. She won’t tell where she hid the wire: “Let’s just say we should throw it out when we’re done.”
Every cliché from years of CSI, Bones and Law & Order, even the clichés we didn’t realize were clichés, are fair game in Angie Tribeca.
Given that there are more crime dramas on TV than stars in the sky — even Jones co-starred in one … remember Wanted, which briefly aired on TNT in 2005? — this is a genre that’s ripe for ridicule.
Here’s another taste: When Dr. Edelweiss and Dr. Scholls (seriously! Dr. Scholls!) of the LAPD’s coroner/forensic/gift shop office discuss the blackmail note, the deadpan conversation goes like this: “Any prints?” “No, I wiped them all off.”
And we haven’t even mentioned the detective known as Hoffman. None of the other characters ever seems to notice that he’s a dog.
Says Jones of her canine co-star: “He’s better than me at taking direction.”
Every day on the set, as you can imagine, is a circus environment — yet Jones and her co-stars can show only their poker faces.
“There are moments when you’re on set and there’s, like, an animal trainer between your legs and you have, like, a costume change and you’re ripping off your pants and you have, like, a crossbow stuck down your leg,” Jones says. “There’s so much you have to get right visually.
“Then, on top of that, you have to believe all your circumstances and not point to the joke.”
The show was created by Steve Carell (“The Office,” “The Big Short”) and his wife, Nancy.
The show was created by Steve Carell (The Office, The Big Short) and his wife, Nancy.
The two were cracking jokes about some of their favorite cop show clichés — “we weren’t thinking of pitching a show,” Carell says, “just sort of riffing and making each other laugh” — and before they knew it, they had a modern-day version of Leslie Nielsen’s The Naked Gun on their hands.
After the Carells polished off a pilot script, they emailed it to Jones, hoping she’d be interested.
Two thoughts immediately occurred to Jones when she read the script. One was that she would have to play this great character.
And the other thought? “How did Steve Carell get my email?”
- 8 p.m. Sunday