The current abundance of original series ensures that everything old will be new again, including send-ups of TV’s most venerable forms. So in the tradition of “Police Squad!” and “Sledge Hammer!” comes “Angie Tribeca,” a half-hour spoof of detective shows, with a title character earnestly played by Rashida Jones and fellow “The Office” alum Steve Carell among the marquee producers. Filled with as many cameos as puns and deadpan one-liners, the series starts out with a goofy energy. But in terms of those expecting much staying power, given how slim the conceit is, surely, you can’t be serious.
Written and directed by Carell (who created the series with his wife, actress Nancy Walls Carell), the premiere quickly lays out the show’s parameters. So when Angie, who works for the Really Heinous Crimes Unit, goes for a drive with her new partner, J Geils (Hayes MacArthur of “Life as We Know It,” sporting one of the many musician names that straight-facedly pop up), the camera doesn’t just zoom in on the car’s Ford logo — the auto maker’s Website conspicuously flashes on the screen.
And so it goes. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti makes a cameo — not as himself, but as a security guard outside the office of L.A.’s mayor, whom the detectives are en route to see. (This will presumably produce howls of laughter among the six or seven people who actually recognize him.) When somebody in showbiz points out that the audience to which an act will be playing is “full of scouts,” rest assured, it’s not going to be the ten-percent, talent-representative kind.
Calling in any number of chits, there are plenty of able performers who make appearances, including Alfred Molina as a wacky medical examiner (as if there’s any other kind) and Lisa Kudrow as a persnickety witness/suspect. And Angie’s fear of getting close to J is naturally born out of past personal tragedies, just as her boss (Jere Burns) barks orders with comical exasperation.
Still, this is another one of those projects where the celebrity production auspices probably had more to do than they should have with earning a go-ahead from network honchos, an approach to development that generally tends to look better in the initial flurry of promotion than it does around, oh, episode five or six. Even the stunt being used to launch the show — a 25-hour marathon of the 10 episodes — feels not so much inventive as simply too cute for its own good.
Credit Jones and MacArthur with wringing about as much mileage as they can out of scenes where the two are thisclose to kissing before experiencing some spectacular interruption, but there’s only so far one can go on jokes that feel so well worn. And while TBS, like its dramatic counterpart TNT, is clearly engaged in some experimentation in terms of how best to fulfill its “Very funny” slogan, “Angie Tribeca” might be in the right neighborhood but never quite reaches that destination.