Midway through the first season of “Angie Tribeca,” the cop comedy’s straight-laced title detective and her musically named partner, Jay Geils, go undercover to bust a nightclub prostitution ring. As Angie confuses the crowd with a faux sexy song about her “melons,” Geils gives another colleague a (lack-of) progress report from behind the bar.
“No hookers. One john,” he whispers into a hidden microphone as the camera pans to a gleaming toilet perched on a barstool. “But it’s clean.”
That’s also about as clean as toilet humor gets, which is part of the charm of “Angie Tribeca,” a celebration of the silly where visual and verbal puns flow without clogs – or controversy. The TBS show returns for a second season Monday, just in time for some much-needed (comedy) relief.
The TV humor scene, understandably, stands to be dominated this summer by political satire amid a presidential race not exactly brimming with (intentional) laughs. “Angie” – along with NBC’s new variety show “Maya & Marty” and the upcoming fourth installment of Syfy’s “Sharknado” franchise – provides an opportunity for a brief escape into some low-stakes absurdity.
Like “Maya & Marty,” which bounces with a Carol Burnett vibe, and “Sharknado,” which hearkens to over-the-top 1970s disaster movies, “Angie Tribeca” is a throwback. Angie, as played by Rashida Jones, could be the granddaughter of bumbling spy Maxwell Smart of “Get Smart” or the child of clueless Lt. Frank Drebin of TV’s short-lived “Police Squad!” and the “Naked Gun” movies.
While “Angie” is part homage, she’s her own woman at a time when hyper-serious police procedurals fill a major chunk of the TV landscape. Jones leads a cast that includes standouts Deon Cole and Hays MacArthur as Geils, who scored the biggest laugh of last season when he thanked a slain ventriloquist’s wife for her time – as he picked up her Time magazine.
It’s a lot funnier in the watching than the telling, thanks to stone-faced performances that permeate a show co-created by TV deadpan master Steve Carell. While the sight gags are droll, the dialogue of “Angie Tribeca” moves at a “30 Rock”-like pace – and landed as a happy blur when TBS debuted the initial 10-episode season with a 25-hour marathon in January.
“Angie” proved binge-worthy the first time around. Fans are expecting a repeat performance this season, which arrives flush with new comic possibilities.
Jere Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.