If you were living in the age of peak TV (which you are) and you were going to launch an absurd comedy about detectives trying to solve ventriloquist murders and bust up illicit ferret rings (which you’re not, because you have neither creative vision nor television distribution means) you might think to try something a little unconventional.
And that’s how TBS has decided to unveil Angie Tribeca — a clever-stupid police procedural parody that worships at the Airplane! altar — in a most unusual way for a network: By making it a binge event, à la Netflix, which is still going on as you read this. (The binge event, that is. But Netflix, too.) Beginning Sunday at 9 p.m. ET, all ten episodes of season 1 started rolling out. In a row. For 25 hours. (The episodes will then air traditionally, one a week, starting next Jan. 25.) And it’s not just a conveyor belt of season 1 that circles around five times. The show staged a live eight-hour mock-telethon of sorts with a studio audience at CBS Televison City in Los Angeles, doled out in brief chunks after each episode. Viewers called in and conversed with the show’s creators (that would be Steve Carell and wife Nancy) and stars, who include Rashida Jones (as the tough, emotionally wounded detective Angie Tribeca), Hayes MacArthur (who stars as the detective whom Angie is reluctantly partnered with) and Jagger the K-9 (who is totally a dog).
Cast member Deon Cole (you may know him from Black-ish or Conan) gamely hosts the telecast, interviewing everyone from the Carells to a pet psychic about Jagger’s innermost thoughts. Jones leads the cast through a choreographed dance to “Whip/Nae Nae.” (“I wanted to dance,” she later explains with a cheery shrug.) Her co-star Andree Vermeulen throws down a free-style Angie rap. Guest stars David Koechner and John Michael Higgins pretend to be superfans showing off their disturbing fan art. Stars from other upcoming TBS comedies, including Alia Shawkat, Oscar Nunez, and Ana Gasteyer, along with TBS/TNT president Kevin Reilly, work the phone banks and do skits. (Even Pretty Little Liars’ Ian Harding and New Girl star Lamorne Morris take some calls, which totaled about 13,000 over the night.)
A random caller asks Cole’s costar, Jere Burns, if he could score him a discount on a Ford car, as the show featured a Ford integration gag in the first episode. (He could not.) A non-random caller, better known as Carol Burnett, tells Jones that Angie Tribeca is “the best, most wonderful, stupid hysterical show I’ve seen in awhile … You kick ass, Rashida.” That’ll will leave a mark on Jones for awhile. “I don’t even know how that happened,” the former Parks and Recreation star gushes to EW during a break in the action. “I don‘t want to question it but I definitely haven’t processed that. I’m freaking out a little.” She has also been informed that Burnett may be be interested in guesting on the show. “I’m so into that! “Yeah! What?” she stammers. “Absolutely. She can play Tribeca, I don’t care!”
Jones calls the Angie marathon “a cool, bold move” for a rollout plan, noting that with viewers finding and consuming shows in all different ways, “the idea of doing something that nobody’s done before is the most exciting idea. And particularly for this show because it’s so silly, it lends itself to a little bit of gluttony.”
With a show this silly, you wonder: What is the most ridiculous injury she suffered during filming? “An animal pooped on my hand,” she recalls. “It’s something we cut, but in a scene with Adam Scott, I say, ‘I have a suspicious mole. Will you take a look at it?’ ” she recalls. And I pull up a mole — animal — and it was pooping on my hand. I mean, he doesn’t know. So, animal poop. Occupational hazard.”
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Cole knows a little bit of that; he’s trying to keep the proceedings running smoothly. (A technical glitch with a caller left him vamping, and when the caller was finally connected, he had to smoothly wrap it up because time was up). “I’m losing my mind but it’s cool,” he jokes, decompressing in his dressing room during hour five. “I’ve never talked this long ever on live television in my life.” And, by the way, he’s never needed so much time to get into an outfit as he did when shooting an episode from season 2, which will air later this year. “I dressed up as a geisha and that was crazy,” he says. “I still had my goatee through the white makeup. I was great. I didn’t know it took that long to get on those outfits, though. I was I was like, ‘Whoa!’ Do we need to be this authentic with that? Why can’t I just put on a gown and a belt and call it a day?’ “
Here’s another question with no transition: How did his talk with the pet psychic go? “It was incredibly, crazily great,” he says, though he laments that they ran out of time. “I really wanted to get into her,” he continues. “Like, where did you go to high school? Was this a requirement class, or what? How’d you even get into this? What was the first animal you talked to? A ferret? Work your way up? Were you talking to goldfish first?”
Meanwhile, the Carells have been marveling at the absurdity of the scene. They admit that they initially weren’t sure of this whole marathon launch idea. “We didn’t really know what they were going for, but we loved the fact that they wanted to try something bold and different and set the show apart,” Steve tells EW, adding with a headshake of amusement: “This is the strangest night … but in the best way.” The couple spent a little time on the phone bank, too, chatting up fans. “One man I talked to said that he had misdialed the first time and got a sex-with-pregnant women hotline,” Nancy says. “But he seemed to be enjoying the show.” “What???” says Steve.
She turns to him and says: “I think a bunch of people talked to you like, ‘No way!!!’ ” He shakes his head in objection. “People were just happy about the show,” he demurs. “And that’s kind of what we’re getting from all of this. Because this [type of comedy] hasn’t been around in awhile, people are appreciative that there’s something like this to tune into.” “The intent is being made,” offers Nancy. “We’re trying,” he adds.
The Carells, who are big fans of slapstick-played-deadly serious comedy like Airplane! and The Naked Gun, say that this style of laughs poses its own set of challenges. “It’s tough to find the right tone,” says Steve. “There are really no rules to it — what’s funny and what’s not. And when we’re pitching jokes, some jokes seem almost exactly the same but the context might be slightly different and then one will work and one won’t.” But in the end, they embarked on this mission of comedy because for them, it was personal this time. “We made it just in part because we wanted to see something like this and it makes us laugh. And we figured, you know what? Even if it finds an extremely small audience that loves it …” As he trails off, Nancy finishes: “… If it’s good, it’ll be an appreciative audience.”
And maybe a very tired one, too.