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Picture in your mind a television show that takes into account audiences' expectations for ribald cable comedy series, and then both embraces those tropes and subverts them with equal measure. Now picture that same show also doing lots of other sweet and hilarious shit that would be too long to sum up in this intro paragraph. I'm speaking of truTV's freshman comedy hit Tacoma FD, which hails from the minds of Broken Lizard members and Super Troopers co-writers/co-stars Steve Lemme and Kevin Heffernan.
Shifting public service locations to the fire station, Tacoma FD centers on a group of unique and fun-loving firefighters that may not seem like the most talented team for the job... Oh wait, did that sentence not seem finished? In any case, here are some of the reasons why Tacoma FD counts as must-watch TV for both diehard fans of Super Troopers and those who never even heard of it.
The Creative Dynamic Duo
Having performed together as part of Broken Lizard since 1989, comedians Steve Lemme and Kevin Heffernan could probably finishes each other's sentences, meals and pee breaks with the greatest of ease. That level of familiarity is mostly impossible to forge, and plays a large part in making Tacoma FD instantly feel like a series settling into its Season 3 groove, as opposed to one just branching out to secure a steady fanbase.
I don't think anyone familiar with Broken Lizard's work – which also includes Beerfest, Club Dread and The Slammin' Salmon – will consider Lemme and Heffernan's efforts here to be foreign and unrecognizable. Tacoma FD is filled with ridiculous wagers, friendly pranks, and clever tweaks on completely juvenile humor. TV isn't exactly suffering from a dearth of such programming, but few other shows can boast a pair of tried and true comedic talents comparable to Steve Lemme and Kevin Heffernan.
Kevin Heffernan stars as Tacoma FD's Terry McConky, while Steve Lemme is his second-in-command, Captain Eddie Penisi. The two men are friends that can depend each other in some cases, but it's in Penisi's blood to stick with the mindset that McConky is still just one of the responsibility-dodging crew as opposed to the man in charge. This generally means McConky gets bombarded by consequences of Penisi's actions, but the actors' chemistry on and off screen helps save Penisi from looking like too much of a dickpunch-deserving douchebag.
The Rest Of That Cast, Too
With the two co-creators taking the roles of the fire station's two higher-ups, there are a bunch of other hilarious characters for viewers to stare at inquisitively during their moments in the sun. First up is Get Out's Marcus Anderson as Granville "Granny" Smith, who's possibly Tacoma FD's most logical and pragmatic character, never quite letting laughs override responsibilities. (He's also quick to Google things others aren't aware of.)
On the flip side is the completely illogical and radically impulsive Ike Crystal, as played by Condor's Gabriel Hogan. Ike rocks the show's best mustache and physique, which ties into his other job as a male stripper, and his occasionally tarnished heart of gold is presumably also buff. Ike is quite fond of Andy, as played by Wrecked's Eugene Cordero. Andy is, when the show starts, still the newest member of the crew, so he faces arguably the most razzing and ribbing, and he's an admittedly worthy target.
A few episodes into the first season, the crew lands a new probie in Hassie Harrison's Lucy McConky, who just so happens to be the Chief's daughter. Her introduction starts going the way viewers might expect, with the Chief being protective despite the guys' desire to playfully rankle Lucy, but it all gets turned on its head soon enough, since Lucy isn't just some newbie off the street. She provides a fun way for Tacoma FD to draw attention to the real fact that it's a male-dominated show.
Jokes + Characters = Stories
It may be obnoxiously obvious to assert that a good TV comedy needs to a balanced triforce of humor, character development and narrative structure. However, it's also obnoxiously obvious how many shows out there fail miserably on this front, either offering up weak characters spouting genius lines or godawful jokes being spun whimsically by strong personalities. Though it works within an admittedly limited scope, Tacoma FD immediately clues audiences in on exactly who these people are, and what they think is funny.
One way Tacoma FD excels with the above formula is through its cold open scenes ahead of the opening titles. Bucking the trend of non sequitur openers, the truTV comedy offers up hilarious sequences that could easily stand alone, but the creative team wisely keeps every moment connected to the inherent plot, as bizarre as those plots may be.
Take the series premiere, which opens on a quick-paced food contest that both utilizes Chief McConky's wet mouth and also inspires a surprising solution for a llama rescue mission. (Naturally.) Or the upcoming episode referenced in the picture above, which features the put-upon Andy temporarily changing shifts with an overbearing firefighter played by Nat Faxon. Just five episodes in, and Tacoma FD is already delivering deeply nuanced character studies. Sorta.
It's A Surprisingly Relatable Workplace Comedy
For the most part, TV shows set inside specific workplaces don't provide a lot of realistic or relatable situations in the name of storytelling. And while I'm not going to claim that fire departments across the country are often sidelined by prank wars with opposing police departments, Tacoma FD still manages to make its episodes and stories as universal as can be in many other ways.
A lot of that has to do with the chemistry and comfort of this all-star cast. Even though their contests and practical jokes may be on a larger scale than the ones you or I might take part in, the motivation behind the office shenanigans is something anyone could recognize and relate to. There are desires, frustrations and fears that also line up with those of an average day job.
Perhaps the most important element to note here is that no one on Tacoma FD is depicted as being a "bad" firefighter or a "bad" cop, at least in terms of providing a public service. As well, it's rare for characters to actively complain about the job itself. The non-complaint element isn't so relatable for most people, but it would be much more damaging if Tacoma FD presented everyone as lazy and inept dipshits.
No one likes working with those who lazily and intentionally fail, so I was glad that Tacoma FD sidestepped that potential pothole and went for more of a silly Brooklyn Nine-Nine vibe than a slacker Workaholics vibe. (Not that I don't also wholeheartedly adore Blake, Adam and Anders.)
There's no need to wait for something to catch on fire, or for your prized cat to get stuck in a tree. Fans can watch Tacoma FD every Thursday night on truTV at 10:30 p.m. ET.