You can train a dog, but you can't make him act.
That's the lesson that Steve Carell shared with journalists gathered Thursday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour for a panel on Carell's latest project, TBS' "Angie Tribeca," shortly after the show's resident dog actor was called away from the panel due to a preplanned "emergency."
"The difficulty is getting the dog to do anything. Because the dog doesn't know he's an actor," Carell explained, before qualifying his answer with, "Jagger [the dog] is great. He's a fantastic actor in his own right."
"I have to say, Jagger has really grown as an actor. He's better than me," Rashida Jones quipped, though Carell didn't agree with Jones' assessment.
"There's such a high level of difficulty with what Rashida is doing and she makes it look so effortless," Carell said.
Jones takes her own portrayal of Tribeca in stride and feels confident about the show entering the current television landscape, saying, "This is an era where a show doing well doesn't depend on what's going on culturally. There's so much room now, so many places to show content and so many specific audiences to enjoy it."
That's good news for a show committed to doing a fully farcical take on crime procedurals. Like "Police Squad" and "Get Smart" before it, "Angie Tribeca" aims to tackle a very precise brand of humor that's far from simple to calibrate.
"It is super broad, but within that broadness there are all sorts of rules," Carell said, with co-executive producer (and wife) Nancy adding, "It's a case-by-case basis. A joke-by-joke basis."
It's that joke-by-joke basis where actor Hayes MacArthur, who plays Detective Jay Geils, really sensed the benefit of Steve Carell's expertise. "I feel like working with Steve in this kind of comedy is like a player-coach situation," MacArthur said, explaining that Carell's experience made him an invaluable resource during the process.
"The show doesn't feel like anything else out there right now," Carell said, "It is very specific and very, very silly."
"Angie Tribeca" debuts with a 25-hour marathon of the first season starting Jan. 17 on TBS.