Given how addicted to acronyms modern crime shows have become (“CSI,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “JAG,” “NCIS”), it’s nice to see somebody giving the genre a good, solid ribbing with “NTSF:SD:SUV::.” That stands for “National Terrorism Strike Force: San Diego: Sport Utility Vehicle::.” The show—joining Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming block this Friday—throws around colons like Mötley Crüe throws around umlauts. Just as fellow live-action series “Childrens Hospital” mercilessly tweaks hospital drama clichés, “NTSF:SD:SUV::” makes light of cop show stereotypes.
“NTSF:SD:SUV::” is the brainchild of actor/comedian Paul Scheer (“Human Giant,” “The League”). Scheer stars as Trent, the hotheaded, David Caruso-esque leader of our crime-solving team. (Sample quote: “If I could go back in time and unstab that guy in the neck, I probably would.”) Aiding Trent in his often bloody quest for justice and a terrorist-free America are his half-Eskimo partner Alphonse (Brandon Johnson of Second City Theater, Upright Citizens Brigade and FunnyOrDie.com) and insecure tough chick Piper (June Diane Raphael, another improv comedy vet). Upping the show’s star value are sexy lab tech Jessie (the now-Stamos-less Rebecca Romijn) and grumpy boss-lady Kove (Kate Mulgrew of “Star Trek: Voyager” fame). It’s a great core cast, but weekly guest stars Jeff Goldblum, Jerry O’Connell, Gabrielle Union, J.K. Simmons, Wilmer Valderrama and Moon Bloodgood really up the Hollywood spoofery of it all.
The show, like a lot of Adult Swim content, is only 15 minutes long. That’s plenty enough time to make with the funny and get the hell off the air without dragging the jokes out for too long. The show makes sure to drop plenty of pop cultural references about other police procedurals. Obviously, much light must be made of Caruso’s obsession with sunglasses and pregnant pauses. And how can the creators not ape the quick-cut editing, jittery camera work, split screens and random stock footage inserts of “24” and its ilk? Content-specific spoofery aside, there’s plenty of room for random bizarro jokes—such as the one cast member who’s a sentient robot and a premiere ep plot about the evils of the FDA.
It’s still jarring to see live-action shows on something called “Cartoon Network.” But it’s hard to argue with a dead-on parody—animated or otherwise—of sport utility vehicles and the TV cops who love them.