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'The Bridge' Is Funnier Than You Think

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Sep 01, 2013 | 11:00am EDT

The BridgeFX

Have you been avoiding The Bridge (Wednesdays at 10 PM ET on FX) because you heard it was a dark, creepy mystery with sociopolitical overtones and a fair amount of sudden, shocking violence? Well, okay, it is. But it's also a black-humored gem, with some of the wittiest laughs of the summer TV season, something you'd never guess from a promo like this.

The Office: Homicide Division

American detective Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) and her Mexican counterpart Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir) may be trying to solve a series of increasingly baroque homicides, but the overall vibe of the El Paso Police Department's homicide unit is closer in spirit to The Office than The Wire. Sonya has Asperger's Syndrome and does not pick up on emotional or social cues, which makes her maybe not the best choice to question a grieving husband shortly after he learns of his wife's death. Marco is the walking embodiment of Elvis Costello's old line "I used to be disgusted, but now I try to be amused," greeting each new twist with a philosophical shrug and a wry one-liner. Lt. Hank Wade (Ted Levine) oversees the squad with the kind of managerial spirit that knows exactly when to take the team out for greasy Tex-Mex diner food and when to profess ignorance. "I just Google-searched 'dialectics' and I still have no idea what it means," Hank grumps after the killer gives the detectives a hint about his motivations.

On The Other Side

Meanwhile, at the other end of an underground tunnel that connects Juarez and El Paso, there's diminutive drug cartel overlord Fausto (Ramón Franco) and his oversized henchman Obregon (Daniel E. Mora), or as I've come to think of them, Mutt and Jefe. Their conversation about the difference between serial killers and their own line of business, in which Obregon awkwardly explains that serial killers also tend to do...y'know...sex stuff...to their victims, as opposed to their own efficient gangland slayings, made my wife giggle so hard I had to stop the DVR until she composed herself. Mind you, they're very polite savage killing machines: if they pass you in the aforementioned underground tunnel carrying a dead body wrapped in a blood-stained carpet, they'll nod and say hello. Their mothers didn't raise them to be rude, after all.

Hey! It's Bobby Cobb!

Okay, this will only be funny if you also watch the sitcom Cougar Town, but really, you should be watching that anyway. The tunnel is on the property of new widow Charlotte (Annabeth Gish), whose first act after the death of her rich rancher husband -- other than sleeping with Marco, that is -- is to invite her sleazy, no-account ex-boyfriend Ray to visit from Florida. Ray is played by Brian Van Holt, who gives him the same mannerisms and line readings as his dim-bulb layabout Cougar Town character Bobby Cobb, only without Bobby's innate kindness. Don't get too attached to Ray, though: he immediately started running automatic weapons into Mexico in partnership with another Juarez crime figure, the imposing Graciela (Alma Martinez), and man, he is in way, way over his head. He's gonna die, violently.  And possibly hilariously, knowing this show.

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