FOX's "The Good Guys:" Guilty-Pleasure 70s-Style Cop Show


There are three big draws to FOX’s new show The Good Guys (which previews Wednesday May 19th at 8/7c, before landing June 7th) and you probably shouldn’t pay too much attention to any of them. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it.

Matt Nix is going to be featured prominently in any promotion you see, but don’t expect anything remotely like his powerhouse Burn Notice. You’ll recognize Bradley Whitford, but your memories from The West Wing won’t help you here. You may or may not be that familiar with Colin Hanks (unless you watched Roswell), but being the son of Tom Hanks may lead you toward some expectations.

Apart from the general positive feeling you may associate with any of these names, they won’t help prepare you for The Good Guys.

It’s hard to get a handle on The Good Guys, because it’s an attempt at being very simple and very complex at the same time. Referencing a number of 70’s cop shows, with muscle cars, mustaches, and a more laid-back vibe, you’ll easily recognize this as something that might have played alongside Starsky & Hutch, Magnum P.I., Simon & Simon, and a host of others.

Of course, that 70’s feel is due to mostly to the fact that Dan Stark (Whitford) has been around since those good old days. Once a hero, and somewhat untouchable because of past exploits, Stark is now considered an embarrassment to the force, and is therefore assigned to the lowest priority cases.

Jack Bailey (Hanks), sort of a mix of Barney Fife and Lassiter from PSYCH, is too straight-laced for his own good, and correcting the grammar of superiors and fixing misspellings on other officer’s reports takes up a good chunk of his time. Such penchants don’t make him a lot of friends, and the rookie finds himself saddled with Stark, mostly in an effort to keep them both out of the way.

Thus, we’re also working an odd couple angle, which leads you down different paths (Due South?).

“Screwball, retro, buddy cop television,” ought to be enough to let you know exactly where you land with this one, but there are other twists to the general picture. First, it goes a little further at times than you might expect. The old good cop/sick cop routine is rather out there. As is the length and breadth of Stark’s break from the institution. Lots of cops on television don’t play by the rules (it’s actually hard to imagine the point of interest in a show where all the cops follow all the rules), but few of them do it like an aging frat boy on a bender.

Second, there is a truly curious focus on the other side of the investigation. Not because we see the criminals and follow them around to a degree, you can get that elsewhere, but because… well, we’re meant to like them. Some of them anyway. The pilot brings us a wonderful “assassin with conscience,” and the episode plays in a way that suggests this won’t be the only villain that wins us over.

It’s probably a show that has to win out (if it does) by convincing you that it is acceptably “guilty pleasure,” and that’s almost by definition. It isn’t exactly funny in the sense of making you laugh, and it’s too screwy to be anything else. While it has moments that are comedic (unloading two guns at a bad guy at close range and missing), we are in the realm here of some brand of humor that is after being funny specifically by not really being funny. While that is perhaps simply a poor explanation of screwball comedy (or indeed farce), it is nevertheless pretty accurate. There is somehow nothing funny about it. It’s just funny.

I may have kicked this off by telling you not to pay too much attention to the fact that Matt Nix created the show, but he may ultimately be the show’s deciding factor. Whether you’re a fan of Burn Notice or not, it’s his ability to deliver the charm of his characters that will give this show the legs it will need to rope people in with the first few episodes. I suspect no one is going to watch the pilot and instantly decide that it is the best show ever, but the off-the-wall approach can provide enough traction, these guys may get under your skin.

To be honest, my estimation of the show at this point is based a little more on hope and potential than the actual pilot, but I look forward to seeing where things go.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

The Good Guys TV Review is a post from: Are You Screening?


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