Review: 20 Good Years

20 Good Years

In the US: Wednesdays, 8.30//7.30c, NBC

In the UK: No one’s bought it yet

Every once in a while, network executives have a sudden epiphany. They’ll suddenly remember that although the 18-24 demographic is pretty cool and all, there’s a whole load of older people, some of them retired, with oodles of spending money and time on their hands. So they commission a programme or two to take advantage of this demographic. But you know, they’re old people. They’re going in the head. What will they know or care about quality?

While’s it’s been a long time since the halcyon decade of greying TV power that ran from the mid-80s to the mid-90s and gave us never-ending episodes of Murder She Wrote, Diagnosis Murder, Matlock, and Burke’s Law, the idea still comes back occasionally. So here we have 20 Good Years, the theme being that “60 is the new 40” and post-retirement, you’ve 20 years left in which you can seriously enjoy yourself again. Nice idea though that is, it’s seriously lacking in actual laughs.

The plot

John Lithgow is an egotistic surgeon with a thirst for adventure, mainly because his home life is so unappetising. Jeffrey Tambor is a timid judge who doesn’t want to take a chance on anything. When Lithgow is forced to retire, he decides to drag his friend along with him on a voyage of self-discovery.

Is it any good?

Only if you liked John Lithgow’s Dick Solomon in Third Rock From the Sun. It’s more or less the same performance, minus the alien bits. Tambor, best known for The Larry Sanders Show, gives a far more subtle performance than that would have suggested, and is the centre of the show, without which it would spiral out of control, thanks to Lithgow’s vast presence.

There are a few good gags, but it’s not actually very funny, relying upon Lithgow to goon around in place of decent writing. The first episode is more of an introduction, so we’ve yet to see what wacky adventures are planned for the chums. So far, we’ve just been treated to John Lithgow stripping to his swimming costume, going “Behold, I am Neptune”, which isn’t desperately appealing.

Might be worth a look-in, but it’s unlikely. You have been warned.


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.