Review: The Good Guys 1×1-1×2

Life on Mars for the lazy

The Good Guys

In the US: Mondays, 9/8c, Fox

Cop shows tend to be about excitement, don’t they? Shootouts, undercover work: you know the form. But most police work is routine, mundane stuff. Any cop assigned to that kind of mind-numbing tedium would want to be doing stuff more like what you’d seen on TV, wouldn’t they?

In that sense, The Good Guys is cop wish fulfillment. An action-comedy cross between Burn Notice and Reno 911 that would really like to be a 70s show like Starsky and Hutch, it sees Colin Hanks (son of Tom) and Bradley Whitford (Josh from The West Wing) playing a pair of Dallas property crime detectives, who no matter what they investigate, whether it’s a rock being thrown through a window or a burglary, somehow manage to end up facing gunfire, international assassins and all the excitement the genre has to offer.

If only it were as funny as that sounds. Here’s a trailer.

From Matt Nix (“Burn Notice”), comes THE GOOD GUYS, a new action comedy about what happens when an old-school cop and a modern-day detective expose the big picture of small crime.

Once upon the 1970s, DAN STARK (Bradley Whitford) and his partner, Frank Savage, were big-shot Dallas detectives. So big, in fact, that they were lauded as American heroes after saving the Governor’s son. Thirty years later, Dan Stark is a washed-up detective who spends most of his time drunk or re-hashing his glory days. A stranger to modern police work who would much rather trust his old-school police instincts, Dan has the reputation as being a bit of a wild card. Able to skate by on the heroic deeds of his yesteryear, he is still a semi-active presence on the force, and with the help of his liquor of choice, occasionally comes through to solve a petty crime.

Dan’s new partner, JACK BAILEY (Colin Hanks), is an ambitious, by-the-book and overall good detective, but is sometimes a bit too snarky for his own good. His habit of undermining himself has earned him a dead-end position in the department, and he is stuck solving annoying petty theft cases that nobody else wants. Worse, he’s been given the thankless task of babysitting Dan, the drunk pariah who can never keep partners for long. Jack may not see it, but he has little chance of getting out of his situation; his knack for making enemies at the station has assured he is not going anywhere.

His only ally is ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY LIZ TRAYNOR (Jenny Wade), a quick witted former girlfriend whom Jack hasn’t quite gotten over and the one person he turns to for help with his current professional predicament. Until Jack finds his way out of this situation, he is stuck awaiting the day when he can turn everything around, get back to solving actual cases and return to being a real detective.

On one fairly typical day, as Jack and Dan are pursuing a Code 58, the Dallas police code for routine investigations, which puts them hot on the case of a stolen humidifier, they inadvertently become engaged in a shootout over a stolen golf bag belonging to a notorious drug smuggler. This starts Jack and Dan on a wild chase to retrieve the bag, recover the contents inside and go after the drug smuggler – all while dodging his hired assassin!

The excitement of the case reminds Dan of the way he and Frank busted punks back in the good old days, and he convinces Jack to go along for the ride. Needless to say, many departmental rules are again broken in the reckless pursuit, showing their boss, LIEUTENANT ANA RUIZ (Diana Maria Riva), that Jack and Dan will be spending many more days in the Property Crimes Division, assigned to investigate seemingly minor crimes in order to keep them out of major trouble.

THE GOOD GUYS is produced by Fox Television Studios. Matt Nix and Mikkel Bondesen serve as executive producers. Tim Matheson will direct the pilot episode.

Is it any good?
The first episode is limp, a series of decent set-ups that keep misfiring. You keep hoping for the zinger or something truly original, but it never turns up.

Sure, this is supposed to be a chalk-and-cheese, buddy-buddy show that lives up to the clichés, but it’s also supposed to subvert them. Instead, a lot of the time it lives down to them.

However, the second episode, despite the presence of some not totally authentic English people (actors authentic, dialogue not), does manage to reverse that, so maybe there’s hope for it.

Central characters
So Colin Hanks is the nebish new cop, Bradley Whitford is the drunk old wreck of an old school cop. Unfortunately, Hanks’s character is too much of a dork to really like, and he has no real character traits whatsoever, except a lack of manliness. You can easily see why his inappropriately dressing ex-girlfriend (Jenny Wade) is his ex-, but you can’t see why she’d want to be his girlfriend again.

Whitford, who is at least putting on a Texas accent, is simply too young to be the character written. He would barely have had a chance to get out of the police academy, let alone become a respected detective even by the end of the 70s.

So the cliched old-schooler, who can’t work a computer, is drunk on duty and screws witnesses he fancies, just doesn’t add up with the actor we’re given. He’s also got so few individual quirks beyond the stereotypical alpha male old-schooler than even with that moustache, you lose interest in him very quickly.

There are also two female central characters: Wade and their boss (Diana Maria Riva). Wade has little to do other than be occasionally helpful and a prize for Hanks’ character to win back one day. Riva I don’t think even appeared in the second episode, and beyond being one of Whitford’s ex partners, shows little sign of being anything other than the standard angry police lieutenant you’d find in any show (presumably Starsky and Hutch being the reference point).

The plots, at least, are fun and each episode so far has had a colourful array of secondary characters (Julius the burglar who’s trying to teach himself Spanish, the world’s second best assassin with his own code of honour, the patriotic car thieves) that put Hanks and Whitford in the shade. It’s hard to guess exactly where everything’s going and there are plenty of surprises each episode – albeit accompanied by plenty of things that are entirely predictable.

Matt Nix, who created Burn Notice, also takes advantage of on-screen captions and non-linear timelines to spring situations, then roll back with flashbacks to how they happen anything up to eight times an episode.

But this is really an attempt to do Life on Mars again, without going to the effort of actually setting the whole thing in 1973/Smokey and the Bandit. Unless the show finds its feet and gives us central characters that are more than stereotypes and are reasonably likable, clever plotting and interesting guest characters aren’t going to be enough.


  • Rob Buckley

    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.

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