Review: Good Girls 1×1 (US: NBC)

Desperate housewives break bad

Good Girls
l-r: Retta, Christina Hendricks and Mae Whitman in NBC's Good Girls

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, NBC

Every so often, NBC tries to do working class. Like a trust-funder volunteering in a soup kitchen, it’s never very comfortable doing it, but it holds its nose and tries its best all the same.

Kudos to the network for at least trying to go blue collar with the likes of Superstore, but it’s going to be a while before NBC is ready to take off its latex gloves and hang out with the customers if Good Girls is anything to go by. It sees Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) and Mae Whitman (Parenthood) playing working class, Detroit sisters, Retta their equally working class Detroit friend.

All are down on their luck. Hendricks is married to car dealer Matthew Lillard (Homeland) and discovers not only is Lillard having an affair, he’s made some bad deals and bankrupted the family. Retta’s married to a security guard but their kid is sick and needs some very expensive medical treatments. Whitman is a single mother who works at a grocery store and whose ex- is now rich and looking to get custody of their son with his new wife.

Naturally, Whitman has the brainwave of robbing her workplace to solve all their problems. However, rather than simply mulling it over as a fun but crazy idea, they actually go ahead and do it. Even more surprisingly, the store’s safe turns out to have half a million dollars in it, making them rich over night.

Why does it have so much money in it? Well, that’s a slightly less fun story…

Desperate housewives

Good Girls has a confused ‘vaccinated time travel‘ feel. It’s happy venturing into the realm of soccer mums and checkout girls for all of about 10 minutes, during which it tries to show the misery of poverty with no way out. Retta’s visits to her doctor should be compulsory viewing for anyone who thinks the NHS can’t get any worse, while Whitman’s sexually harassed, abused worker is never going to benefit from a #MeToo hashtag. Hendricks isn’t exactly starting from zero, but the fear is she’s going to end up on less than zero before too long.

Guided tour through poverty over, soon it’s off to the land of Porsches, iPhones and doctors who give you refreshing flavoured waters – all accompanied by an almost audible sigh of relief as it musters up the courage to try again next week.

Yet Good Girls also feels there’s a certain nobility in being penniless, with Whitman’s son more comfortable with her when she has no money than when she does. The show quickly punishes its heroines for wanting to have more than they’ve got, even if it is because they’ve committed a crime. Spoiler alert: Whitman’s boss works out it was her and tries to blackmail her for sexual favours; Retta’s husband succeeds in getting into police academy, putting them both in a difficult position; and all three women are soon at the mercy of the (naturally dangerous because they’re ‘ethnic’) gang who were storing the money in the safe. Women: know your place.

That confused feeling extends to its indecision over whether it’s a comedy or a drama. One moment Retta’s being ignored by a hurried doctor and told she needs to find $10,000 a month to have a chance of keeping her kid alive, the next Hendricks is having an embarrassing comedic waxing. The hold-up is all for laughs, as the ‘good girls’ get to pretend at being bad-asses, but by the end of the episode there’s a near-rape and a brutal murder.

It’s Desperate Housewives meets Sons of Anarchy meets Desperate Housewives again. Except not very good.

Whitman unsurprisingly does well, given she gets the bulk of the meaty lines and drama. Retta is mainly there for the comedy and pathos, but doesn’t have the material to work with. Hendricks is largely off in her own revenge comedy with Lillard that feels oddly disconnected from the others’ more visceral plights.

Average girls

Good Girls is neither awful nor great. It’s a show that wants to take a walk on the wild side but gets a bit frightened when it does and quickly decides everyone should stay in their place. Whether it’ll allow all three women to ultimately Break Bad or not, I can’t say, but I don’t think I’ll hang around to find out.