The Good Guys
The Good Guys on FOX is trying hard to sell itself as your atypical cop drama. A refined, crisper, more ironic version of those 1970’s Hill Street Blues-esque shows that you, or more likely your dad, look back upon fondly. This new monster winks and nods towards the '70’s while also using it as cover for their more odious techniques (“that’s what TV was like back then”). It’s breezy and comfortable, safe for kids and perfect to fall asleep to. So far they have survived four episodes, each bringing in around 4.5 million viewers and it has also won some surprisingly positive reviews which has added up to a full season pick-up. That means everybody will get paid without really having to exert themselves and most likely the show will continue providing mushy humor from a worn out premise. Not all is lost though as there are some very positive aspects, most notably the performances of the two stars that FOX brought in to headline.
The odd couple in question are played by Bradley Whitford and Colin Hanks, and while neither of them looks challenged in the least they do manage to hit the right notes in conveying different parts of their respective stereotypes. Whitford will never find a role more perfect than that of Josh on The West Wing but there is nothing here for him to be embarrassed by. As Dan, the devil may care “bad cop,” who only subscribes to his own version of legality, Whitford is stepping away from the more polished characters that he normally plays and gives this one a sleazy edge that we haven’t seen out of him before. His undeniable charm is still there we just have to look a little closer to recognize it. Next to him is Hanks who is growing deeper and deeper into his father’s skin with each passing day. He plays Jack the by the book straight man who spends his working life trying to counteract Dan’s archaic style of police work and attempting to win back the love of his former flame/co-worker Liz (Jenny Wade).
Together they cruise around Dallas getting tangled up in overly contrived, episodic cases that present ridiculous problems that can only be solved by equally ridiculous solutions. Say, for instance, that only a locked door stands in the way of apprehending a criminal syndicate. Do they use a battery ram? Call for back up? Check to see if there is another entrance? Of course not, none of that is as appealing as setting up a barrel of chemicals in front of the door and unleashing your firearm on it. Every episode feels vaguely identical and after a few you’ll most likely start to hear a nagging voice in the back of your head imploring you to stop wasting your time. There are far more offensive time wasters out there (pick a CBS primetime show, any show) and there are flashes of sharp, insightful writing but too often it is bogged down by network assimilation and the rather depressing demands of the public.
Time will tell whether those problems can ultimately be defeated, but we see no reason to hold your breath. Instead enjoy what there is to enjoy and leave it at that. Whitford is always worth watching even when dutifully walking his way through an uninspired shtick, such as Dan’s insistence on waxing nostalgic about his old partner Frank. It’s also somewhere to go if you are looking for a vacation from the deadly serious (yet far better) cop dramas of FX as in this police station it is clear that everybody, despite their differences, is on the same side and in on the same jokes. Unlike The Shield, characters here are not battling and politicking against each other 24/7 which makes for a less realistic experience but also a more relaxing one. And even though it has fallen short (thus far) the full season vote of confidence should be applauded because the networks need to show more faith in their babies and because it gives the writers an opportunity to stretch themselves in new ways, possibly even some that don’t involve bending over backwards.