‘The Good Guys’ Pilot Recap: These Guys Are Just OK

Fox’s new summer series ‘The Good Guys’ had a “preview event” back on May 19th. I’ll be honest, I DVR’ed it at the time and didn’t get around to watching it until recently. The network re-ran the premiere this past Monday, and the show’s remaining episodes will begin their regular run on the 7th. As such, this seems like as good a time as any to offer my thoughts. Unfortunately, while the premise for the show sounds great and I liked most of the early promotion around it, the pilot episode (not-so-cleverly titled ‘Pilot’) doesn’t quite pull together.

Bradley Whitford stars as Dan Stark, a washed up robbery-homicide detective whose glory days are long behind him. Even though the show is set in the present day, Dan remains stuck in the ’80s, a time when his crazy antics rescuing the governor’s son were featured in a cheesy TV movie that he still cherishes. Nowadays, he’s a burn-out has-been who drinks on the job, knows nothing about computers, has no sense of political correctness at all, and generally behaves like a jackass all the time. The police force is more or less obligated to keep him around, but has demoted him to “Routine Investigations.” In other words, he’s stuck working petty crimes that aren’t worth wasting any real cops’ time with. This week’s case is a stolen humidifier.

Colin Hanks (yes, Tom’s son) plays Jack, a straight-lace type whose by-the-book snottiness has annoyed too many of his superiors. As punishment, he’s been assigned to work with Stark. Thus, the classic ’80s buddy cop relationship has been established. One partner is the rogue maverick, and the other his straight man. The show’s third most important character would be Whitford’s bushy mustache, which is pretty darn awesome.

The pilot episode is populated with bumbling, incompetent criminals. A would-be burglar only manages to get away with a humidifier. Investigating this case inadvertently leads Dan and Jack onto the trail of a Mexican crime ring, an unscrupulous plastic surgeon, and the “2nd best assassin in the world” (who nonetheless can’t ever seem to hit anything he shoots at). I have a feeling that the show’s creators are big fans of Elmore Leonard.

The series is obviously a parody of bad ’80s cop shows. Whitford really goes for broke in his portrayal of Dan as a loveably obnoxious goofball. Genre clichés are spoofed with abandon. The episode has a number of goofy action scenes, including one where Dan has to jump onto the hood of a moving car, ‘T.J. Hooker’-style.

On paper, this all sounds like great fun. In practice, the tone is off. For all its silliness, the episode is frankly kind of dull. The chemistry between Whitford and Hanks just doesn’t gel for some reason.

In its favor, though, I’ve got to say that Nia Vardalos is somehow a lot more appealing in her supporting turn here (as Dan’s dopey love interest) than she ever has been in any of those awful movies she’s made. I’m also glad to see the adorable Jenny Wade (Ben’s demon girlfriend in the recently-canceled ‘Reaper’) getting work again, even if whatever accent she’s trying to do wavers too much.

The show isn’t terrible or anything. It has potential. I’m willing to give it a few episodes to find itself. I’ve certainly watched my share of series that started off badly and only found their footing as they went. (The first couple episodes of ‘Community’ were pretty lousy, yet that show quickly grew into the best comedy on NBC’s schedule.) Still, based on this first episode, ‘The Good Guys’ is a disappointment so far.

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