Wednesday, 26 May 2010

THE GOOD GUYS 1.1 - "Pilot"

Wednesday, 26 May 2010
WRITER: Matt Nix
DIRECTOR: Tim Matheson
CAST: Bradley Whitford, Colin Hanks, Jenny Wade, Diana Maria Riva, Andrew Divoff & Nia Vardalos
It's amusing to see Colin Hanks given the straight-man "Joe Friday" role in The Good Guys, considering how his famous father ("Hollywood nice guy" Tom) was the comic relief in 1987's Dragnet parody, which this buddy cop TV series owes a debt to. Actually, it owes a debt to everything that's ever featured two mismatched detectives, particularly in macho TV shows of the '80s.

Hanks is Jack Bailey, the archetypal by-the-book cop with a sharp suit, partnered with mustachioed, shambolic Dan Stark (Bradley Whitford), a cop who saved the life of the governor's son in the '80s and has been milking that moment of fame to keep his career alive into its autumn years. Dan's since partnered the ambitious Jack on Dallas PD's lowly "routine investigations", but still acts as if he's at the sharp-end of city crime. As comic convention insists, the odd couple detectives have a knack for getting entangled in far bigger cases (a stolen air humidifier led to a golf bag of drugs here), which in turn results in regular shootouts, destruction of public property, and high-speed car chases.

The premise is knowingly unoriginal; aware that a Starsky & Hutch-style series hasn't been seen on TV for awhile, so it's worth trying to revive this sub-genre. Of course, nowadays it's difficult to use the "buddy cop" formula without lacing it with post-modern humour, but The Good Guys just wasn't madcap enough for my tastes (given the possibilities of the concept for riotous action and Hot Fuzz-style laughs), while the characters barely stretched beyond baseline clich├ęs. Hanks was appropriately formal and stiff, Whitford was crass and idiotic, but there wasn't much chemistry between them and neither character felt interesting, original or nuanced. Knowing Whitfield's capabilities as a dramatic actor, I couldn't shake the feeling he's slumming it with a comedy 'tache for a fat pay-cheque (as co-star and producer.)

I also couldn't help thinking The Good Guys would be funnier had it been set in the '80s and embraced the era it clearly wants to evoke, or at least treated Dan's character as a Rip Van Winkle-type who feels like he's been dropped into 2010 direct from 1980. Sure, Dan's "old school" in temperament, loves himself a Pontiac Trans Am, doesn't believe in the existence of DNA, and appears to be a technophobe, but that's about as far as it goes.

The pilot's storyline was robust and relatively complex where it should have been lighthearted and fun, as I don't enjoy comedies that play things straight 70% of the time. Creator/writer Matt Nix (Burn Notice) doesn't have a background in comedy (or a filmography pre-Burn), which may explain why this felt like a standard police drama with sporadic comedy elements and wry dialogue sewn in. The only thing that made me laugh consistently was guest-star Andrew Divoff as a suave Mexican assassin ("the second best in the world") with a pencil moustache and heavy accent, who was so entertaining I started imagining how much funnier a comedy based on his character would be. The Bad Guy?

Overall, The Good Guys is a sore disappointment if you go in expecting a retro slice of buddy cop hilarity and action-packed fun. It's a lame duck with a comedy-to-drama imbalance that forgets to ensure its leads are engaging people with chemistry to draw you back for more. Little wonder it's debuting in the slow summer months and scheduled to partner Human Target in Fox's Friday night "death-slot" later this year. As with all pilots, there's certainly time for things to improve, but there was nothing here to suggest it'll be worth sticking with. Even if Whitford and Hanks were hilarious together (which they're not -- yet), I'm not sure the buddy cop genre's something I want to catch every week on television.

Asides
  • Who decided it would be a great idea to accompany every location legend with a really loud gunshot noise? It's really not.
  • Colin Hanks' similarities to his father are obvious, but it's actually quite unnerving how he's a dead ringer for Toy Story's Woody.
19 MAY 2010: FOX, 9|8c