In the ‘70s, TV cop shows like Starsky and Hutch and CHiPs were ratings champs. They ruled the small screen the same way westerns did in the ‘60s and reality shows do now. The Good Guys is a tip of the hat to those days of Starsky, Ponch, shootouts, and car chases.
But there is a difference.
In The Good Guys, the protagonists have issues. Serious ones. Dan Stark is a middle-aged, old school detective who was a hero once; his claim to fame was saving the life of the Texas governor’s son. But time has not been kind to him. He is the stereotypical washed-up cop who knows his glory days have long since passed. He has a difficult time getting in sync with modern law enforcement techniques and chides his younger partner, Jack Bailey, for using “that computer machine” to hunt for information. He has no problem drinking on the job and, in this episode, seducing the victim of the crime he is supposed to help solve.
It seems Jack Bailey could not be a worse match for this drunk and disorderly cop. Twenty years Dan’s junior, Jack is a modern law enforcement agent who likes to use whatever tools are available to him (i.e. “that computer machine”) to solve crimes. He takes his job seriously, even though the cases he and Dan are assigned are less than challenging. The pair are based in the Dallas Police Department’s Property Crimes Unit. In the pilot episode, they are given the task of searching for the person who burgled a humidifier from a woman’s home. But what would a goofy cop show be without an over-the-top twist that turns a simple assignment into one more suited for Starsky and Hutch?
Dan is played by Bradley Whitford (West Wing, Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip), who describes The Good Guys as “an action, comedy procedural: the type of story which is usually seen on the big screen but rarely on TV.” His character is one who “thinks he’s doing well, and he is a good guy. But he’s operating from his reptilian brain stem in a world where everybody else is using gray matter.”
Colin Hanks (Orange County, Mad Men) plays Jack Bailey who, because of various mess-ups of his own, is paired with Dan to babysit him. Jack is a “by-the-book” cop who believes there is a proper way of doing things at all times and will call out whoever makes a mistake or doesn’t follow protocol, including his bosses. Because of this, he is not going to win any popularity contests with his superiors or upgrade his situation anytime soon.
Rounding out the cast are Diana Maria Riva, who plays the no-nonsense Lieutenant Ana Ruiz, and Jenny Wade as Assistant District Attorney (and Jack’s love interest) Liz Traynor.
The best thing I can say about The Good Guys is that its ensemble is top notch. The actors are believable and entertaining, and the Dan and Jack buddy-buddy relationship works. The biggest problem I see with the show is that it’s silly. Really silly. Dan’s easy sexual conquest with the crime victim is an eye-roller, the car chases and gunplay are flashy but predictable, and the bad guys (except for the wonderful Pedro, the Second Best Assassin In the World) are stereotypical and D-U-M-B. The Billy Squier and T-Rex songs blaring through the action sequences don’t help the situation.
If the show is to succeed, it would do well to tone down the ridiculousness and work a bit of believability into the stories. Dan and Jack could be characters worth rooting for if we cared about the challenges presented to them. There is a big difference between dumb jokes and funny ones. The writing staff of The Good Guys would do well to keep this in mind.
The Good Guys was created by Matt Nix (Burn Notice). The pilot premiered on FOX on May 19; the series premiere airs on June 7.