One constant in the world of television is that there’s always at least one show in its rookie season that is a hell of a lot better than its ratings would indicate. Right now, that show is The Good Guys, created by Matt Nix, the man who gave us the consistently entertaining Burn Notice (which you should also be watching).
It’s been a while since avid TV viewers have seen Bradley Whitford not spouting whip-smart Aaron Sorkin dialog as he did in The West Wing and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, so it may be a little hard to adjust at first. He’s completely switching gears to play Detective Dan Stark, a burnt-out, take-no-prisoners throwback cop from the 70s who can’t stop obsessing about how they did things back in the old days. Trouble is, this ain’t the old days, so he’s been stuck working property crimes while always hungering for punks to bust for the Dallas police force. His more ambitious career-minded partner Detective Jack Bailey (Colin Hanks) has got himself chained to Stark for being a little too by-the-book, but both of them keep stumbling into major crimes while investigating the petty ones.
This could easily degenerate into a ‘smart cop/dumb cop’ show, but it never does. Even though the reckless Stark is hopelessly out of touch with the times (at one point he has a screaming match with an infected laptop after blurting “we’ve got to get some medicine for the computer machine!”) and is so full of malapropisms that he tends to come off as an idiot, he’s never that one-note. His insane methods get results just as much as they screw things up, which fits right in with his philosophy: “The law is like a woman. She slaps ya, it doesn’t do any good to get mad. Just makes it worse. A little sweet talk, before you know it, you’re covered with baby oil and whipped cream on your nipples.” Yes, that’s right, Stark still has a way with women, too, in spite of the mustache – or maybe because of it. In the pilot episode below, he even gets with Nia Vardalos.
Hanks’ perennially frustrated Jack is also interesting in how much he can channel his father Tom Hanks at times, and even moreso when you remember the elder playing the freewheeling rebel cop Pep Streebeck back in Dragnet. The dynamic with his ex-girlfriend/D.A. Liz Traynor (Jenny Wade) and their unresolved feelings hasn’t quite found its legs yet, but given time, it very well could. What makes minor flaws easy to overlook is that even the bad guys are never just tacked on, either – they always have their own amusing idiosyncrasies as well, such as the oblivious vigilante who cries like a baby at the drop of a hat.
It’s not a satire or a parody because it loves all the cop cliches it uses to create a solid hour of fun, entertaining television in that Burn Notice vein. As Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune said, it’s the Beastie Boys’ ‘Sabotage’ video reconceived as a broadcast network… something.” The hilariously inept gunfights, the constant back-and-forth timeline jumping, the amazing rock and roll soundtrack and fresh ideas like Stark working through a miserable cold that he gives to everyone else, bad guys included, by the end of the episode all help to make this a show you should be watching.
Dan Stark sums it up like this: “The bad guys are just a bunch of guys runnin’ around with guns. The good guys are a team of guys runnin’ around with guns.” That’s proof that everything that comes out of Whitford’s mouth can still be gold, even if Sorkin’s not writing for him anymore.
Watch the pilot episode of The Good Guys right here. Get on board before it becomes the latest “save our show” campaign.