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Monday, December 13, 2010

The Good Guys Ends First (Only?) Season

    FOX's The Good Guys was a summer show that got a rare treat when seven additional episodes were ordered for this fall. Sadly, the series looks poised for cancellation, although no official word has been handed down. Certainly the show will not have any other new episodes this television season, as none have been ordered at this time, and they've already aired twenty in the last six months. Still, as much as I enjoy The Good Guys, I can't decide if I'm hoping for its survival.

     The problem with The Good Guys is its silliness, which is also the best reason to watch. Pretty much every episode, Detectives Dan Stark (Bradley Whitford) and Jack Bailey (Colin Hanks) investigate some petty crime, in the case of this week, a dine and dash. Inevitably, events snowball, and without even realizing it, they are soon taking down murderers, dirty cops, jewel thieves, and the like. Entertaining? Absolutely. As I said in an earlier review, Whitford appears to be having the most fun he's ever had in his acting career and that enthusiasm is infectious. But even suspending normal disbelief, as has to be done for any TV show, this one stretches the bounds of believability. How can that same bumbling scenario play out over and over again and still feel fresh?

     Not the show is not devoid of hope. There are glimmers that the people that make it realize their premise is limited, and have tried to add other distracting elements. Great guest casting, such as Joshua Malina (The West Wing) as an Internal Affairs agent bent on bringing down Stark, Chris Klein (American Pie) as Bailey's former partner turned deputy chief who is on the take, and especially Gary Cole (Entourage, The West Wing) as Stark's former partner Frank Savage, has helped. But how long can stunt casting really keep a show afloat before it becomes an obvious ploy?

     I think the main issue if that there are truly only two interesting characters: Jack and Dan. Early on they clashed, providing some good human drama. Now they've settled into a firm, loyal partnership, so that tension is gone. They're still fun, but their actions and decisions have become obvious, taking away suspense. For most of the series, Jack pined for assistant district attorney Liz (Reaper's wonderful Jenny Wade), but now that they're together, that is gone, too, and Liz often feels unnecessary and cumbersome to the rest of the plot. I also adore Diana Maria Riva, who plays Jack and Dan's boss, Lieutenant Ruiz. Unfortunately, she rarely gets to do anything much, with the recent exception being in the peeping tom episode. Using her more could go a long way towards salvaging things.

     Because of the stagnant four main characters, others have been added to spice things up. Early fan favorite snitch Julius (RonReaco Lee) returned for a total of eleven episodes, and originally always brought something new to the table, though even he was becoming stale near the end of the season. In the second half, Samantha (Angela Sarafyn) showed up, who was a police ally / assistant and a possible love interest for Jack. Perhaps the gun was jumped when Sam waited until after Jack and Liz got together to kiss him. However, should the show get a second season, it would not be surprising at all to see Jack and Samantha as an item, for awhile at least.

     I'm not a hater of this show, far from it. But I began getting bored after twenty episodes, and perhaps this is one show that would have benefited from a nice, long hiatus in the middle of the season, though they only got six weeks. If it does return next summer or fall, I will probably get excited again, as I will definitely miss The Good Guys after awhile. But unless something is done to seriously shake things up and change the rules of the game, it will grow old much faster in the second batch. Not only that, a shake up may kill the series, because it relies on a formula, and abandoning the formula is a serious risk.

     Perhaps this would have worked better as a miniseries or a set of TV movies. The talent level is high, but the magic is just not there in a sustainable way over the long term. Awesome concept that didn't work so well when drawn out. As a twenty episode series, it will be fondly remembered. If it becomes a forty episode run, fans may not stay so enamored. The good news is, should The Good Guys get the ax, the actors should not stay unemployed too long.


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Article first published as TV Review: The Good Guys Ends First (Only?) Season on Blogcritics.

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