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The Good Guys – Bait and Switch

Somewhere in between the atrocious reality shows, talent shows and the new drama and comedies being created to fill the gap between this television season and the next, there are shows that stand out and remind us how fun television can be.  "The Good Guys" takes the best elements of action movies and television shows, such as "Burn Notice" and any buddy cop movie (I'm thinking primarily of Lethal Weapon), and runs with it.  The show may have its flaws and has a long uphill battle in the ratings department, but it's undoubtedly fun and deserves to stick around for awhile.  The show went on a temporary hiatus for a few weeks following its series premiere, and it returned tonight with "Bait and Switch," and just like the pilot episode, it was filled with its typical adrenaline-laced action sequences, explosions, car chases and Dan Stark-isms that are quickly becoming some of the best quotes on television.

"Bait and Switch" followed the same format that the pilot did.  Jack Bailey and Dan Stark investigate a minor crime in the form of broken windows and streetlights and are somehow lead to a major stolen car ring run by a couple of British guys, one of them being Nigel, who, despite his menacing attitude, is plagued by jealousy.  One minute, he's threatening to kill somebody and the next, he's whining and pleading through the telephone to his girlfriend, worried that she's cheating on him.  These men are attempting to bring a number of stolen vintage American vehicles back to England and are attempting to find somebody to do the job for them.  Jack and Dan realize that there are an abnormal amount of vintage American cars being stolen in the neighborhood of the vandalized windows and street lamps and begin investigating.  Soon enough, they learn about Nigel and the stolen cars and try to take him down.  However, a slew of firearms, moles, explosions and redneck patriots stand in their way.  

As much fun as I have with this show, I will admit one thing: the pace is ridiculous, and not the good kind of ridiculous.  Matt Nix found a perfect blend of action and character development with "Burn Notice," but so far in "The Good Guys," the only character who has a past is Dan Stark, and the endless stream of jokes and snide remarks is already threatening to turn him into a caricature of himself.  In the Pilot episode, he was hilarious but also somewhat tragic.  He used to be a popular cop and well-known for saving the mayor's son in the eighties, but now he's just an alcoholic guy who's stuck in a rut.  Tonight, he was cracking jokes and giving Homer Simpson and Michael Scott a run for their money as the most clueless character on television.  When he began yelling at a computer, screaming that it was inside his head and making him go insane, I was laughing, yet thinking to myself, "If Dan Stark is such a great cop, why is he such a dumb guy?"  

This sentiment can be expanded to address the show as a whole.  "The Good Guys" is a thrill ride, don't get me wrong. But the writers have created only one interesting character (Dan Stark) and surrounded him by a bunch of boring and stale characters.  Colin Hanks is a great actor, but the writers have given Jack Bailey no personality whatsoever.  All we know about him is he used to date a lawyer, Liz, and that he's a charming guy, but so far, we haven't seen any charm.  In fact, there's more charm in Dan Stark's mustache than there is in all of Jack Bailey's body.  It's unfortunate, because if the writers can figure out a way to make Bailey more interesting, they'd have a dangerous duo on their hand.  There's certainly a lot of promise; Whitford and Hanks work well together, but on his own, Hanks has a lot of work to do.

However, it's easy to forgive a show for their flaws when they make it so fun.  "The Good Guys" has plenty of action scenes that are better than your average procedural and films it all with classic rock songs playing in the background.  Last week, in the pilot episode, the pinnacle of the episode was when Stark and Bailey chased after the bad guy with "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC playing in the background.  "Bait and Switch" benefited from having "Rock You Like A Hurricane" playing as Dan Stark drove Bailey's car through a warehouse window, guns blazing and engine revving.  The show is smarter than it looks and knows the perfect moment to use an element such as this.  It also uses the "one hour earlier" card a little too much, and at times, it feels quite pointless. But they are intelligent with how they use it, which makes it easier to forgive.  

Right now, "The Good Guys" is a difficult show to figure out.  It's certainly filled with enough fun scenes to keep you entertained for forty straight minutes, but it also adheres strictly to a specific format that could easily grow stale within four or five more episodes.  If the show wants to survive beyond this season, it needs to find some sort of long-term plot that they can slowly pick away at.  Perhaps a case that carries over a few episodes that's more difficult to solve than others?  All I know is that when a show relies too much on the same format for too long, it grows boring and predictable.  "Bait and Switch" was entertaining, but it felt lazy in its structure.  Hopefully the show can discover new ways to show Bailey and Stark solving crime.  It's easy for a show to find a comfortable niche in which it can spurt out episodes, but I have higher hopes than that for "The Good Guys."  The show has the talent to do something unique with itself, but with time, I am sure people will start tuning in to watch Dan Stark and his mustache (and I suppose Jack Bailey as well) solve crimes.


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