I’m a sucker for a good buddy-cop story. I love the camaraderie, the back and forth jokes, the way the relationship begins on shaky terms and quickly evolves into one where the two friends trust each other with their lives. In order for a buddy-cop story to be efficient, it needs two lead characters that have excellent chemistry and can appear to the audience as if they truly are as close as the script wants them to be. Fortunately, “The Good Guys” has two excellent actors who will likely grow into their roles as time goes on. While the characters that Colin Hanks and Bradley Whitford are playing right now aren’t entirely fleshed out, there’s just enough back story in the pilot episode of Matt Nix’s new action show to help us believe these characters will be likable and realistic in the foreseeable future. In fact, the entire show feels this way: a bit cliché and bland at times, but filled with enough promise to keep an audience willing to wait for the show to grow into itself.
“The Good Guys” is Matt Nix’s second television show after the superb “Burn Notice,” which has become a hit based on the power of its action scenes, great characters and witty script. “The Good Guys,” in a way, feels like Burn Notice Lite. It has all of the action, the humor and the clever story-telling techniques that “Burn Notice” contains, but it doesn’t feel like there’s a whole lot of meat behind its bones yet. The pilot episode introduces us to Detective Jack Bailey, a new detective who rubs everybody the wrong way by being over-critical, pretentious and smug. Unfortunately, we don’t really get any examples of this and are supposed to assume that he’s done this kind of thing a lot in the past. As punishment, instead of working homicide or something substantial within the police department, his services are paired with those of Dan Stark’s, a washed-up alcoholic cop whose hey-day was in the eighties after he saved the governor’s son. He’s the epitome of street smarts and is the perfect counter balance to Jack Bailey’s book smarts. In the police department, however, street smarts aren’t valued nearly as much as they used to be, and Dan Stark has been delegated to the “routine investigations” department. As punishment for his rotten attitude, Bailey gets himself partnered with Stark and soon learns that nobody stays with Stark for long, mostly because he somehow convinces his partners to jump out of moving cars and do incredibly stupid, dangerous things to apprehend criminals.
With this information, you’re basically all set to watch the show. Bailey and Stark deal with cases that are as menial as stolen humidifiers and somehow find themselves connecting these small crimes to something much larger and more entertaining. For instance, in the pilot, Bailey and Stark investigate a routine breaking and entering and attempt to help a woman (actress Nia Vardalos guest stars in this role and does an okay job) find a stolen humidifier. It turns out that the man who stole the humidifier owns a pawn shop and is friends with a plastic surgeon who has an important client: a drug dealer who is planning on killing all of his boss’ clients, stealing his money and escaping to Mexico disguised as Erik Estrada (or something close to it). The plastic surgeon decides, instead, to let the drug dealer die on the operating table and steals the money for himself. He pays the man who stole the humidifier to ditch the car with the drug dealer’s body somewhere over the border. Somehow, as ridiculous as this may sound, these two cases are related, which Bailey and Stark soon come to realize. They also have to deal with a drug honcho who has the first and second best assassins at his disposal (fans of “Lost” will be pleased to see Andrew Divoff, the man who plays Mikhail, as the “second best asssassin in the world”). We learn about all of this through a series of somewhat confusing yet highly entertaining flashbacks. At times, it’s difficult to understand what exactly is going on, but the show moves at such a fast pace that you feel almost inclined to ignore the pieces you miss. It’s pretty easy to pick up on the missed details.
The show works so well right off the bat thanks to Bradley Whitford’s excellent turn as Dan Stark. He has everything that a cop from the eighties needs: a mustache as thick as toothbrush bristles, a messy jungle of unkempt hair and a slew of old school tricks hidden underneath his sleeves. Some of the best scenes are thanks to him, whether it’s him showing Jack Bailey his “good cop, sick cop” move (this basically involves cottage cheese that has expired, a little bit of alcohol and a whole lot of puking) or his corny sounding pieces of advice (“There are no small crimes! Only small cops…”). Whitford disappears into the role, and after doing a superb job on “The West Wing” and a decent job on “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” Whitford seems to have found a role that suits him. As for Colin Hanks, I’m interested to see how he grows into the role. I haven’t seen many movies or shows with him in it that have dazzled me yet. His character is bland thus far, with only a few hints at a back story. We meet his ex-girlfriend, Liz Traynor (played by Jenna Wade from the show “Reaper”), who has a little bit of southern charm, but there are barely any scenes that give us an idea of what their relationship was like, or what she is like as a character. We also meet the Lieutenant of the police station named Lieutenant Ana Ruiz (Diana Maria Riva) who seems to have a troubled past with Stark, but once again, we learn little to nothing about this. I suspect we’ll learn more about these supporting characters as the show goes on, but it was a bit disconcerting to meet characters and learn nothing about them. So far, only Whitford’s character has packed a punch. Even the assassin played by Divoff had a better story than Bailey and the rest of the supporting cast.
Fortunately, for all of the show's minor flaws, it makes up for it in pure, unadulterated fun. It’s impossible to not be sucked into the world of Dan Stark as he tries his damnedest to capture the bad guys, even if it means ignoring his superiors and destroying a building or two. He clearly knows what he’s doing, and as the show goes on, the relationship between Stark and Bailey should grow. Matt Nix also does a good job of mixing action and drama and never letting one overpower the other. It should be interesting to see how the show can evolve from here. There’s not much to say about the pilot episode, mostly because character development was side-shelved in place of action scenes that grab you by the throat and demand your attention. There’s a lot of promise in this show though, and while "The Good Guys" isn’t exactly “Burn Notice,” Bradley Whitford sure makes a good leading actor in the same way Jeffrey Donovan does. Hopefully we’ll get to see him and the rest of the cast grow as the show gets more episodes under its belt.
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