“The Good Guys” is, if nothing else, chuckle-inducing. It takes the buddy cop stereotype and manages to both satirize and embrace it fully at the same time, sometimes even blurring that line until it’s downright confusing. Viewers will be left unsure on several occasions whether they’re supposed to suspend their disbelief and go along with the story or consider it a farce and just observe the absurdity.
“The Good Guys”
Mondays at 9 p.m.
While “The Good Guys” truly centers around the luck of the incompetent, the more conventional plot description would be as follows: Two cops, grammar/general nerd Jack Bailey (Colin Hanks, “Orange County”) and alcoholic, paranoid remnant of the mid-’80s Dan Stark (Bradley Whitford, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”), are stuck on property crimes duty because they generally piss off everyone around them. But in the process of investigating such petty thefts as stolen dehumidifiers, they inadvertently stumble upon international major crimes.
The real strength of the show lies in these two characters. Using very specific details, the show makes the audience instantly connect with the dysfunctional duo. Stark saved the governor’s son 25 years ago, and that’s the only reason he’s kept around. He is constantly drinking, thinks computers are going to rebel against their human masters, sleeps with anyone he can and refers to his duties as “busting punks.” Bailey is good at his job (except for being a terrible shot) and “irresistibly charming,” and he doesn’t hesitate to inform those around him of that fact. He’s also incredibly by-the-book, which couldn’t clash more with Stark’s drink-first-shoot-second-ask-questions-later mentality.
The back-and-forth between Bailey and Stark is absolutely hilarious. They play off each other effortlessly, and the writing for each of their characters is strong and consistent throughout the pilot. And the growth they bring out in each other is surprisingly believable. Stark genuinely seems to start to care about the well-being of other people, and Bailey learns that you can’t always play it safe. If the show could be just a long car ride with the two conversing about life on the force, it would be exceedingly entertaining.
Unfortunately, there are plots and side characters to deal with. Some of the performances of the supporting cast were pretty weak in the pilot, as was the writing for them. Luckily, the characters who really fared the worst were those who seem to be only relevant to the pilot and probably won’t show up again.
The question for the show’s future will be, now that we’ve established these two main characters and they’ve grown fond of each other, is their character development going to take a back seat to the show’s absurd plots? There comes a point, some time between the explosion at the plastic surgeon’s office and the showdown between the first- and second-best assassins in the world, that things get a little too crazy for comfort. Bailey and Stark don’t need a crazy crime to be crazy themselves, and the show would do well to make their insanity the zaniest part of the show, not the intertwined web of criminal activity.
“The Good Guys” achieves one of its obvious goals: It definitely isn’t what you expect from a buddy cop TV show. And that’s a very good thing. But the show has gone a little too far in attaining that goal, and the absurdity of the plots just serves as a distraction from the characters who are strong enough to carry the show themselves. If “The Good Guys” restrains its criminals to show off its cops, audiences will be in for one punk-bustin’ treat.