Television review: ‘The Good Guys’

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Despite its deceptively generic title (with its unfortunate association with the electronics chain), “The Good Guys” has very sophisticated ambitions. While films like this spring’s “Cop Out” and the upcoming “The Other Guys” love to cross-pollinate police procedural with odd-couple bromance, satire with sentimental morality tale, the Fox show may be TV’s first buddy-cop dramedy.

Going for the same sort of sneak attack that launched “Glee,” the network is pre-premiering “The Good Guys” on Wednesday before it begins its official run on June 7. Though it too is a genre mash-up, with over-the-top choreographed gunfights instead of big musical numbers, “The Good Guys” doesn’t have quite the pop of “Glee.” There are a lot of Grade A ingredients, especially creator Matt Nix, who also gave us the fabulous “Burn Notice,” and leads Colin Hanks and Bradley Whitford. It just isn’t quite soup yet.

Jack Bailey (Hanks) and Dan Stark (Whitford) are Dallas detectives assigned to property crimes and each other. If this sounds like a punishment, it is. Wound tight and by the book, Bailey has alienated his superiors with his snarky school marm ways, while Stark prides himself on being “old school,” which means he looks and acts as if he received his police training directly from Starsky and Hutch. Having once been half of Stark and Savage — a police team so famous that the duo had a TV movie made about them — Stark is now such a has-been that he lives in a trailer, drinks on duty, wears aviator shades and has a cheesy mustache. Oh, and he sleeps around. (Because women, even those played by Nia Vardalos, are totally turned on by drunken, mustachioed, aviator-shaded men.)

Stark is also the fastidious Bailey’s nightmare made flesh, and since Hanks, a fine and increasingly versatile actor, bears such a striking resemblance in mien and manner to his old man, it is difficult not to think of “The Good Guys” as an updated version of “Turner & Hooch,” with Whitford playing Hooch.

That may just be intentional. Because “The Good Guys” is all about taking the mickey out of out every cop show and film that has preceded it. This is clear from the first moment, when we meet a petty thief, pausing mid-break-in to answer his cell, and a drug courier who, angry about his boss’ penurious ways, kills his buyers and swipes the goods, hoping to avoid the obvious repercussions by having a plastic surgeon remake him to look like Erik Estrada.

Things go horribly, wonderfully wrong, and soon, a lot of fairly hilarious, double-barrel action ensues, thrusting Bailey and Stark into the middle of a murder investigation. They are quickly ordered off the case, but following the time-honored directive that no crime would ever get solved if such orders were followed, the two eventually realize they must see justice done.

Every gun-dependent narrative — the spaghetti western, “Adam-12,” “24,” “Lethal Weapon,” you name it — is tagged, and everyone involved, especially Hanks and Whitford, appear to be having the time of their lives. Their delight is infectious, and “The Good Guys’ ” biggest strength is its unflagging sense of fun. Nix has more than proved that he knows how to wed comedy, action, satire and real character development, so though the pilot flags here and droops there, “The Good Guys” will no doubt pick up speed as everyone settles more comfortably into the idea that there are no sacred cows, not even the buddy flick.

And if Whitford can manage to make aviator frames cool again, well, I do believe the man’s work is done here.

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