Review: Tony Danza and Josh Groban charm as a father-son detective duo in Netflix throwback ‘The Good Cop’
The waning power of broadcast network TV was one of the big takeaways from Monday’s Primetime Emmys. The televised ceremony saw streaming services rival premium cable in top awards, while NBC and ABC were given just one award each.
The influence of shows that once topped ratings on those grandfather networks, however, is on the rise. Original series that follow throwback sitcom formulas are popping up more frequently on Netflix, fighting for recognition among the edgy, experimental or downright amateurish hodgepodge of shows that proliferate by the hour.
Perhaps it’s a stab at mass appeal among a sea of niche shows, or a trial effort to capture wider audiences with less programming, but the streaming service is turning out more retro-minded series such as family sitcoms “One Day at a Time” and “All About the Washingtons.” And Friday marks the arrival of the father-son detective series “The Good Cop,” which features heritage sitcom star Tony Danza.
The detective dramedy from “Monk” creator Andy Breckman is an entertaining mix of “Odd Couple” satire and the whodunit mystery of all those detective series from your childhood where the lead character’s quirks were integral to his sleuthing power (“Columbo,” “Monk,” etc). It’s neither risky or genre bending, and that’s sort of the point.
“The Good Cop” offers something for everyone, especially those who don’t have the time or patience for the complexities, gore and slow rollout of streaming series such as “Mindhunter.” Danza and co-star Josh Groban are all about the charm offensive, and it works most of the time as they solve cases episode by episode.
They play two generations of New York cops living under the same roof, and of course the two men couldn’t be more different. Father Tony Caruso Sr., a.k.a. Big Tony (Tony Danza), is an ex-NYPD detective just out of prison after serving seven years on corruption charges. His loose interpretation of the law has rubbed off on his son, but not in ways that Big Tony expected.
Tony Caruso Jr., a.k.a. TJ (Groban) is a pathologically strait-laced, by-the-book detective. He keeps a swear jar in the precinct and won’t even use the sugar packets his dad lifted from IHOP in his morning coffee at home.
Their clashing personalities fuel some of the best scenes, such as when TJ won’t run a red light, even when the traffic signal is busted and there’s a line of honking, aggravated motorists bottlenecked behind him. His exasperated father wonders where he went wrong with the kid.
But Big Tony is softhearted and would do anything to protect his son. And both are crack detectives, so together they solve the toughest of cases, even if dad’s help is as a consultant.
TJ’s fastidious adherence to the rules annoys everyone else on the force as well, including his partner, Burl Loomis (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), a jaded veteran who’s so close to retirement he can practically feel the swing of a hammock as he dozes off in the squad car.
Newby on the force Cara Vasquez (Monica Barbaro) recognizes TJ’s brilliance, and sympathizes with his obsessive need to be honest no matter the cost. It’s a son paying for his father’s sins.
Based on an Israeli show of the same name, “The Good Cop” tackles and solves new cases over its hour-long episodes while also dealing with bigger mysteries such as the disappearance of Big Tony’s wife and TJ’s mom, and the real circumstances behind dad’s fall from grace.
The show represents vocalist extraordinaire Groban’s first lead role in a series, and in many ways, he appears more comfortable than Danza delivering subtle and then not-so-subtle jokes about his character’s quirks and Big Tony’s fraught relationship with the truth.
“The Good Cop” is a solid, traditional detective sitcom for viewers seeking the solace of a simpler time, before cable and disruptive streaming services altered the landscape with weird shows like “Stranger Things.” And ironically, it’s brought to you by Netflix.
‘The Good Cop’
When: Any time, starting Friday
Rating: TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children)
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