Review: The not-so winning ‘Goodwin Games’

Estranged siblings Henry (Scott Foley), left, Chloe (Becki Newton) and Jimmy (T.J. Miller) in "The Goodwin Games."
(Jordin Althaus / Fox)

“The Goodwin Games” is family comedy debuting as a late midseason replacement with only a seven-episode order.

So even at Fox, a network not known for hit comedies, hopes are not high.

On the other hand, there is a lot of talk these days of rethinking the old models of American television, including making the standard network season (22 to 24 episodes) more like the cable model of 10 to 12. At this year’s upfronts, where networks roll out their new fall lineups for advertisers in New York City, Fox discussed several “limited” or “event” series.

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On British television, a three- or four-episode season is not unheard of, although more customary on government-funded BBC. A shorter season, the argument goes, takes the pressure off, allowing writers and actors to create more intricate and vivid stories.

Which, it must be noted and quickly, is not what’s happening with “The Goodwin Games.”

The story, however, does seem particularly well suited for a finite amount of screen time. After the death of their eccentric father, Benjamin (Beau Bridges, seen often drinking from a conch), the disparate and desperate Goodwin children assemble for the funeral and the reading of the will.

There’s Henry (Scott Foley), the controlling and overly scheduled surgeon; Chloe (Becki Newton) the former math whiz turned now-defunct popular girl; and Jimmy (T.J. Miller), a goofy and broke ex-con. Benjamin was not, as it turns out, a very good father, and none of his children wants anything to do with one another. So of course Dad’s last act will be to bring them back together, in a uniquely sitcom way.


To inherit his strangely large fortune, the Goodwin kids must compete in a series of competitions — winner takes all. The “games” were all devised by Benjamin, who offers direction and commentary from beyond the grave via a series of videotapes that seem more reflective of an obsessively observant and caring parent than an absent, emotionally stunted one. But who isn’t happy to see Beau Bridges on-screen doing anything?

Equal parts stupid and sweet, “The Goodwin Games” does not appear to be built for the long haul. (Honestly, how many episodes of three adults playing games from which they learn that they really do love one another can viewers take?)

The ties formed in childhood, however misshapen they may be, are strong. “Ben and Kate,” the fall comedy Fox recently took off the air, crafted a more subtle and meaningful message out of the same theme but could not find an audience.

“The Goodwin Games” has the benefit of “Scandal"-sizzled Foley, and though often goofy in an exhausting way, it has flashes of charm to it. If Fox promised that a winner would be declared by the end of seven episodes, that would help too.



‘The Goodwin Games’

Where: Fox

When: 8:30 p.m. Monday


Rating: TV-14-DL (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for suggestive dialogue and coarse language)