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Bradley Whitford Does the Poor Man's Bruce Campbell. And He Does It Well

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 21, 2010 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 21, 2010 |

I don’t really understand Fox’s strategy with regard to their new cop show, “The Good Guys,” starring Colin Hanks and Bradley Whitford. Last year, the network had so much faith in “Glee” that they previewed the pilot in May to get us excited for the show come fall. It was a strategy that ultimately worked for the network. But if they have enough faith in “The Good Guys” to preview the pilot in a plush, post-“American Idol” time slot four months before it’s set to begin its regularly scheduled run in the fall, then why are they dumping the show on Friday nights? It’s all the more perplexing because “The Good Guys,” for what it is — yet another cop show — is slick and entertaining and a show that I’d probably watch regularly, if not for the fact that it will be airing on Fridays. Why get invested in a show that the network doesn’t have enough faith in to give it a respectable time slot? The only two shows that I can think of that have had any staying power on Fridays are “The Ghost Whisperer” and “Numb3rs,” both of which were just cancelled by CBS.

“The Good Guys” comes from writer/producer Matt Nix, who also gave us three pretty great seasons of the slick and entertaining “Burn Notice” before it exhausted its premise in the fourth season (it’ll be back this summer, and given that it’s on USA Network, will probably survive long enough to exhaust its premise for several more years). “The Good Guys,” thankfully, is less a high-concept procedural than an hour-long situational cop show, so there’s really no premise to exhaust. Colin Hanks is Jack, the straight-laced, by-the-books, tech nerd police officer who can’t seem to get ahead because he keeps pissing off his superiors by patronizing them. He’s thus been saddled with Dan (Bradley Whitford) as his partner, a free-spirited, boozy, technophobic detective who has only managed to maintain his job because, 25 years ago, he saved the governor’s son (and later had a cop show made about him and his partner).

Dan is awesome; he’s very much in the spirit of “Burn Notice’s” Sam, as played by Bruce Campbell: A womanizing drunk with a hard-on for shoot-outs and car chases. It’s a fun role for Bradley Whitford, too, although it’s going to take me a few episodes to get past the fact that he’s neither Josh Lyman or Danny Tripp, but something of a loutish old-school buffoon who plays his hunches while Jack prefers technological methods.

Anyway, the two detectives are on bottom-rung “routine investigations,” which basically entails running down petty crime offenders. The pilot episode was fairly standard, typical of a Matt Nix production: Dan and Jack are tasked with investigating a home burglary where all that was taken was a humidifier. Trying to locate the thief, however, inadvertently gets them involved in a bigger conspiracy that involves drugs, a Mexican cartel, and the second best assassin in the world. Shoot-outs, car chases, and AC/DC music ensues.

It’s fairly generic, as storylines go, but “The Good Guys” isn’t a show that’s about plot; it’s about the tone and the characters. Where that’s concerned, “The Good Guys” succeeds with droll banter, good chemistry between Whitford and Hanks, and a decent, if well-worn, setup. It’s purposely campy, funny, and easy to watch, which would’ve made it an excellent addition to USA Network’s summer lineup. Instead, it’s relegated to Friday nights in the fall, where it will probably gain a decent enough sized audience of folks who have nothing better to do on a Friday evening. But I doubt it’s good enough to merit space on a lot of DVRs.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.