Film and TV

From the Comments: The Problem With The Good Guys Before It Goes on Summer Vacay

Back in May, FOX higher-ups spoke glowingly of the locally shot The Good Guys, which wraps its "summer season" tonight; said the network's entertainment president, pairing it with The Human Target starting Friday nights at 8 in late September means "we have a legitimate shot at taking the night with shows that are truly compatible." We'll see about that: After tonight's finale-for-now -- the Jonathan Frakes-directed "Don't Tase Me, Bro" -- a preview for which follows -- FOX will have aired nine of the 13 episodes filmed so far, with seven more set to shoot in The Cedars starting at month's end. And the ratings thus far have been very so-so -- though, of course, we now live in an age where 3.6 million viewers translates to "struggling."

Today, out in Los Angeles, the cast, including Bradley Whitford and Colin Hanks, and creator Matt Nix showed up to sell the show to the Television Critics Association at its semi-annual gangbang. Which reminds me: I had intended on writing A Guide to Fixing The Good Guys before its return to town -- because, truth told, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't watch it every week if it were filmed anywhere else. But last weekend, Friend of Unfair Park Howard Wen beat me to it in the comments of this news-n-notes roundup. I couldn't have said it better, so I won't. Instead, I'll cut and paste his criticisms and suggestions after the jump and forward along to Matt Nix.

Howard writes:

With Good Guys, it's not the acting or actors that are the problem (they are all great). It's simply the writing and overall creative direction of the series that needs work.

Scale way back on the "cute and quirky". That is annoying, and that style of TV scriptwriting worked best back in the late 1990s on the WB shows. (I realize Burn Notice is like this, but it doesn't translate well on Good Guys.)

Let me refer to the canceled series Reaper on the CW (which Jenny Wade co-starred in) -- it was sort of cute, quirky and had an outrageous premise. But from the perspective of its characters and within the confines of its own world, things were taken fairly seriously. Yet humor and quirk were used to lighten the mood a lot but where it was appropriate.

The problem with Good Guys is everything feels like it *must* be cute or quirky -- bad guys must have quirky traits or spout cutespeak, even if they are unsavory types or killers, for example. There's some off-the-wall dissonance going on with this balance between the two styles that's hard to take in as "believable" within this series own world/universe.

All four characters are stereotypes (the straight up by the books guy, the zany dude, the grumpy chief, the hot girlfriend). I mean, come on -- the actors on this show are good and likable on their own. So why are their characters so lazily conceived and confined into these stereotypes?

Lastly I suggest this series needs to start developing an overall story arc that carries across a season. The obvious one would be regarding Dan's past -- something to do with his legendary heroism when he saved the governor's son. But was there something more to that story? And who was his former partner Frank? What happened to him? Where is he? Or, is he even a real person, or an amalgam of other partners?

(For example, as Dan tells Jack one of his stories, imagine if they showed cheesy looking flashbacks of young Dan and his partner-mentor working a job, contrasting what he's saying or illustrating just how absurd Dan's stories really are. But as the season plays out, and more of these flashbacks are shown to use, we start piecing together the truth of what really happened.)

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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