Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Good Guys: "Bait & Switch"

Illustration for article titled The Good Guys: "Bait & Switch"

Most of the time, when a show opens an episode with the characters in danger, followed by some abrupt escalation of the danger, then a title card reading "X HOURS EARLIER," I roll my eyes. It's a lazy trick, a way to ideally hook the audience but not go to the actual work of creating an instantly recognizable and exciting scenario to enter the episode on. This device has been around for over a decade now, and whatever use it had way back when it first came up has been utterly destroyed through overuse. V, for example, used the idea twice in just 12 episodes. Twice! It's the sort of hack TV writing device that really needs to go away.

Yet when The Good Guys used it tonight, I laughed. I don't know if the intent was to make fun of this sort of thing or if Matt Nix and his writers just wanted to give us a good gag to enter the episode on, but when Jack and Kirsten were on the ground, guns pointed at their heads, trying to talk their way out of the situation, I was all ready to roll my eyes until a car, unexpectedly, burst through the back wall and rocketed toward them. If you're going to do this sort of thing, toss in something from out of left field, something that ideally makes us laugh or wonder just how the hell that got there. I have to admit that I still thought the device was a little lazy, but I was much more willing to stick around with the episode and find out where it came from.

Really, that's how I feel about The Good Guys in a nutshell. It's a prime example of a show that only exists to entertain people who've watched a lot of other TV shows, that ironic smirk perched on its face for the entirety of its running time. And yet, there's something in the craftsmanship of the show and the performances that makes it downright enjoyable all the same. Colin Hanks and Bradley Whitford have crack comic timing, and even when the show threatens to go too broad, at least one of them is there to rein it all in. I mean, honestly, Bradley Whitford yelling at a computer and telling it to tell him where his partner is should be too broad and stupid to work in the second episode of a show. (Usually you don't want to go this broad for at least a few seasons. You need to leave yourself a little room.) But damned if it wasn't a lot of fun anyway.

I'm not sure how long The Good Guys can keep up its conceit that the guys go out to investigate one innocuous crime and end up embroiled in giant criminal conspiracies, but it's been funny in the first two episodes. In tonight's, the guys go out to find out who broke the window in the house of two attractive women who are roommates (and the show, of course, goes to Dan making lots of "you must be lesbians" jokes as well as a slightly less eye-roll-y moment when he gets into bed with one - clothed - and spots a clue), and they end up taking down a ring of international car thieves with a little assist from the guys hired to take the cars from Dallas to Baton Rouge, who've gotten a little burst of American Pride (not that this keeps the other guys from pushing too far and getting arrested as well). It's a fun little storyline, and the way the show ties the two stories together is shambling, to be sure, but also has a zip to it that makes it hum right along.

In particular, I liked Lauren Stamile as Kirsten. For the whole first half of the episode, I kept thinking, "She must be the car thief's girlfriend who never calls back, right?" and yet the show somehow kept me from fully guessing that that would be the twist. When she was, indeed, revealed to be the girlfriend, I grinned, both at how well the show had set itself up and how well it had played me. It's a fun little twist, and everyone in the show plays it well, particularly Stamile, who turns on a dime from sweet girl who just seems to want Jack to take her out to criminal's girlfriend hellcat. Stamile's been knocking around the TV guest star roster for a few years now as just a generic "hot brunette girl" type, and it's probably time that she land a role in a show that sees if she has more to give. This episode suggests she could be a really fun comic actress, if given the chance.

I still think that The Good Guys is just a little lazy here and there. It has a tendency to think that we're going to be so into its evocation of a bygone era's cop shows that it will actually turn into one of those cop shows for long stretches of time (though, to be fair, the jokes on this show are better and those old shows didn't have Bradley Whitford and his mustache). It largely thinks it can coast on the goodwill it dredges up by looking a lot like these old shows and reminding us of the mindless hours we spent in front of them as kids. Furthermore, the patter between Whitford and Hanks is good, but it could be snappier. The two actors are overselling a few of the lines, maybe because they could be just a little bit better written. And, for that matter, the show is wasting an absolutely terrific talent by having Jenny Wade be tossed off to the side and only pop in every so often to tell the two guys they're doing a good job. Wade is a terrific comic actress, and the show needs to use her for more than this.


But I'm still enjoying the show for the way it cruises along on style. Dan's constant need to protect his car was very funny, even if it's a variation on something I've seen before. Jack's apartment and his persnickety nature were also very funny, and I continue to like the way the show rolls out action sequences that were obviously done on a budget but were still obviously crafted with love and style. At its best, The Good Guys is a fun, fun show, the perfect summer trifle for a long, hot evening. At its worst, it's the exact same thing. This means the show will never likely be great or your favorite show or anything, but it also means that it will have to work really hard to be absolutely abysmal. The Good Guys is competent fun, and I don't say that like it's a bad thing.

Stray observations:

  • Yeah, we're thinking about adding this. Let us know how you feel about that notion in comments.
  • Looks like this was the sixth episode produced. That means we have some truly execrable hours ahead of us, most likely.
  • "What kinda English? Keith Richards English or Elton John English?"
  • "Who do you think you are? Mariel Hemingway?"
  • "I like to come up with plans that don't involve vomit."
  • "You think our Founding Fathers won by aiming for the legs?"
  • "Oh no! Crime! I gotta go!"
  • "I think I've finally figured out how to use a computer machine."