The Good Guys, the new cop comedy from Fox, is showing in my Seattle hotel room as I write this. A month ago I argued that this show has no place in contemporary culture and therefore no hope of success. (My assumption, unless you are have made contact with culture, your chances of making contact with commerce are remote.) I am sorry to say that The Good Guys is as predictable and uninteresting as predicted
Dan Stark (Bradley Whitford) is a big dope, cheap, fast and out of control, a walking set of appetites, politically incorrect and proud of it, inclined to play loose and fast with the rules. Jack Bailey (Colin Hanks) plays by the book and spends a good deal of time rolling his eyes and suppressing the temptation to tell Dan Stark to join the 21st century. Dude! This version of the buddy pic has been with at least since 1987 and the release of Lethal Weapon with Mel Gibson as the guy who is out of control and Danny Glover his law and order loving partner.
There are ways out of this problem. Producers could have given the Dan Stark role to Colin Hanks. That would have been a little counter expectational. Better, Dan Stark could have been both cheap, fast, and out of control, and fastidious about procedure. In the first case, the actor plays against type. In the second, the character does.
The old argument is that no one will bind with the show or indeed follow it unless the thing runs on the rails of established expectation. Follow genre. Play to type. But these days this is the path to an early cancelation. How is it someone at Fox failed to get the memo? Present audiences are good enough at TV that they can watch without rails, without genre, without type.
McCracken, Grant. 2010. Calling all CCOs: how good is your gut? This Blog. May 13. here.
I actually think this is a smart, fun and culturally relevant show for a raft of reasons.
-It’s not a retread of Lethal Weapon pairings, but overtly plays with genre tropes and history, esp by the fact that Stark is an early 80s TV cop.
-It’s shot on location in Dallas, and has a real sense of place, as opposed to the generic LA/NYC. Plus Dallas is a town that comes with existing pop culture traction, so it’s both familiar and strange.
-Stylistically it a humorous take on the current high-gloss shoot ’em up films (Smokin’ Aces and its ilk). Also – the amount of locations and camera angles and ways to shoot a scene are far more creative than
most genre fare.
-Stark’s character is a more than just a dope, but is in sync w/ culture’s current affinity for the Zach Galifianakis type.
-I know there are some more thoughts, but its a sunny Saturday morning, time to go outside:)
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