I like Matt Nix. His other show, Burn Notice, doesn't try to reinvent the wheel on spy procedurals, but it provides nice post-modern touches on the genre: Its hero, Michael Weston, is likable, despite his best efforts to appear otherwise, and he narrates each episode with do-it-yourself spy tips and thoughts on the show's larger mythology. Nix's latest project, The Good Guys, premiered last night on Fox (the show will return on June 7), and like Burn Notice, it's not super complicated or densely layered. It's simply a good time, with a little action, a little comedy, some good acting, and more than a few gratuitous mustache scenes.
Signature Nix elements peppered the pilot, which was directed by Burn Notice vet and West Wing actor Tim Matheson. Jack (Colin Hanks) is an up-and-coming cop who's subdued, yet unafraid of speaking out of turn even when it's not his place (like every character on Burn Notice). Dan (Bradley Whitford) is the Bruce Campbell-type: drunk and fumbling, but a secret savant at what he does. He causes a lot of trouble on the force, but they can't get rid of him because 25 years ago, he saved the governor's son. That fleeting moment of fame gives him job security and the ability to flirt with older ladies who remember his "glory days" even though no one can stand him. Also very Burn Notice is the way the action plays out, in that the mission is solved when the cops go rogue and do things their way. Whether that means eating old cottage cheese so one of them can vomit at a crime scene and get the place to himself to look for clues, or giving a gun to a suspect to help out, these guys fly by the seat of their pants.
With any procedural, there's always the fear that the key characters won't be compelling enough to sustain viewers each week; then the onus rests on the cases themselves to be interesting. Alone, the Jack and Dan characters would likely wear out their welcomes, but together they make strong leads. There's the familiar element of Jack slowly warming up to Dan—a chaotic cop who always comes out on top by using whatever means necessary. (Even saying that sounds a bit cliché.) But mixed in is an unexpected vulnerability in Dan: No one is aware of the fact that Dan is past his prime more than Dan himself—hence, all the drinking—and in Jack he sees a friend and protegé, kind of a second shot at a decent career.
As for the show's cases, The Good Guys would be wise to stick to a formula resembling what happened last night: Jack and Dan were investigating what appeared to be a small-time crime, but at the insistence of Dan they kept digging, and discovered that a simple stolen humidifier was connected to drugs, money, and murder. In the world of The Good Guys, there's always more than meets the eye. Or, as the case may be, the 'stache.
What did you think of the pilot?