I’ve suggested in this space before that Netflix is kind of like the Noah’s Ark of television, trying to get two of every variety of show in existence. Before watching “The Good Cop,” premiering this Friday, it didn’t dawn on me that they didn’t yet have what could be called the “quirky procedural.” You know the kind, most often seen on USA Network, in which eccentric characters solve crimes, neatly wrapping them up in a 44-minute running time, allowing only a scant few plot threads and character developments to carry from episode to episode. I’m thinking of shows like “Psych,” “Burn Notice” and “Monk,” which share a co-creator with this program (Andy Breckman) that was clearly designed for USA or CBS and was snagged by Netflix instead (when someone says "kicks and giggles," you know this was pitched to network TV). How you respond to “The Good Cop” will be determined largely by how much you embraced the “Characters Welcome” phase of USA, although I must say that I watched most of those shows and couldn’t really get through much of this one. Is it more of a commentary on how far TV has come in the last decade or a sign of the quality here? Maybe a little of Column A and a lot of Column B.
In a buddy pairing you probably never saw coming, Josh Groban plays NY cop Tony Caruso Jr. and Tony Danza plays his pop. The character archetypes—which will be bizarrely reconfirmed every episode as if the one before it didn’t exist and you’re watching different iterations of a pilot—are simple. Tony Sr. was a bad cop, the kind of who took money under the table and cut corners to get the job done before doing a stint behind bars for his indiscretions. In order to be as different from his disgraced pop as possible, Tony Jr. is depressingly by-the-book, not just in crime-solving but in every aspect of his life. He’s the kind of guy who calls someone out for string bets in a casual poker game, while dad is trying to figure out how to cheat.
Did I mention the Tonys are living together? And while Sr. is no longer on the force, “The Good Cop” finds a way to get him involved with every case, whether it’s dating a gorgeous model who becomes entangled in his son’s case or even harboring a fugitive, played by John Carroll Lynch, who disguises himself from Tony Jr. by wearing a wig and dress. Mrs. Featherbottom was more believable. And this is at the root of the problem with “The Good Cop”—it could have been called “The Dumb Cop.” Every episode hinges on one of the Tonys, or often both, not seeing something that’s staring them in the face.
The supporting cast doesn’t lessen the disappointment. The great Isiah Whitlock Jr. is wasted as the world-weary partner of Tony Jr. and Monica Barbaro is given the most inconsistent character of them all, starting as something of a romantic interest for Groban, but basically being used in whatever context the mystery-of-the-week demands.
Look, no one expects a show called “The Good Cop” with Tony Danza and Josh Groban to break new ground, but what this program fails to understand is that the shows on which it is modeled were often more accomplished than their reputation as disposable television may have conveyed. It’s not easy to be light on your feet, consistent with character, and wrap up a murder mystery every episode. And if you’re looking for a cop comedy, just watch the great “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” again. Or I think “Monk” is on Hulu.