You can’t make all of the people happy all of the time.
Unfortunately, no one ever told Netflix this. The streaming platform’s desire to deluge the market with a litany of programming results in it having no brand. I can tell you what an FX show looks like, what a CBS show looks like, what an HBO show looks like. I have no idea what a Netflix show looks like. And The Good Cop opens up a whole new genre (non-edgy procedural) for Netflix.
I try to go into reviewing a new show without knowing anything about it. I don’t want any pre-conceived notions impacting my viewing experience or my review. Sometimes that’s impossible, of course. Like, who doesn’t know Matthew Weiner’s next TV show is Amazon Prime’s The Romanoffs?
But I managed to go into The Good Cop knowing only that it starred Tony Danza and Josh Groban. Still, midway through the first episode, I started to have this nagging feeling that the show reminded me of something. I soon realized it reminded me of Monk, the Tony Shalhoub detective series that ran on USA from 2002-2009. By the second episode, the feeling was so persistent that I broke down and looked at who was behind the series. Sure enough, it’s Andy Breckman, the creator of Monk. The crimes are equally quirky. The characters ‘rat-a-tat banter and cadence are almost identical. The criminals are just as goofy.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Monk was part of the “Blue Skies” era of the USA Network, before it started offering darker fare like Mr. Robot, The Sinner and The Purge. (I’m pretty sure there are no blue skies on The Purge.) Monk had a nice comfortable rhythm. It was always entertaining, but it didn’t make you think too hard. No CliffsNotes needed.
What it did have that The Good Cop doesn’t is a weeklong breather between episodes. Some shows lend themselves to bingeing. Others do not. Netflix’s business model is to be all things to all people, but their model of releasing episodes doesn’t change. And when you watch this type of show one right after the other, its repetition becomes distressingly clear. The Good Cop is light and fluffy and best served intermittently.
Josh Groban stars as TJ, a NYPD detective and the title character. Monk had obsessive-compulsive disorder, and TJ is obsessive about playing by the rules. TJ is such a rule-follower that he feels guilty using a sugar packet taken from a restaurant. “You break one rule, they all break” is his oft-repeated motto. His dad, Big Tony (the always affable Tony Danza), doesn’t subscribe to his son’s strict adherence to the law. Big Tony is not a good cop and has just been released after spending seven years in jail for corruption. He’s not officially on the force, but that doesn’t stop him from helping his son solve crimes. Isiah Whitlock, Jr. is TJ’s exasperated partner who has 474 days until retirement and, in one of the premiere’s funniest bits, is prone to asking questions like, “Why do the Flintstones celebrate Christmas?”
As fellow detective Cora Vasquez, Monica Barbaro fills the dual role of often being the most logical person in the room and being a will they/won’t they romantic possibility for TJ. She also has a great line about Dawson’s Creek, which immediately endeared her to me.
If you watched Groban host the Tony Awards, you know how charming he is. Danza is doing his best Danza, which remains as awesome as always. TJ’s loving exasperation with his dad is sweet. The duo is a delight to watch and are clearly having fun. The show is a light, fun, goofy escape. You’ll be able to solve the crime/figure out the bad guy long before the show reveals it to you, but hey, that’s fine. The Good Cop is so old-fashioned, such a throwback to the kinder, gentler days of television, that the opening credits are based on a newspaper.
It’s so obvious that Netflix decides what shows they will invest time in promoting and what shows will debut with a whisper. The Good Cop, like Atypical—which returned for a second season this month—falls into the whisper category. It’s not a show worth shouting about, but it definitely deserves more attention than Netflix is giving it.
The Good Cop premieres Friday, Sept. 21 on Netflix.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and the Assistant TV Editor for Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal) or her blog .