“I taught him everything he knows,” declares the proud Tony Sr. (Tony Danza), a former cop whose son is now the best detective on the NYPD beat. “Except right from wrong,” comes the reply from Tony Jr. (Josh Groban). Living together, solving crimes together and bickering together, they’re a double-act ready-made for television – it’s no wonder, then, that Netflix’s algorithm has put them together for its new sitcom, The Good Cop.
It’s reductive to presume that all of Netflix’s programming that isn’t a five-star masterpiece is the result of fastidiously following some kind of formula, but in the case of The Good Cop, it does feel very fitting: the show hails from Andy Breckman, the creator of Monk, and his new comedy is a lot like his old one, full of quirky criminals, carefully assembled mysteries and eccentric characters.
Chief among those is Tony Jr., who has a borderline neurotic need to follow procedure to the letter. “If you break one rule, they all break,” he recites regularly, something that, of course, puts him at immediate odds with his dad, who loves nothing more than bending the rules – and, of course, is a phrase first coined by his late mother, just for added emotional impact. How much you can go along with this relatively undemanding duo and their old-fashioned chalk-and-cheese banter will depend on how much you like Tony Danza and Josh Groban. Luckily, both are impossible to dislike, and they bring a full dose of charm to their father-son bond: Groban plays the straight man with a sympathetically naive air, while Danza grins and schmoozes like he was born to do it. (And, from all the evidence available, he probably was.)
They’re surrounded by an equally likeable ensemble, from Cora Vasquez (Monica Barbaro), the no-nonsense detective who stands up to Tony Sr. and enjoys winding up Tony Jr., to The Wire’s Isiah Whitlock Jr. as Burl Loomis, a department veteran who’s awaiting retirement at some far-off date. They pop up every few scenes for a wry aside or amusing conversation, and the show amiable pootles along to its surprising, but often not that surprising, conclusions for each episode.
What does surprise is that the character work isn’t all that consistent; Groban’s Tony Sr. doesn’t always fully follow his own logic and fondness for scrunity, and his solutions often seem the result of luck than intelligence or dedicated police procedure, while Cora’s position as a love interest feels shoe-horned in rather than organic. Nonetheless, the show is peppered with witty comments on conventional cop shows, whether it’s the disgusting nature of crime scene photos or calling out the endless list of random things that go unexplained. (“Why do the Flintstones celebrate Christmas?” asks Loomis, in a scene-stealing monologue.)
And between all those laughs runs a surprisingly sweet vein of sentiment – “Wear your vest,” insists Tony Sr., every time Tony Jr. heads out to work – that stops you taking against the occasionally predictable plots, the familiar theme tune or everything else that feels straight out of network TV show from 20 years ago. The result is a nostalgic vehicle that sits alongside The Ranch and One Day a Time in Netflix’s apparent attempt to corner the market that it initially tries to distinguish itself from. But Breckman’s work is so precisely calibrated in its balance of being entertaining and undemanding that The Good Cop does just enough to arrest your attention while it’s on. If there is an overall algorithm at work behind the scenes, it’s one that mostly adds up, even if that calculation shouldn’t be done all at once.
The Good Cop is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.