'The Goodwin Games' Review: A Great New Comedy Worth Playing
'The Goodwin Games' Review: A Great New Comedy Worth Playing
John Kubicek
John Kubicek
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
The best comedy pilot of the 2012-2013 TV season is about to premiere on May 20. That's either a scathing indictment of how lackluster new comedies were this past year or an infuriating commentary about FOX, which is burying a real gem.

The show is The Goodwin Games, premiering Monday, May 20 at 8:30pm on FOX amid a night of comedy reruns. It's also going up against the performance finale of Dancing with the Stars, a new episode of The Voice and the series finale of CBS' Rules of Engagement. There are only seven episodes and, quite frankly, the most I can really hope for is that FOX actually airs all of them. It makes you question why the network would even bother ordering a new show if it's going to disrespect it in this way (NBC is doing the same thing with Anne Heche's sitcom Save Me, premiering Thursday).

The saddest part is that The Goodwin Games is genuinely great. A slightly crazy and absentee father (Beau Bridges) dies, bringing his three children back home for the funeral and the reading of the will. His will is a seemingly endless collection of video tapes which set up an elaborate contest to see who will inherit his previously unknown fortune of $23 million.

The children are introduced perfectly with vignettes that tell us everything we need to know about them. Eldest son Henry (Scott Foley) is a prominent surgeon whose seemingly ideal life is carefully planned to the minute. Daughter Chloe (Becki Newton) is a wannabe actress desperate to fit in. And Jimmy (T.J. Miller) learns about his father's passing after getting out of jail, something he does quite often.

The three siblings have almost nothing in common and the titular Goodwin Games are a plot by their late father to force them to come together and be a family again, something he was never able to do while he was alive.

The show comes from How I Met Your Mother creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas. Their influence is obvious. The wildly elaborate games that are set up make Barney Stinson's Playbook look like child's play. The first task is to play a game of Trivial Pursuit, but all of the questions are about personal information from their family. Repeated references to "the bobcat in the bathroom" even remind me of HIMYM's goat.

The complex structure, combined with spot-on performances by the three leads, make this a strong comedy. What makes it truly great is the heart. The family element is quite touching, and a storyline involving Jimmy's little daughter (who demands a receipt with every gift because she knows that her daddy is a common criminal), adds a sweet layer beneath all the absurdity.

The Goodwin Games is easily the best new network comedy of the past year, though that's not saying much. Of the 12 sitcoms that premiered during the 2012-2013 TV season, 10 were canceled (even the two successes, The Mindy Project and The Neighbors, weren't big hits). But this show is smart, well-acted, wonderfully directed and interesting.

It's a shame FOX waited until the summer to burn off the seven episodes. I'd like to hope that, if the show somehow gets big ratings, FOX might consider keeping it, but the fact that Miller stars in a new comedy HBO just ordered and Beau Bridges is on the new CBS fall sitcom The Millers makes me doubt that The Goodwin Games has any sort of future beyond a seven-episode run.

Still, don't let its inevitable cancellation prevent you from enjoying TV's best new comedy in more than a year.

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(Image courtesy of FOX)