By Darren Franich
Updated June 08, 2010 at 04:14 PM EDT

Image Credit: Bill Matlock/FoxLast night, Fox officially premiered The Good Guys after a preview episode a couple weeks ago. That first episode didn’t get great ratings and felt a bit unsteady, tonally-speaking, but I thought it had some potential. Last night’s episode was more of the same: very unsteady, but times rather sparkling. The Good Guys still feels like about half of a funny action satire and half of a lame genuine action show, but there’s enough that’s good to keep me watching.

First of all, the bad. The show’s still figuring out just how straight-faced a comedy it is, and that’s best exemplified by the bipolar deployment of Bradley Whitford’s scenery-devouring performance. One second, he’s a drunk wreck with brilliant cop instincts; the next, he’s an emotional adolescent addicted to porn and cars; the next, he’s turned into a bargain-Will Ferrell manchild who tries to yell a computer into submission.

Pretty much everything Whitford says in his Yosemite-Sam-on-whiskeyroids twang sounds funny, though, whereas Colin Hanks’ straight man role has thus far been surprisingly bland. Where’s all the gravitas he displayed as the priest on Mad Men?

And yet, there’s definitely something fun going on here. Creator Matt Nix is the man behind Burn Notice, and you can feel some of that show’s kicky energy in the twisted pretzel-logic subplots. Last night’s villain was a British bad guy right out of an ’80s action movie (How British? His name was Nigel.) He came off like a continental badass, but he kept on fretting that his girlfriend was cheating on him.

The Evil British Stereotype ran afoul of a pair of Evil Trucker Stereotypes, who agreed to help Nigel in his scheme to send vintage American cars to Europe and China (where they fetch a pretty profit.) But along the way, the truckers got a sudden touch of patriotism: “If anybody’s gonna make money off stolen American cars, it’s Americans. Made in America, stoled in America, chopping in America.” (The truckers also debated, Tarantino-style, the fact that China is the number one exporter of American flags.) The plot twists may have been obvious, but the show fits quite a bit into just one hour, time jumps and all.

That being said, the most consistently entertaining part of the episode was the snitch Julius, played to hilarious perfection by RonReaco Lee. I laughed out loud at the terrified embarrassment he layered into the line, “I’m about to get killed, and it’s not even by an American!” Julius appeared in the pilot episode, but he doesn’t seem to be coming back anytime soon. Dear Matt Nix: make this guy a regular. Now.

Did you watch The Good Guys, PopWatchers?