Why in the world has it taken so long for someone to give Josh Groban a TV show? It’s no secret that the multi-platinum dreamboat has a knack for comedy, and he’s always a welcome presence on screen, whether it’s as Miss Piggy’s love interest on The Muppets or as co-host of this year’s Tony Awards. We should be grateful, then, to The Good Cop creator Andy Breckman for elevating Groban to leading man. There are many things to like about Netflix’s new police comedy, and Groban’s performance as the titular detective — a straight man in every sense of the word — is one of the show’s chief delights.
The Good Cop, based on the Israeli comedy of the same name, follows Tony “TJ” Caruso Jr. (Groban), a successful, pathologically rule-bound detective in the NYPD. (TJ’s motto: “If you break one rule, they all break.”) His father, Tony Sr. (Tony Danza, oozing wiseguy charm), is a former cop who just moved in with TJ after a stint in prison for corruption. Though Tony Sr. is no longer on the job, he can’t help but get tangled up in TJ’s work — usually through poor decision-making (harboring a fugitive friend from prison) or convenient coincidence (the manager at Tony Sr.’s regular bowling alley is found dead).
Hilarity ensues, right? Actually, yes. Good Cop (premiering Sept. 21 on Netflix) blends the cheerful silliness of Brooklyn Nine-Nine with the tidy storytelling of Breckman’s other crime comedy, Monk, and it elevates the familiar police-show formula with a strong ensemble cast. Danza, an actor who only gets more affable with age, is skilled in the art of busting chops, but he tempers Tony’s exasperating personality with believable sweetness. (Pops never lets his son leave for a crime scene without issuing this warning: “Hey, wear your vest.”) Groban is a wonderful foil; his TJ is a swirl of tension and nerves held in check, barely, by an unfailingly professional demeanor. “I taught him everything I know,” boasts Tony Sr., prompting TJ to utter with clenched politeness, “Except right from wrong. That I learned on my own.”
Rounding out the precinct are TJ’s fellow detective-slash-love interest, Cora Vasquez (Monica Barbaro), and Isiah Whitlock Jr. as Burl Loomis, an NYPD vet who is literally counting the days until his retirement (474 to be exact). Whitlock, an exceptionally talented character actor who should be cast in everything, can turn even the most clichéd cop archetype into a scene-stealing favorite. (There’s a moment in the series premiere where Loomis lists a series of random things that don’t make sense — “Why do the Flintstones celebrate Christmas?” — and from there a ridiculous running joke is born.) And Bill Kottkamp gives a breakout performance as the precinct’s awkward tech geek, Ryan, a guy who responds with refreshingly realistic revulsion to a bloody crime scene photo: “What the heck? This is gross!”
As a rare Netflix procedural, Good Cop is engaging without being too mentally taxing. The mysteries are literally spelled out in a newspaper headline (e.g. “What Is The Supermodel’s Secret?”) during the opening credits; after 8 seasons of Monk, Breckman clearly respects the pleasures of smartly-plotted stories told well over 44 minutes. Sure, you might sometimes figure out whodunit 12 minutes into the episode, but who doesn’t like being right once in awhile? B+