At long last, one of the remaining newcomers to the 2012-2013 season will make its debut tonight. Fox's The Goodwin Games has three things going for it; a great cast, a great premise and a set of great creators. There's just one thing missing from this comedy. Comedy. The series is set up to focus on a set of adult siblings brought together by their father's death, but it's not grief that keeps this comedy from finding laughs. It's as though the pilot forgot to add the humor, which is a shame, as it has everything else.
The Goodwin Games comes from Carter Bays and Craig Thomas (How I Met Your Mother), as well as Chris Harris, and stars Scott Foley (Scandal), Becki Newton (Ugly Betty) and T.J. Miller (Cloverfield) as three siblings who have gone their separate ways in their adulthood. They return to their small New Hampshire town when they learn that their father, Benjamin Goodwin (guest star Beau Bridges) has died. None of them knew that he was worth millions and he's decided to use that money as motivation to get his kids back on speaking terms with one another. Using video to speak with them from beyond the grave, Dad has the kids engage in a custom-made game of Trivial Pursuit, which prompts numerous flashbacks of their youth. It seems dear old Dad has a history of forcing his kids to use their brains to get what they want. He also has a history of pitting them against one another, offering one prize and setting the three of them to compete for it.
As we watch this trio of siblings and one random guy compete for the cash prize, we get to know a little bit about their history, which for Foley's Henry, involves a falling out with a woman named Lucinda, who's now a minister. We also get to know April (Melissa Tang), Benjamin's assistant, who was once friends with Newton's Chloe, back when they were kids. And Miller's Jimmy has a child he's trying to be there for. So there are some personal issues for each character that need to be resolved, and that adds to the story, beyond this quest for the inheritance.
The pilot makes good use of its cast, and the story is set up nicely. But as I mentioned, it's not very funny. There's an opportunity for a bit of dark humor here, particularly with Bridges' character, since he's talking to his kids via video tape, but the show doesn't seem interested in taking that approach. And while we get a sense that the Goodwin siblings are decent but somewhat flawed characters, there's nothing especially funny about any of them. At best, they're likable.
Looking at it optimistically, The Goodwin Games has the potential to grow on us as we get to see the characters develop and the story progress. Fox only showed us the first episode though, so I can't say if things get any better from here. What it comes down to is that The Goodwin Games isn't bad. It's actually pretty sweet in a family-focused sort of way. It's just not very funny, which leaves me sort of indifferent. Given the cast and writers, my hopes were high, so that's disappointing.
But don't take my word for it. The full episode went online last week!
The Goodwin Games debuts Monday, May 20 at 8:30 p.m. Et on Fox.