Who doesn’t like Tony Danza?
Come on, he’s affable, charming, and seems genuine, even when he appears to be showboating. He acts, and he sings, and he’s just enjoyable to watch.
And who doesn’t love Josh Groban. Like Danza, he’s affable, charming, and seems genuine. He acts, and he sings, and he’s just enjoyable to watch.
So the pairing of Danza and Groban should work a little better than it does in the enjoyable series The Good Cop. The first season of 10 episodes is now available on Netflix.
The two are an odd couple, father and son cops. Danza plays Tony Caruso Sr., a former cop who went to jail for crimes that he freely admitted he committed while on the force. Groban is Tony Caruso Jr., a self-righteous, always-by-the-book detective who takes being honest a little too far. (He doesn’t want to use napkins from a fast-food place, as that would be wrong.)
Needless to say, Tony Sr. is more freewheeling in everything than the rather priggish Tony Jr.
The Good Cop works as a slightly amusing, with-an-edge police procedural. The stories are just serious enough to elevate the procedural aspects with levity supplied by Groban's uptight personality and Danza’s laissez faire approach to life.
As part of Tony Sr.’s parole, he has to live with his son, thus setting up a perpetual odd-couple arrangement.
Despite their exasperation with each other, father and son genuinely love each other. Tony Jr. wants his dad to be more like a cop than a perpetual con man; Tony Sr. wants his son to have more fun in life.
They also are united in their grief over a tragedy. His wife/his mother was killed by a drunk driver while Tony Sr. was in prison and he wasn’t allowed to attend the funeral. The search for the driver—who is always almost in range—adds a subplot to each episode.
The Tonys get excellent support from Monica Barbaro, who plays Tony Sr.’s parole officer, Cora Vasquez. She soon becomes a detective reporting to Tony Jr., who definitely has a crush on her. The Wire veteran Isiah Whitlock Jr. steals every scene he is in as Tony Jr.’s partner, Burl Loomis, who is counting the days until retirement. When it comes to chasing a criminal, Burl makes it clear each time that he “doesn’t run.” Bill Kottkamp is the geeky CSI tech who would rather be at a toy show.
The chemistry between Danza and Groban works well. I can believe they are father and son. Danza makes the most of Tony Sr.’s need to be the center of attention. And, yes, he looks good.
Groban tamps down his charismatic personality for Tony Jr., who wants to be in the background, especially when he’s around his father. He wants to be liked but knows he can never be as hale and hearty as his father. And the handsome Groban looks very nebbish with his severe hair and thick glasses.
(By the way, Danza sings in The Good Cop’s first season—Groban doesn’t. For those who don't know, Danza has done many turns in Broadway musicals.)
It’s pretty clear from the first episode that both are the good cop, for different reasons. Tony Sr. has the street smarts and looks at crime differently than Tony Jr., who has a Sherlock Holmes-like approach to detective work, seeing and linking the unusual.
The problem is that Groban, as good an actor as he is, can’t make the uptight persona completely work.
Certainly not as well as Monk, which is The Good Cop’s creator Andy Breckman’s other series.
Monk’s secret weapon was, of course, actor Tony Shalhoub, who made the obsessive Monk endearing, annoying, frustrating and empathetic.
A couple of critics have mentioned how Shalhoub could convey everything with a look, the blink of an eye. Shalhoub knows the value of silence. That is so true. Shalhoub, who is one of my two favorite actors, showed every emotion on his face. Like the time he proved a friend’s girlfriend was a killer—just a look conveyed empathy and disgust. Or when he stood in front of a jet plane, stopping a killer—his silence showed he had found his courage, was proud of it and yet was also still afraid, punctuated by touching the plane, an obsession he couldn’t help.
All that actorly business is missing from Groban’s performance.
Despite these flaws, The Good Cop is an enjoyable series. Crisp dialogue, good episodes, and Tony Danza. It’s enough to make me want to see a second season.
(A personal aside—I have met Tony Danza twice and both times he was quite personable. During a theater critics’ event at Sardi’s a couple of years ago, he talked more about his fellow actors and friends at the event than himself. And yes, that’s my photo with him at Sardi’s.)
Photos: Top, Tony Danza, Josh Groban in The Good Cop. Photo courtesy Netflix; Bottom, Tony Danza, Oline Cogdill