May 27, 2013

THE SKED PILOT + 1 REVIEW: “The Goodwin Games”



A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on THE GOODWIN GAMES:  After the death of their father Benjamin (Beau Bridges), his estranged children–type-A surgeon Henry (Scott Foley), underperformer Chloe (Becki Newton) and petty ex-con Jimmy (T.J. Miller)–discover that they’ll have to maneuver through a gauntlet of his specially designed games in order to win his $23M fortune.  Along the way, they’ll not-so-incidentally become a family again.

Episode 2:  Well, now FOX’s decision to dump The Goodwin Games into summer is a bit clearer.  The show’s second episode, for unknown reasons, dropped the series premise almost entirely–there’s no “game” in the episode at all (save Bridges vaguely telling his children to look after each other when the bell tolls).  So the half-hour, written by Executive Story Editor Tom Ruprecht and directed by Peyton Reed, focused instead on its trio of fairly unlikeable characters.  Henry, jealous because his old girlfriend Lucinda (Kat Foster), was dating a guy they’d ridiculed in the old days who’s now the town cop, obnoxiously complained at length that her having such a loser boyfriend made him look bad, while Chloe found out that no one had ever really liked her even when she was the high school’s queen mean girl, and Jimmy went back to theft, stealing some sporting goods.  Everyone had learned their lesson by the end of the episode, apologized and swore to be a better person, but it was laborious and routine.  There’s nothing at all wrong with building a comedy around flawed, even distasteful people–Curb Your Enthusiasm is just one great example–but trying to fold those people into a conventional network sitcom where everyone has to grow as a human being before the end credits roll is lacking the courage of your comic convictions.  The result wasn’t funny or heartwarming–just wan and desperate.

Goodwin Games is still buoyed by its strong cast (Newton manufactured some charm even out of a bit where she had to dance a jig with cream cheese in her hair), but it seems to have headed in the wrong direction after its pilot.  Was it the result of network suggestions/orders?  Did Thomas and Bays lose sight of their own vision for the show?  Goodwin still has 5 more episodes to show if it was able to find its way again, but this was a dispiriting follow-up to a promising pilot.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  If Nothing Else Is On…

EPISODE 2:  Maybe Not Even Then



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."