FOX’s new comedy THE GOODWIN GAMES premieres tonight at 8:30 P.M. EST. The “Pilot” finds three grown up, estranged siblings returning to their hometown upon learning of their father’s death. After the funeral, they learn he secretly has more than twenty million dollars tucked away, and, rather than split it among them, has set up an elaborate series of contests to determine with child should inherit the fortune.
THE GOODWIN GAMES was originally ordered as part of FOX’s lineup for the television season that is just ending, but has now been reduced to a seven-episode order intended to be burnt off this summer. Even being programmed with reruns of popular comedies, the show doesn’t stand much chance of a future.
But don’t let that scare you aware. It has a great cast and a fun concept, one that should hook in viewers, even if it failed to find support at the network. It’s charming, and it’s time-jumping story will remind sitcom fans of How I Met Your Mother, which isn’t coincidence, since this show is from the same producers. As such, it retains some of the tone and jokes that make How I Met Your Mother so entertaining.
In THE GOODWIN GAMES, we are introduced to: Henry (Scott Foley, Scandal, True Blood), whom is a successful surgeon; Chloe (Becki Newton, Ugly Betty, How I Met Your Mother), a highly intelligent aspiring actress; and Jimmy (T.J. Miller, How to Train Your Dragon, Cloverfield), a screw-up freshly out of prison (again), and indebted to some very bad people. Each have their eccentricities and good and bad qualities. They are all easy to root for, even when bickering, because there is familial affection present in their rivalry.
It’s no wonder they’re a little weird, given their upbringing by single father Benjamin (the great Beau Bridges). He always pitted them against each other, making them jump through hoops for treats and his approval. Viewers get a chance to see just how Benjamin treats them as kids, which informs quite a bit about who they are today, and it’s apparent just where their relationships go wrong.
Now, it’s clear almost right off the bat that the main goal Benjamin has is to bring the three back together as a family, one that is very sympathetic, and likely to happen, based on early interaction. It would not be surprising if, in the end, should an end ever be shown, that he’s not rich. After all, the house they return to isn’t super ornate, though it is quite nice, and maybe the fourth man who plays the game in the first episode and is gifted one million dollars is a decoy to motivate them into participating. This would make sense, given the premise. But, if the money is real, surely they will share it in the end.
However, as in How I Met Your Mother, knowing how things will turn out, generally speaking, doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the show. The draw is the journey, how the characters will get from Point A to Point B. Their interactions with each other, buoyed by excellent casting choices and great chemistry, are what makes THE GOODWIN GAMES worth watching, and the scenes where all three siblings are together are easily the best moments of the “Pilot.”
The only small complaint I have about THE GOODWIN GAMES is that Chloe, Henry, and Jimmy get along to well too quickly. Sure, mid-episode they argue so much that they can’t finish a single game of Trivial Pursuit. But by the end of the half hour, they seem to have found some common ground and begin to rebuild things between them. In order for Benjamin’s scheme to take up some time and continue for awhile, a little more conflict and a slower warm-up would be appropriate.
Had it been known that THE GOODWIN GAMES would only get seven installments, it’s likely the story would stay confined to this premise. However, designed to run much longer, each of the trio also has their own subplot, too. Chloe is ex-best friends with the lawyer Benjamin tasks with handling his children, April Cho (Melissa Tang, Beginners). Henry, soon after arriving in town, runs into his ex-girlfriend, Lucinda Hobbes (Kat Foster, Weeds, Royal Pains), who is now a minister, and whom Henry still has feelings for. Jimmy has a young daughter, Piper (Kaitlyn Maher, America’s Got Talent), who he tries to do right by, and who is wise enough at her young age to encourage Jimmy to stay on the straight and narrow. These characters are fun, and they do add depth to the proceedings, but while they would work great for a longer-running show, seem extraneous to a limited series.
There’s always a chance THE GOODWIN GAMES could find an audience and continue, slim as that might be. Because I’m a big fan of Foley and Newton’s work, and these are interesting, funny roles for them to play, I really hope that this happens, and will definitely be watching as many episodes as FOX will air, having loved the “Pilot.” But if THE GOODWIN GAMES would fail, as it is expected to, at least I’m confident that the cast won’t be unemployed for long.
CHIEF TELEVISION CRITIC | Creator of and writer for It's All Been Done Radio Hour live show and podcast. A voracious reader wanting to tell stories of his own, Jerome began writing around the age of 8 and hasn’t stopped, both original works and television reviews. Lives in central Ohio. Favorite current shows include The Walking Dead, Jessica Jones, Flaked, Outlander, and Archer.