Tony Danza is a very endearing guy when he’s performing. From Taxi to Who’s the Boss? to The Tony Danza Show, he’s always at least somewhat charming.
Josh Groban has the voice of an angel and the appearance of a cast member from Revenge of the Nerds.
Netflix decided they should be on a father-son Odd-Couple-esque buddy-cop cop-and-convict whodunit-mystery show. Coincidentally, the price of cocaine has been increasing due to over-consumption.
Tony Caruso, Sr. (Tony Danza) was formerly a hero cop who, it turns out, was massively corrupt and engaged in a series of widely-publicized scandals that sent him to prison. His son, Tony, Jr. or “TJ” (Josh Groban) is now a police officer renowned for his dedication to the rules, even going to comically enormous lengths to avoid small infractions. As a condition of Tony, Sr.’s recent parole, he is required to live with his son. Naturally, in the pilot, they fight constantly until Big Tony goes back to prison to try to cover for TJ, proving that he really does love him, so they can stay together, yadda yadda yadda.
As the season goes by Tony Sr. keeps doing crazy semi-legal schemes and TJ gets caught up in them while they solve mysteries together. The supporting cast is: Cora Vasquez (Monica Barbaro), who was Tony Sr.’s parole officer who later becomes a detective under TJ, as well as his love interest; Burl Loomis (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.), an older detective who was a friend of Tony Sr. who is renowned for his policy of “never running”; and Ryan (Bill Rottkamp), an ultra-nerd Tech Crime Analyst for the NYPD whose character was written when we thought Hackers was accurate.
So, the show was created by the guy who made Monk, Andy Breckman, and it shows. The characters are all quirky as hell, there’s a loose story arc involving Tony Sr.’s dead wife that might get resolved in 9 years, and the mysteries are usually pretty creative. Honestly, the crime-centric episodes were the best, because they were actually decent puzzles and distracted me from how uninteresting the characters are despite the set-up giving so many potentially interesting conflicts. Breckman said, “Many cop shows feature dark and provocative material: psycho-sexual killers, twisted, grim, flawed detectives. Many address the most controversial issues of the day. I watch a lot of them. God bless ’em all. But the show I want to produce is playful, family-friendly, and a celebration of old-fashioned puzzle-solving.” So… mission accomplished?
It almost bothers me that I actually like this show, because it is bland as hell. Tony Danza and Josh Groban are both likeable and inoffensive (despite the fact that Danza’s character is supposed to be a convicted corrupt cop). Isiah Whitlock and Monica Barbaro are always entertaining when they’re on screen. Nothing about the show ever really gets me upset and it mostly keeps my attention. But it’s just… mediocre. It’s just like many of the seasons of Monk, but without Tony Shalhoub to give an amazing performance. I like it, but I don’t love it. It’s just that everyone involved in it is so loveable I can’t really dislike it either. It’s fun and not challenging to watch, which means that a lot of people will probably love it and I can’t blame them. It’s like a graham cracker – it’s not the most sophisticated snack, but I will eat the entire box and then cry about how I shouldn’t have done that.
I will say that some of the episodes had some neat gimmicks, like having a talk-show host who toys with the officers or having the suspect be TJ’s crush, but ultimately it’s pretty middle-of-the-road. I really hope they give the characters some more depth in the future, because I can’t look Josh Groban in the eye and say “I don’t want to watch your show.” It would break his little heart and it’s not his fault.
I do have to add that at the end of the episode, the title card for the next episode plays and it’s spaced so that you can read it before Netflix automatically starts the next episode, which is a great idea and should be duplicated by other series. Good job, whoever did that.
Seriously, though, please add either more comedy or more darkness, because right now it’s just TVpH 7.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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