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Sibling Rivalry In “Pilot”: The Goodwin Games Review

By on May 21, 2013
Becki Netwon. Image © FOX

Becki Netwon. Image © FOX

“I have decided to leave all my fortune to a single heir,” an exuberant Benjamin Goodwin (Beau Bridges) informs his three adult children. Thanks to a series of instructional videos he taped before his passing, he does this from beyond the grave. Benjamin’s uniquely designed games, detailed in the videos, will award one of his children with the inheritance. Since his fortune is $23 million, the family is definitely paying attention.

The eldest of the trio is Henry (Scott Foley), a very successful and rather neurotic surgeon. Chloe (Becki Newton) is the (secretly nerdy) aspiring actress. Last, but not least, there’s Jimmy (T.J. Miller), the lovable screw-up with an abnormally mature daughter. These characters are very stereotyped, but the talented actors breathe life into them. The competitive, often snarky bickering between all of them is also fun to watch.

They have all lost touch with each other, so their father’s games are constructed to bring them back together. In addition to that, it’s an opportunity for Benjamin to make up for some lackluster parenting. Apparently, Benjamin was frequently a less than exemplary father. For example, all of the Goodwin kids were quite accustomed to hearing: “I love you anyway.”

We learn a surprisingly large amount within the first episode. Children, ex-girlfriends-turned-ministers, and former best friends all give us a humorous glimpse into the three main characters. Flashbacks are also utilized to help flesh out the story.

All three Goodwins are entertaining, but the one with the show-stealing lines in this episode is Jimmy. T.J. Miller is outrageously funny with his deadpanned expressions, and clearly has a knack for comedic timing. With credits like She’s Out Of My League and Our Idiot Brother to his name, this makes sense. When a fourth contestant (Jerrod Carmichael) shows up to battle for the prize, Jimmy sincerely asks him if he knew their father from being on a whaling ship together. Jimmy’s suggestion is ignored, naturally, so he shoots the contestant a dirty look before adding, “I still am pretty confident it’s the whaling ship theory.”

Considering the high concept of the show, there has to be a certain suspension of disbelief. Sometimes this feels a little too goofy. However, the premise is a sweet one, and the diverse, slightly dysfunctional characters offer plenty to explore. Anytime a show revolves around a family, there are always going to be areas where the audience can relate – sometimes to a cringing degree. The show really hits its stride when it focuses on these areas.

There are only seven episodes scheduled, which makes sense when you consider the logistics of extending a show built around this concept. Unless the story takes a new turn, it is a difficult one to maintain. It is definitely quirky, and with the strong cast it has the potential to be a very funny show. The easy chemistry between the three leads is what makes The Goodwin Games charming. Check out the next episode May 27 on FOX.