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Post-Olympics, NBC's Good Girls also goes for the gold


They’re in the money. But at what price in Good Girls? NBC photo

Premiering: Monday, Feb. 26th at 9 p.m. (central) on NBC
Starring: Christina Hendricks, Retta, Mae Whitman, Matthew Lillard, Reno Wilson, Manny Montana, Izzy Stannard, David Hornsby, Lidya Jewett, Zach Gilford
Produced by: Jenna Bans, Dean Parisot, Jeannine Renshaw

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No series has been more heavily teased during NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage. Additionally, no newbie is getting a better time slot -- following Monday’s return of The Voice with new judge Kelly Clarkson.

So what could go bad for Good Girls? Probably little to nothing for starters. A big tune-in almost a certainty. But in the long run, can this serio-comic, female-driven, Breaking Bad-ish romp keep sustaining its far-fetched premise? Based on the three episodes made available for review, the story lines might eventually go bankrupt while the “tone” seeks a proper balance between madcap capers and serious jeopardy.

The threesome from the title are Detroit-based sisters Beth Boland (Christina Hendricks) and Annie Marks (Mae Whitman), plus their good friend, Ruby Hill (Retta). Lately, all are up against it.

Early in the first episode, hard-drinking Beth learns that her husband and father of their four children is a philanderer whose auto dealership is on the financial ropes. They could lose everything, even the house. Get ye to a motel, Dean Boland (Matthew Lillard). But now what to do?

Ruby’s daughter, Sarah (Lidya Jewett), has a kidney problem that requires expensive medicine if she ever wants to free herself from an oxygen tank and run around like the rest of her classmates. Loving hubby Stan (Reno Wilson) is doing all he can to make ends meet while Ruby makes a few extra bucks waitressing. But it’s just not enough.

Annie has a low-paying job as a grocery store cashier, but costly legal bills ahead if she wants to fight for custody of her bullied, male-dressing daughter Sadie (played by a boy, Izzy Stannard). Her ex-husband, Greg (Zach Gilford from NBC’s Friday Night Lights) is reasonable, but also determined in this matter. And unlike Annie, he has ample resources.

So what’s the short-term solution? How about robbing the grocery store of the $30 grand that Annie says is readily available. The manager of the store, Boomer (David Hornsby), is a jerk while the lone security guard is obese and completely inept. So it will be a pleasure to steal the money, and probably easy, too. Which proves to be the case before complications kick in.

For one, the haul turns out to be half a million bucks. “I said 30, give or take,” Annie reasons. “I guess it was give!”

Problem is, the money had been stashed by mobsters who very much want it all back. This particular group is headed by an unsavory Latino named Rio (Manny Montana), who doesn’t like hearing that some of the dough’s already been spent. Rio is suitably menacing with his demands and cocked pistol. And it’s decidedly not funny later in the premiere hour when Boomer shows up -- having recognized Annie’s “tramp stamp” during the robbery -- and demands sexual favors in return for his silence.

Fresh from taking a shower (“I smell like booze and crime”), Beth points a pistol at Boomer while exclaiming, “When a lady screams ‘Stop,’ it is usually because she is not having the time of her life!”

These obviously are meant to be serious moments in a series that alternately doesn’t want viewers to take it too seriously. In Episode 2, it’s back to some laugh lines, with Annie cracking, “I make nine dollars an hour, so just give me a couple of decades” to pay back her portion of the $60 grand now owed to the mob.

Later in this same hour, an incredulous Retta asks Beth, “You couldn’t rob the sweet old racist lady?” It’s a funny line, and you’ll have to see the context for yourself. But Good Girls soon is ratcheting up the terror again, via another visit from the mobsters.

Episode 3 is built around a largely comedic trip to Canada after Beth, Ruby and Annie are told they’ll be square with the mob if they bring back a package from what turns out to be front called Cascade Canadian Crafts. By the end of the hour, Beth gets back to very serious business in laying the groundwork for a potential pivotal shift from something of a lark to something that could get more than halfway dark.

For now, the three lead performances are uniformly winning while the pacing is bracingly brisk. The male characters in large part are furniture to be moved around in service to the women’s varying predicaments and aspirations. Although not intended as such in its early pre-Harvey Weinstein developmental stages, Good Girls ends up being the first TV or streaming series to carry the flag of the #MeToo movement. There will be many more to be sure.

GRADE: B-minus

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