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Pretty damned Good Guys gets ready to roll through Dallas

Whitford and Hanks lay out in downtown Dallas. Fox photo

Previewing: Wednesday, May 19th at 7 p.m. (central) on Fox before moving to Mondays at 8 p.m. on June 7th.
Starring: Bradley Whitford, Colin Hanks, Diana Maria Riva, Jenny Wade
Produced by: Matt Nix, Mikkel Bondesen

From the very first frame, Dallas is written all over Fox's The Good Guys.

"5327 Elm St., Dallas, TX, 11:27 p.m." it says on home screens before a cat burglar busts into a vacant home, deflects a cell phone call ("Can I call you back? I'm just steppin' into work") and makes off with a humidifier. This triggers a succession of serio-comic events involving a plastic surgeon, former Big Fat Greek Wedding star Nia Vardalos, a drug lord's "second-best assassin in the world," etc. There's a little to-and-fro time traveling, too. Enjoy. And you very probably will.

Previously titled Code 58 and busily filming in the Dallas area since late January, Good Guys doesn't have its sneak preview until Wednesday May 19th before relocating to Mondays on June 7th. But there's obviously considerable interest in these parts. So we're giving you an early review of the first episode, which arrived this week along with a picture of star Bradley Whitford affixed with a stick-on 'stache and real sunglasses.

Created and produced by Matt Nix (Burn Notice), Good Guys tracks the misadventures of a hard-drinkin', computer-phobic, grandiose old school cop and his young suit-and-tied, mostly by-the-book partner. Dan Stark (Whitford) and Jack Bailey (Colin Hanks) have been exiled to the penny ante crime division after rubbing too many superiors the wrong way.

But inconsequential humidifier thefts have a way of morphing into bigger fish -- in this case a Peru-based drug cartel whose U.S.-based dealer is weary of staying in cheap motels and driving budget rental cars. His game plan includes shooting the drug lord's henchmen and then strong-arming a plastic surgeon into making him look like Erik Estrada. The latter's not a guest star, though, so this doesn't quite work as planned.

Dallas is a key player in the proceedings, whether it's opening episode visions of the Cotton Bowl, Reunion Tower, City Hall Plaza or the South Dallas Value Inn. The city never looked so good/seedy.

Whitford, stuck in a suit and tie for seven seasons as The West Wing's Josh Lyman, seems to be having a grand time here as the slovenly Stark. His home is an Air Stream trailer in the near vicinity of the Fair Park ferris wheel, where he lovingly combs his mustache and hits the bottle.

A lone claim to fame barely keeps him afloat in the Dallas PD. Half a lifetime ago, Stark and his old partner saved the governor's son. This sentences new partner Bailey into what must seem like a lifetime of enduring Stark's recycled tales of yore and aversions to modern technology. Such as: "Computers. Can't get used to 'em. Aren't you worried they're gonna, you know, turn on ya?"

Both Whitford and Hanks are a bit mechanical in some early scenes, but seem to have settled in by episode's end. Meanwhile, bullets fly, tires squeal, quips keep coming and a big vegetable truck is upended. Stark also mixes business with pleasuring himself. The humidifier owner, played by Vardalos, is instantly smitten with him after recognizing Stark as the once heroic governor's son saver. They get busy off-camera before Vardalos fixes his tie and wonders whether he might want to do a "little more investigating."

Good Guys is demonstrably light on plausibility, and presumably proud of it. There are elements of Lethal Weapon, 48 Hrs. and certain Coen brothers movies. This is the kind of series where Stark mainlines cottage cheese and washes it down with a beer in order to puke all over a crime scene in his clandestine pursuit of evidence. He's also capable of stopping a speeding bullet with his vest pocket flask.

The principal supporting players are Lt. Ana Ruiz (Diana Maria Riva) as the detectives' hard-bitten boss lady and Southern drawling assistant D.A. Liz Traynor (Jenny Wade), who used to date Bailey. They're not all that much in evidence in the premiere episode, but look as though they could wear well.

Energetic, entertaining and laugh out loud funny in spots, Good Guys potentially is summertime's signature bright spot amid the usual assembly line of brain-decaying reality concoctions and a handful of not-ready-for-prime-time scripted throwaways. Fox isn't merely going through the motions here. The scheduled 13 episodes of Good Guys, with the first directed by veteran actor Tim Matheson, look as though they're going to be both a boon for the Dallas economy and a bracing departure from broadcast TV's annual hot weather drought.

Take it from Dan Stark: "There are no small crimes. There are only small cops. Put that in your computer circuit."

And while you're waiting for May 19th, go ahead and click onto Fox's official Good Guys page for a lot of stuff that Stark wouldn't know or care how to access.

GRADE: B+/A-minus (just couldn't make up my mind)