Fox is premiering a new sitcom called “The Goodwin Games” on Monday at 8:30 p.m., between repeats of “Raising Hope” and “New Girl.” If you immediately said to yourself, “Yeah, that’s a burn-off,” you would be correct. It’s a stone-cold burn-off. Dead show walking, I’m afraid.
Fox can’t be positioning the show, from Carter Bays and Craig Thomas of “How I Met Your Mother,” as a possible summer hit. Yes, the networks are now programming plenty of original series during the summer, to compete with cable’s elaborate summer lineup of original series — which, by the way, cable began as a way to compete with the networks’ summer repeats. But you don’t premiere a would-be summer hit during the tail-end of finale season, in the lull before Memorial Day, a week after the upfront renewal announcements, during which “The Goodwin Games” was not mentioned. Clearly, Fox is fostering no hope for the show.
And I get it. “The Goodwin Games” isn’t awful, really, but it might have made a better lighthearted movie than a weekly series. The concept is so limited, it gets very tiresome very fast. The idea is that three estranged, far-flung siblings are reunited in small-town New Hampshire after their father, Benjamin Goodwin (Beau Bridges), dies. At the reading of his will, they learn that he was a secret multimillionaire, to the tune of $23 million. They also learn that they’ll need to compete in various games every week, in order to determine which child will win all the money. In the first episode, they must play a game of family-themed Trivial Pursuit with a mysterious outsider named Elijah. By the end of the half-hour, I was already irritated by the whole “games” thing.
The cast is decent, and they add some life to characters who are written largely as sitcom types. Scott Foley is Henry, a surgeon who has been an overachiever all his life. When he learns that his father has died, he schedules in some time to “process” it. Becki Newton, from “How I Met Your Mother” and “Ugly Betty,” is Chloe, a vain, wannabe actress. And T.J. Miller is Jimmy, a kleptomaniac who is in and out of jail. He’s a dummy, although he has a big heart, we see, as he sneaks visits and gifts to his young daughter.
The three Goodwins are filled with contempt for one another, and Dad’s final wish was that, with his elaborate games, he might be able to get them to bond. And it seems clear from the tone of the pilot, which contains a few “aww” moments, that he will succeed. But still we must go through all the games. And Benjamin filmed enough videos to fill a large box, so he will be trying to manipulate them from the grave for the rest of the series. Of course, we know that probably won’t be very long — seven episodes, to be exact, unless Fox decides to pull the show before that landmark.Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.