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May the best sibling win5/15/2013
‘The Goodwin Games’ pits family members against each other
In Fox’s promising sitcom “The Goodwin Games” (Monday, 7:30 p.m.), three estranged siblings reunite after their father (Beau Bridges) dies only to learn that he has set up a series of competitions to determine which one of them will win his fortune. This questionable approach to an inheritance echoes his questionable approach to childrearing. The siblings have all been scarred by him, each in a different way. Henry (Scott Foley) is an overachiever, Chloe (Becki Newton) a flake, Jimmy (T.J. Miller) a criminal. “The Goodwin Games” is reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums,” another bittersweet comedy about adult children broken by a bad dad. Here, daddy dearest continues to torment them from beyond the grave.
“You children could have been magnificent,” he tells them in one of his posthumous videos.
As in “The Royal Tenenbaums,” though, nothing is black-or-white. In a mere half-hour, the pilot shades Henry, Chloe and Jimmy so that they emerge as people rather than comic types. Even Jimmy, the goofiest of the siblings (check out the priceless bit in which he tries, and fails, to be sarcastic), displays unexpected tenderness to his young daughter.
I have to correct old man Goodwin. These children are magnificent, at least as characters.
Friday, 8 p.m. (ABC)
In the season finale, the panel of five self-made millionaires hears intriguing pitches from budding business people. A woman named Val seeks a $200,000 investment for a curated dating service in which only appealing people are picked to participate. An 11-year-old boy named Ryan seeks $25,000 for his dog-biscuit-baking enterprise, with the irresistible name The Barkery.
The episode’s would-be entrepreneurs are all likable, while the panelists… well, not so much. They leer at Val and lecture Ryan. They insult each other and guffaw at their own stupid jokes. Beady-eyed Kevin O’Leary tells two earnest restaurateurs from Cincinnati: “The whole thing is crap. Is ‘crap’ the brand?’ ”
I don’t think any of these panelists is appealing enough to be picked by Val’s curated dating service.
Sunday, 8 p.m. (Discovery)
This seven-part nature documentary takes us on a stunning tour of North America, gliding from the Canadian tundra to the Utah desert to the Atlantic coast. It captures majestic views of mountains and oceans, along with intimate views of animals hustling for survival. The narrator says of the continent’s untamed wilderness: “In its splendor, brutality and beauty, we find our own story.”
Well, I don’t know if I’d go that far. I didn’t really find my own story in a pregnant mountain goat that climbs into the Rockies to have her kid on an isolated ice crop. Nor did I find it in a gang of killer whales who set upon a defenseless whale cub in Alaska, holding her underwater until she drowns.
Things lighten up a bit in the remote Costa Rican jungle. A dopey-looking little bird called a red-capped mannequin hops around in ridiculous fashion, trying to get the attention of a pretty female bird. The female takes one look at the pathetic spectacle and flies away in disgust.
Finally, I have found my own story. CV
Dean Robbins is a syndicated TV columnist from Madison, Wis. He graduated from Grinnell College and went on to become an award-winning journalist, but he’s been a committed couch potato long before he figured out a way to get paid for watching TV. See more of his work at www.thedailypage.com.