May 1, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Good Girls”


It was clear from the pilot of NBC’s GOOD GIRLS that the series had a trio of strong assets and some major challenges.  The strengths were its three stars, Christina Hendricks, Retta and Mae Whitman, each of them thoroughly capable of anchoring a show on her own, and together an Avengers-like powerhouse of warmth, toughness, emotional complexity and crack comic timing.

The question was what kind of show series creator Jenna Bans wanted to make.  Good Girls began with the premise that suburban wives and mothers Beth (Hendricks), Ruby (Retta) and Annie (Whitman) were in such dire financial straits that they robbed the supermarket where Annie worked.  The series could have proceeded from there as a farce a la Horrible Bosses, a piece of comic social commentary like Fun With Dick & Jane, or down the much darker road of Breaking BadGood Girls bounced between those approaches for ten episodes, and with tonight’s season finale, it still hasn’t satisfyingly made up its mind.

Clumsy plotting beset Good Girls from the start, and that continued through the finale, written by Bans and directed by Sarah Pia Anderson.  A subplot with Allison Tolman as another housewife who figured out the heroines’s secrets and cheerily blackmailed them didn’t have much of a conclusion, except for her discovery that Leslie (David Hornsby), Annie’s rotten boss whose attempt at rape partly led to the robbery, was secretly recording her in an attempt to get the goods on Annie.  Bans brought the action full circle with the contrivance of yet another robbery of the supermarket, but this time strictly limited to the amount of money needed for Ruby’s daughter’s kidney transplant, and some hamhandedly planted evidence against Rio (Manny Montana), the gangster who employed the women on an on-again, off-again basis.  The upshot was that Ruby was able to pay for the surgery, but her police-academy husband Stan (Reno Wilson) caught on to her criminal doings.  And Rio, having added 1+1 to get the 2 of Beth turning on him, attacked her lying husband Dean (Matthew Lillard) and, for no clear reason, handed her an apparently loaded gun and challenged Beth to shoot him.

The season cut to black on Beth with the gun, and the guess here is that if Good Girls comes back (it’s on the bubble, with OK retention of its The Voice lead-in), NBC won’t have the guts to let her pull the trigger.  Or if she does, the gun will turn out to be loaded with blanks.  Good Girls hasn’t committed itself to be one kind of show or another, and the fence-straddling has made it unequal to any of its potential genres.  It’s not quite sharp enough to be a satire that engages with contemporary life, nor funny enough to be an all-out comedy, nor does it have the stakes of a drama where life and death are at issue.  it crucially lacks focus.

Nevertheless, on an episode by episode basis, Good Girls can be quite watchable, and that’s because of its stars.  The combination of Hendricks, Retta and Whitman is irresistible, and one longs to see them in a show fully deserving of their talents.  Some of the supporting players, notably Lillard and Montana, are strong as well.  In sum, Good Girls has all the pieces for television grand larceny, but so far it’s been settling for petty theft.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."