'The Good Guys': Colin Hanks, Bradley Whitford click as police partners

Matt Nix, the guy who created Fox's new buddy dramedy "The Good Guys," insists he and his colleagues labored over the show's title for weeks, but don't let the generic-sounding handle put you off. The series, which gets a preview Wednesday, May 19, before beginning its official run June 7, is a refreshing blast of laughter and almost nonstop action.

A bracing variation on cop buddy comedies, "The Good Guys" combines a sharp visual style with a time-jumping narrative as it follows the adventures of Dallas detectives Jack Bailey (Colin Hanks), an ambitious but buttoned-up type who ticked off an important superior, and Dan Stark (Bradley Whitford, "The West Wing"), a boozing 50-something cop blearily trying to recapture his glory days from the 1970s.

Now assigned to petty theft cases that no one else wants, Jack and Dan nonetheless have a knack for intersecting with major crimes as they investigate their mind-numbingly dull assignments, leading to explosive face-offs with some seriously bad criminals.

Diana Maria Riva plays the guys' boss, Lt. Ana Ruiz, and Jenny Wade portrays Liz Traynor, an assistant prosecutor who is also Jack's ex-girlfriend.

It might sound like a familiar formula -- and to some extent, it is -- but the character-driven comedy is sharp and funny, not to mention delivered skillfully by the two stars, both of whom were eager to escape their usual character types.

"I wanted to get away from the yuppie guys in suits," says Whitford, who was cast as Dan after an NBC pilot -- in which, weirdly enough, he played another alcoholic cop -- didn't get picked up. "I hope Dan is unlike any other character I've ever played, and it's so much fun to play this guy. When the show moved to Texas, Dan got a little more Texan. He's not the same guy as in the other (NBC) show, but when you're playing an alcoholic, the research is fascinating, and it's all a write-off," he adds, laughing.

"When I read the pilot for this, I loved that it is aspiring to the really funny characters of 'Raising Arizona,' and there are high stakes, but it's also really funny. It's interesting because it is such a formula that works so well in movies -- combining action, crime and comedy -- and I think the opportunity for this show is that there are all these really incredible procedural shows on the air now that are just totally irony-deficient. It's fun to put those things together."

Hanks, meanwhile, was getting tired of finding himself repeatedly cast as a nice guy.

"Those were the mainstream roles I was being offered, and that doesn't really give me a chance to be funny," he explains. "Really, all you have to do with a part like that is 'bring the sweet' and be endearing. This is much more of a true two-handed setup, with the going back and forth. Jack definitely gets embarrassed by some of Dan's crazy stuff, but Jack talks back, and he talks back with an opinion. I don't have to deliver every line in an uptight, squeaky register, and that's really refreshing."