They say it's never too late to be a good father. Sure, maybe we messed up when the kids were younger—didn't do all we could for them. But there's always opportunity to make it up. To atone. To really teach and love and re-bond in the way they need and deserve.
As heartwarmingly true as that sentiment is, Benjamin Goodwin may be pushing it a bit.
See, Benjamin is dead. Dead as a doornail. We know this because he illustrates the concept quite clearly in a curiously Pictionary-like segment of his video will. He was, he admits, a lousy father to his three children— brainiac Henry, flake Chloe, delinquent Jimmy. He gave up on his kids, just like his kids gave up on him. We get the strong sense that life in the Goodwin household was, shall we say, strained. A lot of damage was done that needs time, energy and inclination to fix. And Benjamin is, at least corporeally, out of all three.
But Benjamin's not the sort of guy to let a little thing like death stop him. He's got a family to repair. So in his will, this gregariously penitent patriarch declares the launch of the Goodwin Games—a series of character-building challenges that he hopes will teach his kids (now all grown) lessons he never got around to while he was alive, and perhaps bring the siblings closer to one another while he's at it. And the carrot to make them participate? A $22 million fortune. Even his fractious kids can stick around for that, can't they?
Perhaps. All do seem to have their own reasons for hanging in there. Turns out, Jimmy's on one of his rare forays outside prison and is trying to reconnect with his young daughter. Henry, despite being engaged to a hot-to-trot congresswoman in the making, still has feelings for old flame Lucinda, now a minister. And Chloe may have opportunity to patch things up with her old best friend, April—who also just so happens to be Benjamin's attorney and will-keeper.
It's a pretty crazy setup for a sitcom. After all, these kinds of shows are supposed to run for years and years, and Goodwin's Games simply have got to run out eventually. The fortune must be given. So how long this whole contraption will last is still up for grabs.
While it does, we're likely to continue seeing dollops of profanity, doses of alcohol, mounds of petty bickering and certainly some tasteless gags. But while The Goodwin Games has issues, it also seems to have a good heart. We see it in Henry's struggles to come to grips with his dad's death. We see it in Jimmy's desire to be a real dad to his daughter (one who doesn't have to sneak through a window to see her). We see it in the siblings' strained love for one another, and in their father's desire to have them come together—even if he's not around to enjoy it.
As crazy as this show is, then, the emotional pitch here feels real, with echoes of overheard Thanksgiving conversations, full of wildly funny anecdotes and half-hidden hurts and, most of all, soothing, healing love. And Benjamin's not playing games with that.
Goodwin's Games get underway with a game of Trivial Pursuit—altered so that all the question are about the siblings' shared family history. They get fed up pretty quickly and squabbling scores the first point, but then collectively they have a change of heart. They're going to give Dad a shot at this thing after all.
Jimmy's daughter pushes back at him about his giving her stolen gifts, and we ultimately see him spend his own money on her to show her how much she means to him.
It's implied that Benjamin's funeral is conducted in a Buddhist tradition—and that Henry's old girlfriend Lucinda officiates.
We hear comments about violent debt-collecting proclivities and jokes about Chloe's breasts. We learn that Chloe turned her back on April when Chloe became popular in high school, and that Chloe regularly bullied her and called her a "lesbo." All three "kids" drink alcohol: We see them a bar, and it's insinuated that Henry has a drinking problem. Jimmy, at age 11, stole the family car. "I had a date," he explains retroactively. Folks say "d‑‑n" twice, "a‑‑" four times and "d‑‑k" once. God's name is misused a few times.