TV First Impression: “Go On”
Matthew Perry makes another attempt at a post Friends television career with this comedy that was written specifically with him in mind. Perry was leaning toward working on a drama after a multi-episode arc on The Good Wife, so a return to comedy was not in his plans. That is until he received a call from Scott Silveri, a former writer/producer on Friends, who had written the lead in Go On in hopes that his old o-worker would be interested. Fortunately for Silveri, and us, Perry liked what he read and signed on.
Go On had the good fortune of premiering during NBC’s coverage of the summer Olympics. The premiere airing of the pilot did well in the ratings, giving NBC hope that they may finally have another hit on their hands. Perry stars as Ryan King, a popular radio sportscaster whose wife was killed in a car accident. The series opened with Ryan returning back to work, only to be told by his boss, Steven (John Cho, always great) that he must seek grief counseling or he can’t sit behind the mic. Ryan complies and winds up at a community college therapy group. Before you can mutter Community, we meet the characters. They include: Anne (Julie White) is a lesbian whose partner died and she’s stuck in the anger phase; George (the great Bill Cobbs) is old and blind; Yolanda (Suzy Nakamura) is dealing with the divorce of her parents; Owen (Tyler James Williams) is a young man trying to deal with a devastating accident that put his brother in a coma; and Mr. K (Brett Gelman, pictured with Perry) a mysterious group member that everyone is hesitant to talk to. Gelman has the potential of being a breakout star with this role. The group is led by Lauren (Laura Benanti), who uses new age philosophy, much to the chagrin of Ryan.
I found the pilot endearing and funny, more a dramedy than a flat out comedy, per say. The role of Ryan seems perfectly suited for Perry, whose personal life has taken some hit in recent years. The actor’s world weariness only adds to the struggles of his character. I liked the pilot enough to look forward to the second episode, which aired last night. Here’s my first impression of Go On based on episode two:
The series is far from perfect, but few new shows are perfect right out of the gate. As I said yesterday, it takes time to find a groove. Fortunately, Go On has a real ace in Perry. He’s such old pro at television that his acting seems effortless. Episode two featured more of Ryan’s work environment, which meant more of Cho, as well as the delightful Allison Miller as Carrie, Ryan’s assistant. In last night’s half hour, Ryan is afraid to go home to the house he shared with his wife, too many memories there. We learn that he comes up with reasons for keeping Carrie late at work, keeping her from having any sort of social life. Eventually, Carrie has to tell him to back off, but in a loving way. Miller and Perry play against each other as if they’ve been working together a long time. There’s a natural give and take that makes this relationship special already. Thankfully there are no indications that this will become a romance. It’s strictly platonic and any love between them is as friends.
The B story dealt with Ryan suffering from the repercussions of opening his mouth before thinking. He convinces another member of the group, Sonia (Sarah Baker) to break up with her boyfriend and get a cat. What he doesn’t realize is that Sonia is way more unstable than he thought, leading to Ryan having to find homes for the twenty cats that Sonia ends up adopting.
Both storylines were amusing, with a couple of laugh out loud moments (Gelman dancing to the music John Coltrane and rubbing against the venerable Cobbs was classic). What the series lacks in huge guffaws it makes up for with plenty of heart, making Go On a perfect vehicle for Perry. As the star he carries the burden of the show’s success or failure, however the producers have given him an excellent and eclectic ensemble cast to support him. I was pleased that the focus of this episode was more about Ryan’s radio family and not just a reprieve of the pilot, which focused squarely on the therapy group. If Go On manages to balance the two aspects of Ryan’s life on a weekly basis, this is one series I’ll definitely place on my DVR.
Go On is paired with The New Normal as a part of NBC’s Tuesday night lineup, airing at 9:30 PM. The two complement each other well. With the abundance of love and laughs these shows can provide, they seem like the ideal lead in to NBC’s superb family drama, Parenthood. At this moment, I can see Go On continuing for the rest of the year, and I really hope that it does.