Matthew Perry’s highly anticipated return to television took place last August with a preview during the Olympics. Go On, NBC’s new comedy-drama, just officially launched with a two night premiere re-introducing the comedic actor to primetime.
Go On’s pilot gets the ball moving rather quickly. Perry stars as radio sportscaster Ryan King. His wife just died a month ago. Sounds like a funny plot, right? Not exactly. But Perry is probably the only actor who can pull off such a touchy subject in a humorous way. While Ryan’s story takes him to a group therapy session for people going through rough times, never in the 30 minutes did I feel like this was a poorly crafted, melodramatic Lifetime original movie.
In fact, the show focuses on the positives the group of people is experiencing. Ryan’s humor quickly wins over the rag tag group that includes a man who recently went blind, a veteran whose wife cheated on him while he was deployed and a lady who recently lost her lover. Watching a quirky group come together reminded me a lot of Community, which is great. The formula worked for them, and I think it will work again. Also, as much as I love Dan Harmon’s baby, I think Go On will remain more grounded and run as a “traditional” show.
The pilot produced a lot of hits on a comedic level. Ryan candidly discusses how life is full of disappointments and relates someone’s tragedy to People naming Bradley Cooper “Sexiest Man Alive.” He quips, “Have they seen someone named Mr. Ryan Gosling?”
As much as I laughed during the pilot, I also received goosebumps during some of the more heartfelt moments that occurred. It was these moments that gave the strong premiere substance. There was a particularly heartwarming moment between Ryan and Owen (Tyler James Williams), a quiet, brooding teen going through his own turmoil. Perry may be the star of the show, but the Everybody Hates Chris alum proves to be a strong second-in-command. His presence was vital in the opening episode that crescendos into a perfectly sentimental climax.
The second episode, “He’s Got Game, She’s Got Cats,” is just as strong, and in some regards, stronger than the pilot. Yet there are times where I wished it stayed on track from what the pilot set up.
Ryan’s fear of being alone and his inability to confront those feelings are common threads throughout the members of the group. We learn more about Sonya the Cat Lady and George, the elderly blind man. While it was nice to see the expansion of character stories, I feel like there’s an imbalance with the show’s attention to certain characters. I praised Williams’ efforts in the pilot, but here he’s reduced to a few throw-away lines.
Also, Ryan’s battle with Lauren (Laura Benanti), the group leader, continues as he wants the members to get out of the huddle and take action and she wants to “dive deeper” into their feelings. She’s supposed to be the foil to Ryan’s hero, but she doesn’t hold my attention as much as I think the show intended. It’s Ryan’s assistant Carrie (Allison Miller) and boss Steven (John Cho) who are propelled into a more prominent role as the show splits focus between his work life and therapy sessions.
Even with all of the inability to focus, Perry’s ability to carry the show deserves applause. The seasoned actor is clearly the center of Go On’s universe. It’s just time to figure out who should be the closet to him. Once they do the show will settle comfortably into a show that all demographics can enjoy.