EDITORIAL NOTE: To understand how we do our reviews, please refer to our review of Revolution, here.
Misery loves company. Unless you’re sportscaster Ryan King (Matthew Perry, “Friends,” “Mr. Sunshine”) who thinks misery should just be left alone. After taking some time off, Ryan – who recently lost his wife in a car accident – is now ready to get back to work. And while he seems like his same old charming, cocky self, his boss won’t set him back on the air until he seeks counseling. So, Ryan reluctantly joins a support group with one goal in mind: get in, get out and get back on the radio as quickly as possible. Played by the fast-talking, sarcastic, and charismatic Perry, Ryan gives grief a real run for its money. Within one day of group therapy, he hijacks the meeting and suddenly the downtrodden are cajoled into playing a game of “who’s got the best sob story?” And in no time all of them are battling it out, trying to one-up each other’s despair. Now, this is fun! Ryan’s total lack of interest in healing might be just what this group needs – and maybe, exactly what he needs to move on with his life. Also starring are Tony winner Laura Benanti (“The Playboy Club”), Julie White (“Transformers”), Suzy Nakamura (“Dodgeball”), Khary Payton (“General Hospital”) and Allison Miller (“Terra Nova”). From the Emmy-winning writer and executive producer Scott Silveri (“Perfect Couples,” “Friends”) comes a new series that proves grief can be good. Todd Holland (“Malcolm in the Middle”) and Karey Burke (“Free Agents,” “Miss/Guided”) also serve as executive producers. The pilot was directed by Holland. “Go On” is a production of Universal Television, Dark Toy Entertainment and Silver & Gold Productions. – NBC
Score: 93 out of 100
Initial Impressions (May 20, 2012): Art imitates life apparently, because, as we suggested the last time we had to review a Matthew Perry vehicle (Mr. Sunshine), his projects are simply an acting-out of his own issues with depression and other related mental illnesses (and addiction). Go On appears to be his therapy and unlike Mr. Sunshine, it actually looks quite promising despite that even in its trailer there are some cringe-worthy moments for anyone who actually has ever had any involvement in actual therapy. It looks like this is what you call your “dramedy” and Perry actually looks quite comfortable in this new role which is something he wasn’t with Mr. Sunshine.
Go On is way better than advertised and I take back everything I said before about Matthew Perry being milquetoast. He’s brilliant in this and he just seems to be reveling in this role which he has clearly personalized.
As absurd as the premise is for anyone who has actually gone through group therapy, the show is just so damned funny that you can’t help to completely ignore the absurdity. It actually reminds me a lot of Community in that each character is so different, diverse and funny for completely different reasons. I laughed during this pilot more than I have laughed during any show since the first season of Modern Family. I actually had to pause and rewind several times because I was laughing so hard that I missed the next gag.
Recently, I commented on a piece featured at one of my favorite sites, The Duffel Blog, which, if you don’t know is basically The Onion for members of the U.S. Armed Forces. The piece, entitled Army Struggles To Respond To Epidemic Of Suicides During Suicide Prevention Briefs got criticism from a reader (who claimed to be an active member) that the subject of suicide in the military was “nothing to joke about” and “disrespectful.” My position was that the best humor lies in the satire of uncomfortable subjects and that’s the position I take with this show. Having personal experience with the subject-matter of Go On (group therapy, that is… not Mrs. ‘Tastic being killed in a texting and driving accident.) I readily recognizes some of the situations that Go On presents in its completely exaggerated way and I certainly can appreciate the tongue-in-cheek approach to group therapy.
On the other side of the coin, Go On is careful not to minimize trauma and the loss of a loved one, whether that pain is King’s (Perry) or the rest of the characters of the cast who are all brilliantly funny and sympathetic in their own right. This approach allows for introspection that is normally to be found in your typical comedy.
Go On is well-paced with incredibly likable and relatable characters and themes. It’s hilarious and heart-warming at the same time without insulting the intelligence of the audience or alienating them. Bravo to NBC on this one.
RedEye: Being a mentally challenged Cylon I always cringe when I see portrayals of mental illness on sit-coms, so it was with great trepidation that I approached Matthew Perry’s new series Go On. While I was never a fan of the respectable Friends, I did like Perry’s performance on that show. With Go On, Perry has found a show that truly fits his talents. The writing here is good… VERY good, and the comedy is extremely well-played – underplayed, in fact.
Chance of Renewal: 90%
If NBC can avoid f*cking this up, we simply cannot fathom how this isn’t a hit for the Peacock.
Watch the pilot of Go On, right now, ahead of the September 11th premiere, here.