'Go On' – But Will It Stay On?
Matthew Perry has made a career of sarcasm. He has portrayed it successfully at times, like in Friends, and not so successfully at others, as in Mr. Sunshine. But in new NBC comedy Go On, Perry may just have found the right vehicle to once again become a fixture of primetime television — this time as Ryan King, a radio sportscaster mourning the recent death of his wife. King’s boss (John Cho) orders him to seek counseling in group therapy, but Ryan is unwilling to share his feelings; instead, he ranks the members of the group by their suffering and turns it into a tournament called “March Sadness,” by which he effectively deflects his own personal grief and inevitably clashes with the lead counselor of the group (Laura Benanti).
Perry plays it up for laughs, but also manages to show a softer side. He takes an instant liking to Owen (Tyler James Williams), a young man who seems likewise reticent to open up about his troubles. They bond over funny Internet pictures and, in these moments, Perry reveals his vulnerability without veering into sappiness. Benanti also gives a solid performance: while poised and measured amongst the group, she lets out her frustrations with Ryan, which leads to humorous confrontations about her qualifications for the job as counselor.
The strength of the show is the unexpected blend of comedy and raw emotion. This is best showcased in Julie White’s performance as Anne, a lawyer coping with the sudden death of her partner whose blistering anger seeps through during group meetings and cemetery visits. Although Perry is the star of the show, White may well turn out to be the scene-stealer. The first episode also offered promising performances from veteran actors Bill Cobbs and Suzy Nakamura.
This is not to say that there isn’t room for improvement. The humor sometimes feels forced, as when Lauren first attempts to get through to Ryan. She asks, “What do humor and armor have in common?” to which Ryan replies: “They were both involved in the Great Rubber Chicken War of 1983?” Although some of the quips could have been tighter, the cast appears seasoned enough to overcome any future technical flaws.
There are few scripted television shows that can be appropriately classified as heartwarming and endearing, but this one has the potential to be just that. There is also good reason to invest in a show that NBC has deemed worthy of the Tuesday night slot, which pits it against veterans Happy Endings, NCIS: LA, and New Girl. Here’s to hoping it’ll Go On to deliver as promised.
'Go On' will air on Tuesdays at 9pm on NBC, starting September 11.