Matthew Perry’s latest foray into television has the potential to be his best. While the “Friends” star enjoyed a fantastic run on the modern classic NBC sitcom, “Go On” seems poised to offer something more meaningful and long-lasting than the typical sitcom fare.
Perry plays famed sports radio host Ryan King, fresh off a month-long sabbatical from work following the sudden death of his wife in a car accident. Eager to get out of his own head, King sees pouring himself back into his work as the best means of coping, while his boss (“Harold & Kumar”’s John Cho) is insistent that he attend a support group to better mend what is no doubt bubbling underneath.
Revisiting and reliving his tragedy in therapy runs counter to how King sees things – “The talking, the wallowing, it keeps you from getting on with your life…Enough talk. Go! DO something!” King exclaims. While he initially resists the process and makes light of what the group can accomplish, he gradually comes to realize that action is only part of the process of moving on.
Considering the serious subject matter the show revolves around (tragic personal loss and mourning), the writers and performers strike a nice balance between moments of humor and moments of frailty. For example, Perry’s characteristic neurotic physical humor isn’t really the order of the day, and to his credit the actor seems to recognize this, dials it down, and ably embodies that balance. The show-runners spotlight humor as a means of coping with personal tragedy, perhaps the comedic highlight of the pilot being “March Sadness,” wherein King pits the support group members’ respective stories against one another in a competitive tragedy-off. Coming home to a dead spouse versus a dead cat – who wins? The answer may surprise you.
There are also some great comedic talents that round out the cast, which speaks to the potential "Go On" has following the well done, though perhaps not exceptional, pilot. Fans of the podcast “Comedy Bang Bang” might recognize two of the theater of the absurd audio show’s most frequent guests, Brett Gelman and Seth Morris, as members of the support group. Both are fantastic talents deserving of greater recognition, who have up until now been limited to show-stealing guest roles on, among other things, ABC’s “Happy Endings” and HBO’s “Bored To Death.” Deservedly, the MVP and recipient of the gold star is Perry, who as mentioned brings an equal share of pathos and comedic timing to the starring role.
The pilot for “Go On” is a genuinely pleasant surprise, a promising effort that seems to have the potential for even more than its strong debut puts forth. While it doesn’t present rapid-fire one-liners or laugh-tracks, it does have a lot of heart to go with a good helping of humor.
Final grade: B