Tuesday, September 18, 2012

REVIEW: Go On

NBC - Tuesdays 9/8c

Trying to find yet another project for the most talented Friend, Go On casts Matthew Perry as a sports radio talk show host who has just lost his wife in an automobile accident and must now attend group therapy in order to facilitate his grieving process.

Mixing sentimentality with genuine humor has become a staple for NBC for many of their comedies, from Scrubs to Parenthood (the latter which isn't really a comedy, but you get the point), and for the most part it works here.

1.  Does it entertain me?
Surprisingly, yes.  I went into watching this show knowing that I liked Matthew Perry, but also knowing that the show does not have any other names besides a bit part by John Cho as Perry's boss.  I fully expected it to use Matthew Perry as a name to attract audiences to a forgettable comedy, but what I discovered was something more.

First of all, the pilot starts out slow, with Ryan King (Perry) trying to return to work after a month of grieving over his late-wife.  But unbeknownst to him, his boss (Cho), does not think that one month is enough time to fully grieve over the loss of a loved one, so he gets sent to counseling.

His larger than life personality and competitiveness immediately takes over, and King turns the group therapy into a March Madness (aptly titled March Sadness) bracket to see who has had the toughest road.  All the while avoiding talking about his own grief, of course.

The cast of characters in therapy will undoubtedly provide us with laughs, as they all have their own quirks.  Comparisons are being drawn between Community all throughout the critic world.  This works only in the sense that Community features a group of misfits uniting in some common theme, but Go On lacks the creative wacked-outness of Community (at least as run by Dan Harmon).

But it's Matthew Perry's acting abilities that allow the show to work, as he can simultaneously sell creeped out, enthralled and sad, all while making himself human and relateable to the audience.

There are genuine laughs to be found in Go On, and the show's mixture of dealing with loss and humor actually feels fresh, which gives it a nod over other shows on television.

2.  Is it realistic?
When Ryan King has a small meltdown and throws fruit at Terrell Owens' car (it was nice of TO to make room in his busy schedule to make a cameo), he was merely doing something we have all wanted to do at some point in our lives.

Ryan's inability to deal with his wife's death is probably the most real thing, as we get a montage of all the people in the group grieving, and it's heartbreaking to see Ryan unable to sleep in their bed they once shared and instead opt for the chair in the family room.

Perhaps putting a weight watcher in charge of therapy is a little farfetched, but I'm willing to go with it in terms of plot.

3.  Are immoral actions defended?
The only thing that could be considered immoral is the irreverent way the show seems to deal with death and loss.  But on the other hand, these might be the exact reactions people have and need to deal with grief, and so it's hard not to look at them and say, "yeah, I believe that happened."

In fact, Ryan's grief and loss is treated with respect in the sense that he needs to get over something real that happened.  Is the showing depicting death in a poor light or in a disrespectful light just because it is showing a guy trying to make light of a bad situation?  Absolutely not.

4.  Are traditional family values upheld?
There is no sex, no swearing, no putting other people down.  There's one weird guy with a beard, but he shouldn't be allowed around people to begin with.

Given that the show has been a pretty girl the leader of the group session, I'm sure it's inevitable that Ryan will have a fling with her.

But other than the possibilities, the show is actually very family-friendly, with Ryan speaking of his wife in very romantic and good terms.
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Go On  may not be the funniest comedy on television, but it is far from the worst.  It's funny and sentimental, without being over the top in either.  It doesn't play for cheap laughs and seems interested in being more than just another comedy.  I saw enough in the pilot that I want to keep watching, and that's all you can really ask for out of any show.

Grade: B+

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