Hopefully the third time really is the charm for Matthew Perry. After two failed TV series, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and “Mr. Sunshine,” he is due for some success after his fantastic “Friends” career. “Go On,” his new comedy on NBC, could potentially be the series that finally puts Perry back in the limelight. It just needs to make a few adjustments to maintain the level of creativity it has shown so far.
Perry is easily the best part of the show. Playing Ryan King, the host of a radio sports show who recently lost his wife, he’s funny and sarcastic — as expected. But he also brings serious and subtle emotion when necessary. If he can continue to balance the two sides of his character — the clever, sports-referencing guy who just wants to move on and the heartbroken, lonely widower — he will keep the show grounded in the tonal medium it needs to please an audience.
The premise of the show, while interesting, could cause problems if not handled carefully. The central plot of “Go On” is that King must attend 10 sessions of an emotional support group before he is allowed
to return to work. The problem here is clear: If the show is going to continue past 10 episodes, some serious changes or developments need to happen — changes that could incorporate the other characters without extending King’s stay in the group past plausibility.
There is a large assortment of supporting characters because of the support-group setting, in addition to King’s co-workers at the radio station. Though none of the support group attendees are given too much individual attention in the pilot, it is already apparent that some could easily take a turn toward extreme exaggeration. However, Tyler James Williams from “Everybody Hates Chris” really stands out as Owen, an introverted member of the group whose older brother is in a coma. If his role grows, as it should, and some of the other characters develop more believable personalities, “Go On” should be successful.
The highlight of the episode is when Ryan creates a competition called March Sadness to see who has suffered the worst tragedy. It could be a depressing scene, but instead it remains lighthearted and comical. It is also a great way of introducing multiple characters where many other directors would resort to contrived expository wconversations instead. While the first group session has a few funny moments, the set of emotional scenes with the group members afterwards adds more sentiment to the episode.
If “Go On” can continue to balance humor with the emotional back stories of its characters, it should be a great show. That will not be easy, however. Even though Perry’s performance is strong so far, all of the supporting actors must follow his lead to turn the show into a hit.
A version of this article appeared in the Sept. 4 print edition. Samantha Rullo is entertainment editor. Email her at email@example.com.
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