"Go On" Series Premiere Recap
Note: We reviewed the pilot for "Go On" back in August when NBC showed it as part of their Olympic coverage. Tonight, Go On presents a new episode, so we've gone ahead and posted our pilot recap below as a refresher.
For what it's worth, I watched the pilot again after I posted my review, and my thoughts remain pretty much the same. Go On is a decent show with a lead who has learned a lot from previous comedy failures (and, to be fair, successes) and therefore thrives in his role. But it's also a show that needs a fair amount of post-pilot worth, which I think it will get with so much time before the unofficial premiere and the regular weekly schedule, not to mention the addition of John Cho to the cast. I actually expect this to be one of the few new NBC scripted shows to last the year.
Check out the full review below, and if you've seen Go On, let us know what you think of it in the comments below!
Like any pilot, you should probably expect the first episode of Go On to be messy. New shows have to set up characters and situations, and Go On has a lot... well, going on when the cameras start rolling. Beyond that, it's usually the episode where a lot of people decide whether they're going to stick with it or not, so comedy pilots tend to be a little broader than they'll likely end up being. The basic concept is that Matthew Perry's character, Ryan King, is a sports radio talk show host who recently lost his wife in a car accident. It's been a month and he's itching to get back to work, but his boss (which, for some reason, is John Cho, but I won't complain about that, because who doesn't like a little John Cho in their sitcom?) won't let him come back before he completes a grief counseling course.
So he goes to his local community center and finds a group of misfits who are waiting for their counselor Lauren (Laura Benanti), who's late and stuck in traffic. The group session starts without her, but Ryan quickly takes over and decides to have a little fun with it, and turns the session into "March Sadness" to determine who has the best (worst?) problems out of all of them. After declaring the Mexican lady the winner over the old black blind man, Lauren shows up and doesn't approve of Ryan's antics. He quickly falls back into his bubble.
The next session, Ryan gets one of the quieter members of the group to open up about his brother's skiing accident, which later impresses Laura, but he doesn't really want to be there, and he goads Lauren into releasing him from his commitment with a lie about his wife. He goes back to work and interviews Terrell Owens, but on his way out of the building, he catches T.O. texting while driving and almost gets into a fight with him. It turns out his wife died while texting him something trivial, and that really bothered him, so he returns to group therapy and tries to follow the rules, at least as best he can.
For a 20 minute pilot, there's a lot going on in the first episode of Go On. Like we mentioned, pilots have to set all of these things up or you'd spend five episodes introducing your viewers to the various situations the character can find himself in. Even with a big star like Matthew Perry at the helm and seemingly a big commitment from NBC, a show like this needs to show its cards relatively early if it expects to gain traction, so things end up moving pretty quickly. But if you can deflect the unevenness and quick pace, there's actually a lot to like in this show. There are plenty of fun characters the show can give great moments to, mostly in the group but also at Ryan's job, where there's further opportunity with "The League"-esque sports cameos.
But obviously, the main draw of the show is going to be Matthew Perry, and how he manages to hold things together as the show moves on. He does a good job of this in the pilot, giving us a nice inbetween of his previous characters. He's cynical and angry like his "Mr. Sunshine" character, he's a little neurotic like Chandler from "Friends", but you can also see the growth in his as a character and as an actor as the show moves on. There's something heartwarming in the show that Perry's previous failed efforts with the network were missing, and it mostly has to do with him and maybe the fact that his character doesn't seem to get as irritated as you'd expect him to do with the situations he finds himself in. Instead, he tries to make the most of them, maybe to deflect from the fact that he's depressed about losing his wife, but his performance is sort of deep in that regard, and it's pretty surprising to watch. He's still sarcastic and in a scripted way annoying, but it's not totally the Matthew Perry you'd expect.
Despite the aforementioned messiness and some of the problems presented by the simple notion of putting a time limit on introducing a lot of different elements in the pilot, there's actually a lot to like in "Go On". Some of the show's gags are a little broad and a little oddly paced, but if you can see beyond them, and into the show that you can tell Go On it's trying to be, then we might have a winner on our hands. It's a show that wants to be optimistic, that wants to be quirky and that wants to be large in scope. Whether it can pull all those things together remains to be seen, but it's worth sticking with for at leasta few weeks to find out if it can do it, if for no other reason than the totally different Matthew Perry that we get here.
Beyond that, there's also a genuine sense of emotionality that you don't generally get from half hour sitcoms. While the episode spends a lot of time trying to tell you its characters are quirky oddballs who will the source for a lot of sight gags, it also strips that away by showing the same characters struggling at night to cope with their losses or showing genuine moments between Perry and one of his other group members, and it makes you think that this show can be more than just another sitcom.
But for the sake of what we do here, and based on the pilot alone, it has to be mentioned that the show needs some work. Too many of its characters are wasted on simple introductory scenes (for example, John Cho's character was only added after the pilot was picked up to series, so they only had time to film one new scene at the beginning, and Lauren's character is seldom seen even though you can tell she's play a big part in the show), and a little too much time is spent on gags involving the group's quirks (Brett Gelman is hilarious, but his creepy, sexually depraved sweater act wore a little thin towards the end of the episode; although his character was the source of pretty much every memorable line from the Pilot).
Still, we're going to grade this pilot on potential, because this show has plenty of it, and it deserves a shot. The pilot for "Go On" gets 7 dead cats out of 10.