I hate to pile on poor Matthew Perry. He can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to finding a post-Friends vehicle for himself, but his new series is right up there (or right down there) with Mr. Sunshine and Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip as a series that misses the mark.
Perry plays Ryan King, a sports radio talk show host who is trying to return to work one month after the death of his wife. In order to get back behind the microphone, he has to complete ten hours of a grief counseling group therapy session. Along the way, he meets his fellow grief-stricken group members, each of them in various stages of dealing with their own personal bereavement.
There are a few familiar faces to fans of sitcoms of the past. Tyler James Williams, who was Chris on Everybody Hates Chris, is dealing with a brother whose accident left him brain-dead (but still living). Julie White, who was Grace’s best friend and neighbour on Grace Under Fire, is dealing with the death of her same-sex spouse. Allison Miller, who was in last year’s Terra Nova, is the leader of the group, but it’s revealed that she is no more qualified to counsel people than Perry’s character is. And of course, by the end of the half-hour, he does just that. Even though his only goal was to get himself extricated from this pointless exercise (in his opinion), by the end of the show, he’s bringing this rag-tag group of life sufferers together.
The big problem with the show—the big problem with all of Perry’s shows, so far—is that he tends to like to play characters who are largely unlikeable or unknowable. He’s so emotionally distant, it feels as though it will be harder to get to who he is at his emotional core than it was to discover the mystery of the smoke monster on Lost (and will we even care by the time we do)?
There’s very little that is actually funny on Go On. I wanted to, but I never even cracked a smile, let alone laughed at anything. The whole premise is too depressing to draw in an audience and doesn’t feel authentic enough to make people who know real grief to identify or empathize.
Go On is scheduled to begin early to get a head start on the Olympics, and I have a feeling this is going to do so poorly, it will vanish quickly and may not even return after the Summer Games are done. The only reason I can see NBC sticking with this show is that Matthew Perry has a standing offer to return to his recurring role on CBS’ The Good Wife, and if NBC wants to keep that from happening, Go On could limp along a little longer. Personally, I say put Go On out of its (and our) misery.
TV Gord’s verdict: Watch it while you can (cancelled early on).