Go On is former Friends star Matthew Perry’s third attempt to return to the small screen and from the looks of things, this time he is here to stay. Go On follows Ryan King (played by Perry), a sports radio talk-show host whose wife dies and who is forced to go into group therapy to get his job back. There, he meets a bunch of troubled individuals, each with their own quirky personalities, all of whom are struggling with their own quirky problems. If I were to be lazy, I would describe this as essentially be a sitcom version of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest with Perry in the Jack Nicholson role, trying to overthrow the tyranny of the medical professionals and helping a patient each week. But it’s a lot less confrontational than that. Even the councillor, (played by Laura Benati) needs help from this dysfunctional group. But still, this is very much The Matthew Perry Show.
Not that that should come as any surprise. He is after all, by far the biggest name in the show, with only John Cho (of Harold and Kumar fame) being immediately recognisable. But that also works to it’s advantage, he is after all playing a celebrity, even if he is only on radio. That is not to detract from the other performers, all of whom play their roles well, though we still don’t know enough about each of the large supporting ensemble to care too much about any of them.
So, is it any good? Well, yes and no. It is certainly better than his previous effort, Mr. Sunshine in which he played essentially the same character, albeit in a different setting. The jokes are funny and it moves along nicely, but the comedy is a little too broad for my liking (even the darker comic moments never stray too far from overall uplifting and comforting feel) and the hugging-and-learning elements are laid on way too thickly throughout each episode.
My biggest concern is that it is going to turn into another Cougar Town. Already, there is a cartoonish feel to the supporting cast and as time goes on it is going to be harder to find things for all of them to do. So the temptation to mine the sillier aspects until it becomes a parody of itself may very quickly become a reality.
So it’s not great. It’s not as funny as Friends and it’s overly-sentimental and whilst Perry can do this sort of thing all day long, he is much better than this show. His films have shown he can do the funny depressed guy (The Whole Nine Yards) and the actually depressed guy (in the somewhat under-rated Numb) and here he just seems to end up sitting in the middle. Whilst you could argue that the lack of sparkle may be due to the lack of studio audience (Mr. Sunshine didn’t have one either), I don’t believe that to be the case. The reason being, what this show makes me pine nostalgically for is not Friends, which by the end had well and truly run it’s course, but the criminally underrated Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (which ranks very close to Firefly in my list of TV shows that should never have been cancelled).
Studio 60 was a perfect balance of humour and drama, with some of Aaron Sorkin’s best work and some of Perry’s best performances. The chemistry between Perry, Bradly Whitford and Amanda Peet was something to behold and watching Go On makes me miss it even more.
This then leaves me in an awkward position. Would I rather the show be a success and somewhat enjoy it or would I rather it bomb spectacularly (which it isn’t likely to do) allowing Perry the oppertunity to find a better vehicle for his talents (albeit with another hiatus whilst a project is found)? To be honest, I don’t know but it doesn’t matter too much as I don’t really have any say in the matter anyway. Regardless of which side of the fence I eventually land on, I will keep watching in the hope that it improves and keep thinking of the profound irritation I had with Parks and Recreation at the start, before it became one of the most insanely funny shows on today.
I don’t see that happening with this, but there is always hope and given that NBC quickly ordered first 13, then a total of 22 episodes, it is certainly going to be given every opportunity to succeed.