They say that the greatest comedy is rooted in pain. If that's the case, Go On has a chance to be one of the funniest shows in television history.
doesn't have the most obvious premise for a network comedy. Ryan King (Matthew Perry), a successful and gleefully sarcastic sports-radio personality, is forced into group therapy in order to deal with the sudden death of his wife. Ryan can't go back to his job until he deals with this loss, so we get to follow him into the shenanigans of a decidedly weird group of fellow sufferers.
Before I watched it, this show worried me for two reasons. 1) Having experienced a devastating loss in my own life recently, I wasn't sure I could cope with television mocking the experience, and 2) Matthew Perry has always been my favorite of the Friends
. I want good things for him (You know, better than Mr. Sunshine
or Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
I shouldn't have been concerned: Go On
is the funniest pilot of the fall 2012 season.
Somehow, almost all of this comedy gold comes from sadness and feelings of loss. Seriously. For example, about six minutes into the Go On
pilot we are treated to one of the funniest scenes in recent TV-comedy history: March "Sadness." This tournament of tears morphs instantly into crazy hilarity as each group member tries to outdo the each others' sob story. It's silly, sure. But it's also something a group of grieving people would totally do.
What takes Go On
from good to great is how this comedy alternates with real pain, all while keeping the same tone throughout the show. I have watched the Go On
pilot three times now, and every time there are moments where my laughter dissolves into tears -- and then back again into laughter.
A lot of the credit for Go On
's excellence has to be given to Matthew Perry. His character of Ryan is an obviously fun guy. He's goofy. He exudes cheerful energy. You really can't help but like a personality like his.
But this personality is also a mask, and Matthew Perry is a good enough actor to play it that way. In those rare moments when the jokes and bravado falter, devastating grief clearly peeks through. Perry plays the pain subtly -- it's not a surprise that the self-absorbed characters around him usually miss it.
**Go On isn't all about Matthew Perry, of course. The entire cast is excellent, and there are plenty of standout performances. Most notable among the characters are Anne (Julie White), a very angry woman mourning the death of her partner, and Owen (Tyler James Williams of Everybody Hates Chris
), a young man hiding tragedy with near-silence. I also like the therapy group's leader, Lauren (Laura Benanti). She manages to be serious without being a killjoy and earnest without being preachy. Even though I suspect Lauren may be an eventual love interest for Ryan, the pilot has the intelligence to keep things fully platonic for now.
Put together in a therapy group, these characters occasionally seem a little overwhelming in their weirdness, but that's OK. It's group therapy -- people are supposed to be weird. And when I picture these odd characters out in the real world, living their lives, they all feel like people I might know.
My one concern about Go On
-- and I literally have only one -- is longevity. The pilot ends with a heartwarming, silly and final
moment better suited to film than television. I'm not really sure where the full season can move from that. Will Go On
be a workplace comedy peppered with hurt people from a therapy group? Is this a show that will focus the humor of pain?
I don't know. But maybe that's the point of Go On
-- you don't need to have all of the answers. You just have to try and you have to laugh. So I'll keep trying Go On
. I might cry when I do, but I will definitely laugh.
Check out a few more clips below!Go On
premieres on Wednesday, August 8 following Olympics coverage on NBC before moving to its regular timeslot starting Tuesday, September 11 at 9pm.(Images courtesy of NBC)