Ever since the insanely hyped end of Friends, it seems as though the entire cast of the beloved show wishes to genuinely diversify their subsequent works by never playing the nice, good-natured people they had become known as on their biggest hit. Courtney Cox was fantastic as the nagging spouse in The Longest Yard. Jennifer Aniston displayed distress wonderfully in The Switch. David Schwimmer directed the infinitely creepy Trust with notable class. Matt LeBlanc more than made up for Joey with Episodes. Lisa Kudrow completely went out of character for Web Therapy.
And Matthew Perry decided that he was going to make people forget Chandler. First, he played a complete and utter sleazeball to perfection in The Good Wife. Now, he gives us one of the best, most deeply damaged and self-absorbed protagonists on television in the endlessly witty Go On.
The new comedy from NBC tells the story of Ryan King, a sports radio host required to attend therapy following the death of his wife.
From the onset of the fantastic pilot (unaired, but available on iTunes free of charge) right into the equally charming television premiere, it is clear that King is not the nice, everyday guy that Chandler Bing was. He doesn’t remember the names of his colleagues because they aren’t important. He forces his assistant (a convincing Allison Miller) to stay with him constantly because he does not want to be alone. He makes intentionally provocative comments (“the Olympics have gotten too foreign.") He stages competitions deciding which patient’s grief is the worst (which he calls "March Sadness.") And he does not spare anyone’s feelings.
Perry's character is arrogant, self-obsessed and still deeply insecure, all rather unapologetically. He knows what he expects is unfair — as he makes clear to his assistant after she drags him out of the salon he has forcibly entered by tagging along — but he still wants it. Luckily for Ryan King, he is surrounded by people that care, including a subtly funny John Cho (with an “innate street cred” that no one with eyesight has ever been able to see). King just wants someone to think about him even when he isn’t there, and people seem to actually fulfill that wish.
Nothing can be said to be wrong with the therapy group. Every single performer is fantastic and truly deserving of a proper ensemble cast treatment a la The Office.
The group leader Lauren (Laura Benanti) is an appropriate wet-blanket, rejecting King’s ten-second solutions to all the patients’ problems. But the real challenge the actress pulls off is accurately portraying a genuinely caring character, a woman far more competent at her job than one would expect from a former leader for Weight Watchers.
As for the patients, all are in perfect form and deliver more laughs in two episodes than Chris Tucker has in his entire career. From Brett Gelman’s resident weirdo to Suzy Nakamura’s intimacy-phobe, there are laughs all around. The show also does well by highlighting at least one character per episode, such as Owen (a beautifully understated Tyler James Williams) in the pilot, or Joe (a hilariously touching Bill Cobb) and Sonia (a charmingly pathetic Sarah Baker) in the premiere.
In Go On, dedicated fans will find one of the most versatile and quotable shows in recent times. (“No more sympathy cake!”) Any show that can reference everything from Ryan Gosling to making suits out of other people’s skin is a winner. To top it all off, Go On is incredibly touching and uplifting to boot.
Be sure to tune in to this hilarious and endlessly witty comedy, with masterful bits of drama thrown in for good measure. If the quality of the writing and acting stays the way they are, I sincerely hope this fantastic new series goes the distance.
Will the show last the season? I sincerely hope so.