Created and written by Emmy Award winner Scott Silveri (Friends), Go on is centered around Ryan King (Matthew Perry), a sportscaster eager to get back to his job one month after his wife passed away. But his boss Steven (John Cho) won’t allow him to until he undergoes ten sessions of group therapy. At the “Transitions: Life Change” group run by Lauren (Laura Benanti) Ryan makes his sessions bearable by listening to his old radio shows and avoiding talking about his loss.
There are many reasons why people watch television. Some watch it to laugh, or get scared, or simply be entertained by a good story. But once in a while you just want to watch a show that simply makes you feel good. Go On is this type of show. What’s more, making people happy seems to actually have been Silveri’s motivation behind it. And yes, we all know television shows main goal is making money, blah blah blah. Except, producers can make money off reality shows. Or gratuitous eye candy like Baywatct ( no offense to the show; Friends wouldn’t have been the same without you). Most shows have an inherent theme or subliminal message behind their money making facades. Grey’s Anatomy is all about getting people to sleep with as many of their friends, bosses and colleagues as possible. ER teaches medicine via gorgeous doctors and nurses. Then there is The Mentalist and it’s evil goal of making its fans people paranoid Red John freaks: “I wonder if this guest star is an RJ spy”, says every single fan every single episode.But I digress. The point is Matthew Perry’s new show seems to have been written to make people feel good via seeing his character overcome tragedy. Both the title and premise establish this.
What does a person do when faced with the loss of a loved one? Those lucky to be romantically involved see Ryan King living out their worst nightmare. Single viewers have plenty of other tragedies to choose from via the appropriately culturally diverse members of the Transitions support group. There’s a trauma for everyone here from losing your cat, to your living, to your sight. Sound morbid? It’s not. All the players and their respective tragedies are introduced in a fantastically amusing scene; the show’s funniest in fact. And it’s all done so cleverly and sensitively in a way that lightens pain as opposed to callously making light of it.
Matthew Perry is in top form here. The sports loving actor is as animated as his fans have known and loved him to be. An extra bonus is the great opportunity to see him do more than just comedy. Ever since his character Chandler’s stirring moments on Friends (his mommy/daddy issues, his and Monica’s inability to conceive, etc. ) and I’ve been dying to see Perry do drama and angst. I got my wish with Aaron Sorkin’s riveting Studio 60. Unfortunately, the series was short lived so seeing Perry here, in a comedy, but nonetheless with plenty of opportunities to make us weep via angst-ridden scenes was a dream come true.
The other cast members do their share to keep viewers engaged. Laura Benanti is officially my new celebrity crush. I love her voice and the way she enunciates her words. Also, she infuses wonderful empathy into her character, group leader Lauren. It is very gratifying as I’ve seen so many similar roles (psychologists, social workers, etc.) on television played woodenly and stereotypically.
I would like to single out Suzy Nakamura. Her character Yolanda’s delighted “Oh!” at entering Ryan’s competition completely won me over to her character, despite her teacher’s pet persona which the other players obviously find annoying. Tonita Castro, the actress who plays Fausta is also extremely endearing. In fact the whole group is wonderful. The only two characters I found a bit off-putting were Angry Anne (Julie White) and Giddy George (Bill Cobbs). I hope to see more range of emotions from both of them besides their respective rage and denial. The joyous moment at the end of the episode was a good start.
Speaking of the ending: Perry’s moving performance offset with a liberating comedy and the empowering emotional music totally made me reach for my tissue box. Sigh. What a wonderful show. I can’t wait till September.
Icing (s) on the Cake
Matthew Perry’s dance was early in the episode was so natural. I’ve missed it. I’ve missed him.
Allison Miller (Carrie, Ryan’s assistant) is cute as a button.
The direction was really great, especially at the beginning when, after Ryan throw’s out a birthday cake, the scene immediately cut to him in his boss’s office.
Loved the montage about halfway through the episode, showing us moments of the characters’ lives and grief. The song choice (Lion’s Mane by Iron and Wine) which accompanied it was lovely and appropriately bittersweet.
“Life Change, is it mainly for people who won the lottery?” Ryan.
“I can totally handle this–oh my god there’s a new person! Yes he heard. Sorry, Lauren.” –Yolanda.
“Bradley Cooper’s the sexiest man alive because apparently People magazine has never heard of a Mr. Ryan Gosling.”-Ryan. This line and it’s example of how everyone is suddenly infatuated by Gosling prompted my recent #questionoftheday on twitter about the aforementioned actor.
“Be honest when you’re sitting here listening to someone else’s problems you may smile and nod but he’s right a big part of you is thinking my thing is worse than your thing.” –So very true. Happens to the best of us.
“Thanks for saying my name so much. It’s weird but nice.” Ryan.
“Oh I’m sorry, are you talking to me. Hard for me to be sure as I’ve gone blind.”- George.
“No one else seems to be holding hands. No. No thank you. I don’t like this.”-Sonia to creepy Mr. K.
I loved the line and the accompanying action cause it makes me think the man is craving human contact. Which might tie into his own tragedy, if we think about the character’s montage shown middle of the episode. Yes, I’m sad.
“You’re a very nice lady. I’m going to send you all my sad friends.” –Ryan, to Lauren.
“That’s a shameful waste of fruit!” Terrell Owens. Thank you, Mr. Owens! One of my pet peeves is seeing food wasted on television or films.
A few lines felt odd to me in the episode. They were funny, but didn’t feel quite right:
“Why do I feel like your life change involves wearing a suit of other people’s skin?” –Ryan, to Mr. K.
Can’t put my finger on this one. Everyone loves a Hannibal reference. Just not sure you’d say something like that to someone you just met. But this is comedy, so I’m willing to let it slide.
“Why not try boxing. When was the last time you hit someone.”
Ryan’s advice to Anne here, and her reply of “It’s been awhile” felt a bit weird to me. Is hitting people something normal, like part of a routine she should get back to?
“The only thing you’ve ever lost is 30 pounds.” Ryan, to Lauren
This particular scene was fantastic. Perry and Benanti played wonderfully off each other. I just wish the above line was set up a little better. Lauren stated that she was with Weight Watchers. I understood that to mean that she worked for them, not that she was a client herself. And she’s completely fit now which is why Ryan’s above statement seemed like an odd (convenient) assumption.
None of the peeves I listed take away from the enjoyment anyone will feel watching the episode. My score? 9/10. So do yourselves a favor people and download it now from itunes. Hint: it’s called “pilot” not, “episode 1”. And don’t forget to tune in on Tuesday, September eleventh on NBC for a brand new episode. I saw the promo. It looks awesome 🙂
For news on the show, you can follow their official twitter account, @NBCGo_On. And because Matthew Perry can never have too many fans, follow him on @MatthewPerry.
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