Despite a pretty terrible title (which has some of us calling it Goon), NBC’s Go On is a solid new comedy and, most importantly, one that has legs. First seasons can be rough, pilot’s even rougher and yet the Matthew Perry led comedy about a widower stuck in group therapy has delivered three quality episodes to start the series, showing unbelievable promise for the future. Were they perfect? Of course not! Kinks will need to be worked out, the incredibly large ensemble might have to be thinned - although they do an impeccable job with the sprawling cast (more on that later) - and the jokes will be fine tuned. But from what we’ve seen so far, Go On deserves to, uh, go on for at least the entire first season.
Okay, that comment doesn’t exactly beam with confidence but in an arena as fickle as television, where even the best and brightest series are often only given a few episodes to prove themselves (I miss you Undeclared, Firefly and Lone Star, not to mention all the other pre-first season canceled series that didn’t deserve to go), I’m simply hoping that Go On gets a fair shake and a chance to find its voice and its audience. There is a winning formula here if creator Scott Silveri and his team of writers are giving ample time to develop their oddball mix of sweet, sarcastic and well, silly.
A little bit Role Models, Community and even My Name is Earl (the reluctant lead helping oddballs in a group situation), Go On has carved a niche that seems both old and new, which is perhaps the perfect mix to snag viewers as well as produce the kind of quality comedy not always found (or sustained) on network television. Or at least not always successful on network television. There’s also a hint of genuine sadness that tints the program in an unusual light compared to the traditional sitcom, and it’s one more aspect of the series that will afford it legs. Legs. What are these legs I speak of? Well, it’s basically creating a television environment that affords an endless amount of (interesting) narrative possibilities and Go On might as well be an octopus. No, a centipede! Millipede! Sorry.
At first, I was as skeptical as anyone else. Scoffing at the name and the premise not to mention the network. NBC certainly hasn’t done us any comedy favors of late, even though they arguably boast two of the best on TV in Community and Parks and Rec (the latter’s warmth would make it a perfect partner for Go On, which has unfortunately been shackled with The New Normal), but after giving the Tuesday night block a chance because Matthew Perry was made for television, I was pleasantly surprised by the first episode, a pleasantness that continued through three episodes; “Pilot," "He Got Game, She Got Cats” and "There's No ‘Ryan’ In Team."
Before talking about Perry being perfectly suited for the medium, not to mention the great cast assembled around him or the winning structure that affords, it’s also worth mentioning how NBC cleverly scheduled the male-led show about a sports jockey against the adorkable New Girl on Fox and the female skewing (and yes, amazing) Happy Endings on ABC, adding only another reason why success seems likely. That’s on top of deserving it, but we all know (thanks to television history and William Munny) deserves got nothing to do with it. It doesn’t necessarily matter how great Perry is as Ryan King, already delivering what feels like a fully developed character even after only a few installments.
Sure, it might be because he’s got the Matthew Perry thing going on but could he be any more watchable? He’s as deft at handling the dramatic notes as he is the comedic and it doesn’t hurt that the supporting cast, as huge as it may be, is filled with equally up-to-the-task actors. And filled is certainly the right word with Go On boasting one of the largest ensembles for a half-hour comedy that I can remember but what is extraordinary, not to mention a primary reason for expecting big things from the program, was the skillful way the sitcom managed to introduce all of them in the pilot.
That’s not normally advised, throwing a dozen people into a pilot and expecting them to be well defined, but somehow (I’m guessing a combination of the writing and the actors) they all manage to create an impression and distinct, memorable characters which also opens up boundless possibilities as well as lays out out a great structure - one followed in the sweet, sarcastic and silly "He Got Game, She Got Cats” and "There's No ‘Ryan’ In Team." The episodes will focus on Ryan and one (or two) members of the therapy group helping each other with their issues (manifested in the form of an adventure) while using the meetings as well as stops at work to measure his progress and serve as the primary locations (the ‘study room,’ if you will). And with such a large, and talented, group for the writers to work with, both at Perry’s work and therapy, Go On’s legs start to look like Blake Lively’s. You’d tune in for that, right?
The fourth episode of Go On, “Bench-Clearing Bawl," airs Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. ET on NBC.