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“Go On” Is Off To A Solid Start

September 30, 2012

I live by a very important and steadfast belief and it is this: “Friends” was a great show. Sure, it went on too long, had that old laugh track, and there’s obviously no way those kids could have afforded that apartment. But it was an excellent show—well-written, funny, sweet, all that crucial stuff—and it still makes me laugh whenever I watch it. One of the best parts of “Friends,” of course, was Matthew Perry’s Chandler, and I’ve been rooting hard for him to get another shot.

And so he has with the new sitcom “Go On.” I am genuinely happy to report that I think this is a good show, I think Matt is good in it, and I believe it has a lot of promise. Hooray!

The premise of “Go On” finds Matt playing Ryan King, a big-shot sports talk radio guy whose wife has just died in a car accident. Ryan is essentially Chandler with confidence and a good job, and that’s a lot of what makes it work—this is what Matt does best, so let him do it! The wisecracks abound and he hits them them all; the guy’s still got it.

In the pilot, we meet Ryan’s co-workers (John Cho and Allison Miller, both good), and learn that he’s being required to attend a grief support group before he’ll be allowed back to work. It’s sort of a weak and over-used plot move, but it gets the job done so that the real story can start. Once Ryan gets into the support group room, that cast begins to pop and we can see that the show is going to explore the dynamics of the group and the difficulties of loss and loneliness.

Luckily, the pilot is the only episode that uses the “this group is mandatory” ploy — after that they let Ryan admit that he likes it and just continue to attend on his own. With that hurdle out of the way, the relationships begin to develop. Each of the four episodes that have aired so far has given some focus to one of the group members, which is nice because it feels like we’re gradually getting to know them, and like there’s a lot more to explore.

The show is funny but slightly understated, which I like, and it doesn’t shy away from its sad subject matter, nor make fun of its odd characters. One interesting relationship is the one Ryan has with his twenty-something assistant, Carrie, which is explored in the second episode. Because he no longer wants to go home at night for fear of being alone, he latches on to her and ends up hanging out with her friends and even crashing a trip to the hair salon. This could easily come off as creepy, but it doesn’t, and that fact alone is evidence of a kindness that feels continually present in each of the plot lines.

So yes, we may have something here. The supporting cast is all good, but honorable mention goes to Julie White, who plays a sarcastic lesbian who has also just lost her wife. In the fourth episode, she grabs Ryan and kisses him on the mouth in order to get the first post-dead-wife kiss out of the way. Afterwards, she sort of shrieks with the thrill of starting to move on. It’s a great moment. I like it. I’m on board.

REMEMBER HOW MUCH YOU LOVED CHANDLER on Nuclear Salad.

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