Episode 1: Pilot
The Series Premiere
By: Carlos Uribe
Go On is a is a show about a group of friends
attending community college
in a therapy group.
Go On is the first new series of the 2012-2013 season that I'm reviewing. The actual fall season doesn't begin until September and this show doesn't have it's official premiere until September 11th, which coincidentally is my birthday. This is worth noting because there's always something exciting about a new television series. You don't know what's coming. It could be good or bad. The question ultimately becomes whether or not Go On will become a good or a bad show.
There is without a doubt that Go On is very similar to another NBC comedy, Community. While Community may be entering it's fourth season (without creator Don Harmon), it was never a big hit to begin with. You can get the sense that NBC was disappointed with the results and decided to try again. This resulted in Go On. They gave the show a major lead-Mathew Perry. Mathew Perry does an excellent job in the pilot and he helps to make his character feel human. They're hoping that Perry will draw in the ratings and that the premise will be able to work this time. While Perry might be the star, this is ultimately an ensemble show. This means that the show will fall apart if the rest of the actors and actresses aren't very good. The show also has to be funny to survive. Those who watch single-camera comedies tend to be more picky than those who watch multi-camera comedies. The show doesn't just want to be funny, but to explore real human emotions. Go On is essentially NBC doing Community all over again-but this time with more advantages. Go On doesn't just have a more famous lead to start out with but it's getting a special commercial-free preview right after the Olympics.
Let's talk about the show's goals to be both funny and to have actual emotions at the same time. Some of the jokes did work rather well. It was funny to see the group members hug themselves and Mathew Perry generally had some good lines. It also did have a really good montage scene that worked to show just how broken and alone this group is. The pilot goes to some pretty dark places for a comedy. These are comical characters but they are all suffering some kind of loss. The show didn't transition between it's serious emotional beats and it's punchline mode as well as I would have liked. If the episode can balance out it's tone then it could turn out to be a much funnier show that also makes people feel more effectively. Go On also suffers a problem from the workplace scenes. While I like John Cho, it doesn't feel that his character is really necessary outside of the beginning. If anything, the workplace felt a bit tacked on at times. While it contributed to the plot in this episode, I simply don't see how it fits with the rest of the series in future episodes. Considering that John Cho is a series regular, it's clear that Go On has no intention of dropping the radio station.
The show is funny and it has some good emotional moments, but it needs to transition between them better. The emotional moments work well thanks to some well-written characters. The main protagonist is Ryan King. He's a sportscaster who recently lost his wife in a car accident. He's having trouble moving on and that's why he joins the therapy group. At first it's forced on him but he eventually choses to be in it. The only thing that saves Ryan from being just another a-hole protagonist on television is Mathew Perry's performance. Perry is able to find the humanity that is within the character of Ryan and draw it out. Ryan is therefore a likeable and charming character rather than just another sarcastic protagonist. The pain that Ryan is feeling is real and that helps to ground the show in an unexpected manner.
What about the other characters? Lauren is the leader of the group therapy group. There's some sparks that are supposed to be flying between Ryan and Lauren, but I simply don't see them as a romantic couple yet. While Lauren's qualifications to be the leader of the group is questionable, she isn't developed beyond just being a by-the-book person. The mere fact that she hasn't lost anything other than her weight seems to be more of a wall between her and the other members of the group and this stops her from truly connecting as the other characters do. Lauren is supposed to be the main female of the show but she's quickly overshadowed by the other characters. For instance, Anne is an angry lesbian coping with her partner's death. Julie White gets a lot out of the role and helps make the anger feel real. I would have liked to spend some more time with some of the members of the group than we did but quite a few of them manage to leave good impressions. The ensemble cast is all very solid and it'll be interesting to see this show as it shifts into ensemble mode.
I may not be covering this show weekly, but I might be watching it regardless. That's because while the show needs to work out what is good and what is bad and fix it's tonal balance, it does have a lot of promise. Mathew Perry gives a winning role in the pilot, but a lot of the cast does get some time to shine. This isn't necessarily a good show yet, but it is a pilot that isn't painful to get through and clearly promises a show that will be good. Consider that to be a success for the writer, Scott Silveri. To summarize: Go On has potential and it's worth checking out.