Every year there comes a pilot for a show with maybe an average to slightly sub par marketing campaign (ie. when you hear the same lines over and over in every promo), gregarious stars that you like and interesting subject matter that you think deserves a chance. So you fire up your TV (or NBC.com in this case), hoping for the best. However, your hope is quickly turned to ash as the show falls apart spectacularly in front of your very eyes. Go On is that show. Which is a shame because despite having the winning personalities of Matthew Perry and Laura Benanti, NBC’s Go On is little more than a half-assed attempt at comedy that could easily find itself among the first shows on the chopping block. The plot is fairly simple. Perry plays Ryan King, who’s a sports radio personality masking the pain of his wife dying in a car accident. After an admittedly hilarious altercation with Terrell Owens, his boss (John Cho) sends him to therapy. The therapy group is led by Lauren Schneider (the wondrous Laura Benanti) and full of oddballs with varying issues from death of family members to a cat dying. Ryan is both amused and subsequently repulsed by the group, eventually goading Lauren into signing his release form, but not before she dresses him down about his pain. Of course, he realizes the error of his ways and returns to the group.
After recounting the plot, it’s very difficult to figure out where to further analyze this show because it’s such a mess. I will say that though the show doesn’t serve them well, Matthew Perry and Laura Benanti both deliver good performances. There are some quirky characters in the therapy group, but I was really struck by Tyler James Williams as Owen, the only one in the group who seems grounded.
Reality is one of the shows biggest problems however. I’m well aware that everyone chooses to deal with their grief in different ways, they make these characters odd just for the sake of the “comedy.” There’s nothing wrong with trying to find humor in serious situations, much of how one can recover from a tough problem is through the power of laughter. However, the show doesn’t really treat any of the character’s problems with much seriousness or respect. While Ryan pitting each member of the group against each other in a March Sadness tournament is supposed to be funny, and does provide the occasional laugh, it does little more than serve as a plot device to quickly get us up to speed on whatever’s problems are. It would have been better to find an organic way to introduce us to the group.
But the underlying issue of this show really is the script. It never finds the correct balance between humor and seriousness, making for an uneven watch. The show is painfully unfunny, with all of the best jokes in the pilot either come off flat or were ruined by the expansive marketing campaign NBC launched. By the end I was convinced that the joke is actually on us, that in order to empathize with these people they had to make you depressed with the wasted potential in the pilot.
Go On premieres at 9/8c on Sept. 11 on NBC.