The Bottom Line
- Stars Matthew Perry, Laura Benanti, Julie White, Suzy Nakamura, Allison Miller, Tyler James Williams, Brett Gelman, John Cho
- Created by Scott Silveri
- Preview August 8, 2012, following Olympics coverage on NBC; airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EST starting September 11, 2012
Ryan’s grief is his second major defining characteristic after his misanthropy, and the show splits awkwardly between the two. Ryan works as the host of a radio sports talk show, and the first episode spends part of the time at his work, where he interacts with his macho boss (John Cho) and his meek secretary (Allison Miller), as well as guest-starring athlete Terrell Owens. The rest of the episode is spent in the “life change” support group that Ryan must attend as a condition of returning to work, which is full of eccentric misfits and led by a counselor whose main qualification is having worked for Weight Watchers.
The members of the support group get no more than one quirk each at this point, but given how many of them there are (some series regulars, some who will presumably be recurring characters or switched out for other people in future episodes), it’s understandable that they wouldn’t be completely fleshed out in the first episode. Ryan himself seems more complex, but his sarcastic, bitter side doesn’t entirely fit with his wounded, vulnerable side, at least not yet. That’s another issue with potential to be smoothed out in future episodes, but it makes the pilot into a pretty bumpy ride.
Perry’s good at playing this kind of character, though, as he demonstrated well on Mr. Sunshine, and he also has experience at playing genuine emotion from his years on Friends. The supporting cast is full of reliable character actors, including the acerbic Julie White as a pissed-off lesbian whose partner passed away; oddball Brett Gelman as a mysterious weirdo; and former Everybody Hates Chris star Tyler James Williams, all grown up and playing the group member most likely to connect with Ryan (he too lost a loved one to an accident). Go On could grow into a solid ensemble comedy, and Perry works best when he has other strong comedic performers to play off of.
For now, though, this first episode airing during the Olympics does a poor job of enticing people to tune in when the show’s regular season begins in September. The episode showcases problems rather than their potential solutions, and people who sample it may not come away eager to watch it again a month later. Once the season gets going, however, the show could be worth keeping an eye on, and Perry deserves the benefit of the doubt given the strengths of his past work.