Eight years after the finale of Friends, Matthew Perry is back at NBC for the first time since his short-lived Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip with an all-new comedy in Go On. Revolving around the concept of moving on following life changing revelations, the fresh series has certainly had some mixed reception while touting a big returning star who is aching for the chance to finally prove that he can have a hit after leaving his mark already. With Go On being the third series of Perry's following Friends, is third time the charm, or does the comedy look like another future dud for the struggling NBC?
The series premiere of Go On isn't exactly perfect. The heartwarming tale tends to blend comedy and drama in an intriguing magnitude for the network that tends to feel like departed program Scrubs which could achieve the same feat. While not all of the characters are likable, and some coming off just a bit odd or underdeveloped, it's Perry's performance that thankfully holds everything together while connected with various characters in order to bring different elements out of various roles. The comedic actor certainly feels like he's holding back at times, but if there's one thing that's clear its that this could be Perry's best role in the lengthy post-Friends era of his career.
The first episode of the show didn't exactly have me convinced right off of the bat. It takes a little while before the narrative can actually warm you up to its glorification of grief until you realize it's more about life-after-death. And it's there that there's a poignant beauty in the premise of the series itself. Whether you like it or not, death is a natural part of life and everyone experiences it at one point or another. So as we tend to hit the more dramatic dips in the first episode, there's always this amount of relatability with these characters in which you feel as if there's a connection that already exists to each one of them. Not every character is dealing with death, however, but it's those moments of unexpected reality that are forcing these individuals to change their lives that is an incredibly connective aspect.
What the pilot at least does in a great form is not only provide an amusing scene during the March Sadness moment but introduces us to at least every character's story beginnings that we will more than likely expand upon as the season continues. Though some tales might be better than other's, it's here that we at least get insight to this large cast of characters that may be hard to keep up with at times but it feels enough for the time being.
The first act feels clunky enough to drag down a good portion of the episode but by the end as Lauren is introduced it's hard to not feel just a little won over. Once our female lead is brought into the picture, we're taken onto a different tone as we explore this odd back and forth between Ryan and Lauren which certainly feels hit & miss at times. If it wasn't for the inclusion of Owen, there's a chance that the rest of the premiere may have gone off the deep end.
But it's when Ryan starts to connect with the mute member of the group that you really get a sense for how this show will work. It's a character-driven plot layered with some laughs, but it's the performances and even deeper so the magic within those connections that truly emerge as the true hope for the series. While I may have some skepticism regarding that the comedy will develop a procedural element in which Ryan connects with a different member of the group every week, I'm at least open to the idea so far that the series can hopefully tackle the episodes to come with enough of creativity that we avoid this extremely predictable outcome.
As for performances itself, Perry is an absolute delight and completely fuels the episode as a whole. He's a major force enough to mask even the more questionable aspects while being able to play off of nearly everyone wonderfully. My only concern is that Perry tends to really overshadow everyone, truly making it his series and not allowing others to quite shine as much as they should be able to. Regardless, his character of Ryan King is quite enjoyable while not dipping too far into the "Chandler" pool.
While Laura Benanti tends to have her moments, the true breakout member of the cast tends to be Brett Gelman as the odd and hilarious Mr. K. The character is so incredibly creepy and it's Gelman's delivery while his physical gags as well (such as running in nothing but underwear in the street) that truly make him a remarkable talent to have. While I don't quite anticipate some emotional connection as the other members of the group, he could actually prove to have a surprising tale behind his absurd exterior. Gelman easy delivers some of the greatest jokes of the entire premiere and it's fantastic to see him steal scenes.
Go On is certainly a mix that walks a fine line between being great while also feeling like it has plenty of holes. On one hand, the performances impress while remaining entertaining throughout though it doesn't quite leave the complete impression that it should. In terms of the pilot season as a whole, Go On emerges as one of the best series premieres of this fall and has me actually excited in giving it a solid chance. The next handful of episodes will certainly determine whether or not the series is worthy of standing on its own and moving past some missed opportunities, but it has the chance to succeed by certainly provoking the best out of the extremely promising talent it has waiting in the wings.
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