|Perry surrounded by his new friends on Go On|
Matthew Perry’s new comedy Go On starts tonight–the first network series debut of the 2012-’13 season. The episode will get a sneak peak in late night after NBC’s Olympic coverage. My Rogers’ Cable on-screen info says it will air around 11:05 P.M. ET, but that time could vary depending on Summer Games events.
Perry plays Ryan King, an edgy sports radio talk show host not unlike Jim Rome. He’s still reeling from the recent death of his wife but wants to get right back on the air. Not so fast, says his boss (John Cho from Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle), who insists he attend grief therapy counseling first. King does, starts screwing with the group, and hilarity ensues.
Perry is on familiar turf as a wise-cracking smart-ass. He’s much more sympathetic here, though, than in his last short-lived series, Mr. Sunshine, where he was just a cranky drag. Here he has a reason to be in a funk and audiences have a reason to root for the character.
Laura Benanti (The Playboy Club) plays Lauren, the no-nonsense group leader. She’s the backboard to Perry’s many jump shots. Perry told me at press tour what a fan he is of Bob Newhart, who shone in his ’70s series about a therapist, The Bob Newhart Show. The difference here is that Perry is one of the patients, not the doctor, and freer to push the stories forward and play for laughs.
Like Newhart, the Ottawa-raised actor has always had a natural sense of timing and gets to throw it around here with a strong supporting cast. Brett Gelman, as Mr. K, is effectively unhinged as one of King’s fellow patients. Tyler James Williams–now all grown up from his days on Everybody Hates Chris–nicely underplays his role as patient Owens.
A highlight of the pilot is when King organizes a “March Sadness” pool to see which patient has the saddest stories. The pilot is directed by Todd Holland (Wonderfalls) who brings his usual snap to the game.
Go On isn’t as smart, original or as illuminating as CBC’s failed therapy comedy, Michael Tuesdays & Thursdays, which, sadly, may mean it will play to a larger room. I wonder if the title is strong enough–Go On doesn’t quite sell it for me–but the pilot is worth staying up for tonight. The series will begin running in its regular Tuesday night timeslot starting Sept. 11 on NBC and Global. For more on Perry and this series, check out this story I wrote for the Canadian Press.