As my colleague Kate Kulzick pointed out last week, NBC has chosen to use the boost in ratings they’ve gained from their exclusive US airing of the 2012 Summer Olympics to try and give some of their new shows a running start. Among the crowd that they’re hoping gains, and retains, an audience from the Olympics are two half-hour comedies; Animal Practice, about a cranky veterinarian and the staff of his hospital, and Go On, about a sportscaster and the members of his group therapy session. Intrigued at the promise of new comedies from NBC, which has, in recent years, created interesting shows such as Community, Parks and Recreation, and 30 Rock, I decided to see what the pilots of these shows promised for the future.
From first glance, this show is seemingly a tired retread of a lot of things we’ve seen before, with no real addition. The core character of Dr. George Coleman, like many other male characters scattered across various expired and currently running shows, displays a disdain for humans in general while simultaneously expressing an affinity for attractive women. The secondary characters, including that of Joanna Garcia Swisher’s Dorothy Rutledge, who’s set up as the primary female character, are all thinly drawn in the pilot, without much substance for the viewers to latch on to. Justin Kirk, whom most will recognise from Weeds and its short-lived spinoff that attempted to make a leading character out of Kirk’s Andy Botwin, does the best he can with the limited material he’s given, bringing some urgently-needed charm to the role, although it’s doubtful how long that will sustain the show. Likewise, the supporting cast, which includes the likes of MADtv‘s Bobby Lee and Reaper‘s Tyler Labine, have proven themselves enjoyable to watch, but will need something more concrete to work with if audiences are expected to tune in on a weekly basis. The one bright spot in the pilot was Betsy Sodaro’s Angela, whose character is given an interesting role as someone who openly articulates the expected romantic tension that’s usually left as subtext, albeit obvious subtext. Should the writers continue to develop her in this manner, Angela promises to become a unique sitcom character who could be a breath of fresh air among the otherwise stale ideas the show has paraded out so far, and, outside of Crystal the Monkey’s surprising array of tricks, may perhaps keep the show interesting until the rest of the actors and characters find their foothold.
This show represents, in a few ways, a return to roots for star Matthew Perry; after a brief stint at ABC with Mr. Sunshine, he’s back at NBC, the home of his career-defining role in Friends. Go On is also created by ex-Friends writer Scott Silveri, and the two factors combined might lead to the idea that this show could be titled the “Matthew Perry half-hour”, but in a pleasant surprise, the pilot manages to set up the show as more than simply that. The main thing the pilot does right is allowing secondary characters room to breathe and, via a plot device, allows for the expansion of the backstory of many of the members in the therapy session that forms the core of the show, allowing the audience to latch on to other characters even if they find themselves turned off by, or uninterested in, Matthew Perry’s Ryan King. The show also manages, in its first episode, to display an amount of charm that would make it an enjoyable watch even if the substance was lacking, with a quick pace that allows viewers to overlook potential problems. Go On also boasts a rather impressive ensemble, with John Cho showing up as King’s boss, and Tyler James Williams, Julie White, Brett Gelman, and Seth Morris all forming part of the therapy group, among others. All members of the cast were given their moment to shine in the pilot, which bodes well for the show going forward. There were some hiccups, most notably the portrayal of Laura Benanti’s Lauren, who seemed like less of a character, and more of a plot device to display how awesome Ryan King was by comparison, and the general underdevelopment of King’s workplace in comparison to his therapy sessions, but the show does have some promise, and might be a fun half-hour of television at this rate, even if it never develops into anything more.
– Deepayan Sengupta