While Matt LeBlanc has Episodes, Lisa Kudrow has Web Therapy, Jennifer Aniston has all of the tabloids, Courteney Cox has Cougar Town and David Schwimmer has settled in behind the camera and is doing voiceover work, Matthew Perry hasn't had all that much luck finding a steady TV gig since Friends ended. He had the short-lived Mr. Sunshine and the talky nonsense that was Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. And while this new venture, Go On, does have its moments, it's unlikely that it will be the long-running hit he's hoping for. Much as Chandler was arguably one of the best characters on Friends, Perry is increasingly in danger of becoming a showkiller.
The problem with Go On (aside from the fact that, at first glance, it looks like it's called Goon) might be overhype. Episodes, Web Therapy and even Cougar Town have succeeded because they fly largely under the radar. Two are on cable and one has the worst name on television (next to Bunheads). Go On has suffered from some major promotion already; it even got a sneak peek last night after the Olympics (it starts for real on September 11), which is almost like getting a post-Super Bowl berth. And there have been endless commercials, some even featuring Olympic-themed moments (and one with 2008 gymnastic darling Shawn Johnson).
The real problem is that all of the funniest bits of the pilot were in the teaser for the show and while the show's March Sadness bracketology made us laugh out loud, they can't repeat that gimmick every week. It's hard to tell exactly where the show will be going, but we've got a feeling it'll be nowhere fast. It seems like it wants to be Community in the way it brings together a group of oddballs, complete with an attractive, wealthy and self-important guy forced to be there against his will before reluctantly beginning to appreciate the people around him. But here it's a group therapy situation where people dealing with life transitions rely on each other.
Matthew Perry is charismatic when his Ryan is in abrasive sportscaster mode or dominating the group therapy sessions, but the show needs to find a better way to balance that with the tragic loss of his wife. Same goes for balancing Ryan's work life with the therapy group and developing the stories of the characters surrounding him more. Go On isn't dreadful -- and far from the worst show we've seen this pilot season -- it just seems like a limited storyline. How long can someone stay in grief counseling over the loss of their cat?
The other fault of the show is that its references need to be more original and relevant. This episode was filmed a while ago and it shows, what with the nods to People's Bradley Cooper cover. And with The Big Bang Theory already doing a whole wedding episode tied to taking advantage of the Google satellites, an ending following one of the Google cars around just seems dated at this point. If they are going to stay with pop culture references, they really have to be more current or put a fresh spin on them.
So far, this watered-down Community seems to rely mostly on the shoulders of Perry and Everybody Hates Chris alum Tyler James Williams, while Broadway vet Laura Benanti (who plays the group's leader) is utterly forgettable in her role. It's got a little bit of potential in there, but the pilot didn't convince to set a season pass come September.
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