Matthew Perry's 'Go On': Deja vu on NBC?

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Image Credit: Jordin Althaus

There’s something familiar about Go On, a new sitcom NBC previewed after tonight’s Olympics coverage — and I’m not talking about star Matthew Perry’s latest variation on Chandler Bing.

The show centers on Perry as Ryan King, a slick sportscaster who’s just suffered a devastating loss. Though Ryan wants nothing more than to bury his feelings and get on with his life, his bro-y boss (John Cho) insists that Ryan get help before returning to work full-time. Ryan is resistant — “Therapy? It’s not in my blood. I go see a shrink, my dad will roll around in his grave. At least, I think he’s dead. We don’t talk about that kind of thing” — but eventually relents. He joins an ethnically and generationally diverse therapy group that meets in a dingy classroom — an assembly that also includes an uptight, shiny-haired Tracy Flick type, a middle-aged, motherly nurturer, an older gent, and an antisocial weirdo with a wide-eyed stare.

See what I’m getting at? From its premise to its characters to its very set, Go On contains more than a whiff of NBC’s Community — which seems odd from a business perspective, given that show’s notoriously low ratings.  Both series are about what happens when a sarcastic alpha male finds himself at a life-changing crossroads, and both feature an ensemble of misfits who meet under unconventional circumstances and form a surrogate family (presumably, in Go On‘s case). Even some of the jokes sound interchangeable; I can easily imagine Community‘s Annie and Troy having the following exchange:

Lauren: “It’s important to laugh. But it’s also important to cry. To sing. To dance–“
Yolanda: “–To swim!”
Lauren: “Less so.”

But I love Community — and since I worry about that show’s future, now that a) Dan Harmon is out and b) it’s been banished to Friday night Siberia, Go On‘s similarities don’t entirely bother me. In fact, I like the idea of Go On as a more grounded variation on its predecessor, the show Community could have been if Harmon hadn’t indulged every one of his genre-bending whims. Because it isn’t as absurd as Community (at least so far), Go On may also have more luck finding true emotional resonance. And if nothing else, its cast is uniformly strong; I’m especially excited to see more from Broadway vets Laura Benanti and Julie White as group leader Lauren and angry Anne, respectively.

It’s unclear how Go On will balance Ryan’s work life with his time at therapy, or how some one-note supporting characters will be fleshed out, or whether the Community echoes will eventually start to feel like theft. But based solely on episode 1, I can say that I’m looking forward to watching this series regularly once it debuts this fall… especially if Perry’s character dances some more.

Did you watch NBC’s sneak peek at Go On? And if so, how do you think it compares to that other NBC sitcom?

Read more:
‘Community’ creator Dan Harmon is officially humbled: ‘I would have fired me too’
Which familiar face are you most looking forward to seeing on a new TV show this fall? — VOTE
NBC’s ‘Go On’ starring Matthew Perry injects its own ‘new normal’

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