To partially quote Britta Perry: as a licensed psychology major, I have deemed myself qualified to review this show.
To boost viewership of this new fall comedy, Go On premiered early (commercial-free!) this week immediately after NBC’s primetime Olympics coverage. As a psychology major (the rumors are true! psych degree in the house, y’all) the concept of this show seemed to me both interesting and eye-rolly at the same time (people in therapy are SUPER WEIRD, am I right??), so I wasn’t really sure what to make of it.
Matthew Perry makes his what NBC has convinced us is a highly-anticipated return to the peacock network—this time starring as Ryan King, a sports radio host who is being forced by coworkers into group therapy to deal with the recent loss of of his wife, Janie. Congrats, NBC: a solid premise with obvious room for character growth and a built-in ensemble of supporting characters. Definitely a good starting place.
The promos led us to believe that everyone within this therapy group (given the New Age-y title of “Life Change”) was basically clinically insane, but thankfully that was toned down for the actual show. Don’t worry, the group still has its typical Therapy Weirdos:
- Mr. K: most likely to be a serial killer
- Yolanda: the OCD headcase (she takes SO MANY notes, you guys!)
- Sonia: the early-onset cat lady (she’s in therapy because her cat died)
Thankfully, there were some surprising character stand-outs:
- Annie: basically the female Woody Allen—she’s sad, quirky, neurotic, and funny all at the same time (she’s also got the Woody Allen glasses, so, you know)
- Danny: the divorcee whose wife cheated on him while he was deployed—he could’ve easily been the bitter buzzkill of the group, but instead is a perennial optimist. I like it.
- Owen: !!!!!* Tyler James Williams may have played Chris in Everybody Hates Chris, but Go On will soon be renamed Everybody Loves Owen if I have anything to say about it. Owen easily slides ahead of Sonia’s dead cat to become my favorite character of the series. At first he’s The Guy That Doesn’t Talk, à la Lanny from Lizzie McGuire (I know, you’re astounded by my elegant cultural references), but in an adorable candid moment during pair-up time with Ryan, he lets his guard down and shows his sweet personality and then mentions his recently comatose brother. Ryan doesn’t quite know how to respond, but the two clearly bond (as do Owen and my heart).
Laura Benanti (looking strangely 10 years younger than when I last saw her in NBC’s quickly-cancelled The Playboy Club from last year) stars as the group therapy leader Lauren, and the girl is a walking, talking Inevitable Ryan King Love Interest. She’s pretty, caring, and has a weird backstory—she’s not a licensed psychologist, just a (plot twist!)…former Weight Watchers consultant? (you can thank her for the no-point fruit rule). I’m not totally sold on her comedic ability yet; so far she seems to be the straight woman of the group.
The overall plot of the episode isn’t anything earth-shattering—Ryan meets the group, denies needing help, tells Lauren thanks but no thanks, realizes he does need the group, and a comedy series is born (with the help of easy-to-understand pop psychology phrases like denial and “safe space”).
My verdict: I liked it. I’ll even say I liked it a lot. Matthew Perry, I have missed your glorious dry humor and trademarked Chandler Bing-esque use of humor to deal with problems. Tyler James Williams’s character really gives the show heart, and the other supporting characters are a solid source of peripheral comedy. It definitely had some great moments in the group’s unauthorized tournament-style comparison of ailments that Owen (my boy!) coined as March Sadness (literally cracked up at that one). The ending had a real surprise of a heartwarming finale that I won’t ruin here, you’ll have to watch the episode to find out!
*indicates Favorite Character Alert!
All images property of NBC.
Watch the full pilot online here.
Watch new episodes of Go On this fall on Tuesdays on NBC at 9/8c. The next episode airs Sept. 11.