Fall 2012: NBC’s Go On

NBC is officially on red alert: the execs wants more comedy, but not the quirky, niche audience it currently has with the likes of Parks and Recreation and Community. In an interesting move, both Go On and Animal Practice will be showcased during the Olympics, hopefully to drum up some viewers for when the season officially starts this September. If you saw any of the sizzle reels during the network upfronts a few months ago, you know that we are about to be hit with an inordinate amount of network drudge (hey, Guys with Kids and The Neighbors, I am looking at you). Tonight, we got a glimpse at the new Matthew Perry vehicle, Go On, and overall I was more impressed than I expected to be. My bottom line: the show has a lot of built-in promise; it can either realize that promise or fall on its face. I think I might stick it out for a while and see what we get.

As has been pointed out in a few outlets, the pilot for Go On is shockingly similar to Community’s pilot. We have a cynical wiseguy who wants to get back to what he does best in a hurry (for Joel McHale it is lawyering, for Matthew Perry it is his sports radio show) and these guys are presented with obstacles in the form of a hodge-podge group of people. By episode’s end, both guys realize that this group of people could be beneficial to them and they elect to become a part of it.

What I liked: definitely the diversity. Like Community, the group seems more true to life with its inclusion of females, different ethnic groups, and sexual preferences. I think the biggest hurdle we have overcome in the past few seasons of television is presenting these diverse groups as common place (which they are, but television lived in its own bubble for too long) and not as a carefully drawn out storyline. One character is in grief counseling because her partner died suddenly and she is so depressed she doesn’t get off the couch, much to her kids’ chagrin. Her partner was a female, they had kids together, she is grieving = accepted and treated like any other character’s revelation. Brilliant. However, just like Community, these characters seem to live in some heightened form of reality where some of the most outrageous and diverse ways a person can grieve have all been carefully selected for one group, thus is still the nature of television.

I also liked the treatment of grief in general. It is a tightrope walk to deal with such sensitive issues, especially when your audience must have experienced something similar in their lives. A comedy about grief is possible, but one careless joke could alienate a chunk of people. Luckily, I feel like the show can find a balance between the comedy and the sadness, and make poignant comments on their characters in the process (if it fulfills that promise!).

What I liked less: the sports. When it comes to sports, I usually hear white noise. Especially when it comes to football players (for example) that I am probably supposed to know by name as well as their whole backstory. I get it: that is Ryan’s occupation but I hope it doesn’t invade the show toooo much. In this episode, his interviewee helped him realize he needs the counseling, but the player got to utter a joke about fruit, that’s about it.

To conclude, I plan on watching this show for a while as the new fall schedules get underway. It is a 24 minute show so giving it a few episodes to breathe is no problem. I liked many of the quips, they landed even if they weren’t laugh out loud hilarious. It is sink or swim time for NBC; I am looking forward to seeing how all of these shows shake out come mid-season.

Next up is Animal Practice. I ADORE Justin Kirk. But the premise of this show frightens me. Til next time…I will try to have faith in Justin Kirk’s career choices.

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About Staciellyn Chapman

Grad student at the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. This blog is an attempt to condense the craziness that is my TV viewing habits (with the occasional aside into film, music, and general life).

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