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Kooky NBC series provides laughs, pathos

Matthew Perry is back on the air on NBC’s new series Go On, which follows the life of sportscaster Ryan King, who is forced into group therapy to deal with the recent death of his wife. The show, which premiered last Tuesday to almost 10 million viewers, is shaping up to be one of the fall’s biggest hits. As the episodes are only around 20 minutes each, this kooky, unconventional series is a must-watch for any college student who wants a break from the endless reading and paper writing that lie ahead this semester.

Ryan (Perry) is a successful radio sportscaster who enters group therapy after he has an altercation with one of his interviewees, a football player, after his show. The football player was texting and driving, the same thing that killed Ryan’s wife. At first Ryan doesn’t take his grief meetings seriously, and he organizes a “March Sadness” tournament where the group competes against each other for who has it worst. The interactions between the two finalists — George, the old blind man (Bill Cobbs), and Fausta the sassy Latina (Tonita Castro), not to mention the crazy cat lady Sonia (Sarah Baker) and creepy Mr. K (Brett Gelman) — leave the audience chuckling in spite of itself. As the series goes on, however, Ryan realizes how important the group is to him, and it becomes clear that he will stick with the program.

The series shows Perry in a new light. He isn’t quite as quirky as Chandler from Friends, and he channels a darker brand of comedy. Although he doesn’t break the mold of the average American funny guy, Perry does a good job of finding the appropriate level of comedic douchebaggery while harassing his personal assistant to work late and interrupting Lauren (Laura Benanti), the group leader, as she unsuccessfully tries to mediate the session with chants of “Action!”

We also see Ryan connect on an emotional level with one of the other members of the group, Owen (Tyler James Williams), whose brother is in a coma after a tragic ski accident. By suggesting the group follow a Google Maps car in funny costumes, Ryan helps alleviate some of Owen’s pain. The viewer can see Ryan begin to understand the importance of the group in dealing with his grief.

This little series impressed me. The topic was fresh; it was funny; it didn’t try too hard to use crude humor to appeal to a younger demographic. And despite the sometimes dark subject matter, it makes a great 20-minute pick-me-up. The cast of characters is quirky without being weird or annoying, and more importantly these people are actually funny. The most surprising thing, though, is that this whole show is based on grief, loss and coping with its uncomfortable presence in life. Who knew such a depressing topic could yield so many laughs?


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