Emmys 2013: A Day on the Set of Matthew Perry's 'Go On'

Emily Berl
"I wasn't looking to do a comedy," says Matthew Perry (far right) with (from left) Suzy Nakamura, John Cho and Seth Morris at a dinner party. "The script was funny, but it also had the most dramatic, challenging scene I've had to play in a drama or a comedy: In the pilot, Ryan walks in and talks about how his wife dies. I like doing both, and often I get to do it here."

NBC's departed comedy about grievers in group therapy is like being at "a three-ring circus" — which, during THR's visit, involves a dozen actors, a whistle and a shirtless NFL pro.

On a summery January day on the Universal lot, an exasperated voice bellows across Stage 20. "F--! I'm screwing everything up, and The Hollywood Reporter is here!"

Matthew Perry, slightly frazzled, has just flubbed a line on Go On's last day of filming before a scheduled hiatus, which was planned to allow him a reappearance on New York-based The Good Wife. Naturally, he can't help dropping a joke at his expense as crewmembers try to stifle their laughter. The scene in question for the March 19 episode is a complicated -- and surprisingly technical -- one for the ensemble comedy, which features one of the biggest casts on television. (On this day, a dozen actors are milling around on set.)

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As sportscaster and grieving widower Ryan King, Perry is tasked with giving fellow group therapy member Danny (Seth Morris) an impromptu makeover to help him win over Sonia (Sarah Baker) -- with the assistance of Ryan's friends, including former NFL star Terrell Owens. Intricate choreography involving a whistle, a red Sgt. Pepper-style military jacket and two strip-downs -- not to mention a flurry of zingers -- all have to fit into a scene that lasts mere moments. Yet somehow, Perry and his motley crew accomplish their goal in fine fashion.

Perry admits his comfort level with single-camera comedy gradually has grown. "It's a slight adjustment," the Friends vet says during one of the afternoon's longer setups. "I did a four-camera sitcom for so long that I like the one-camera sitcom a little better now. It breeds a more realistic style of acting because you're not playing to the last seat in the house." For show creator and Friends alum Scott Silveri, the key to Go On -- which was canceled May 10 by NBC after one season -- is the unlikely family created through loss. "If there's a love affair we've been tracking, it's Ryan and this therapy group," says Silveri. "They're a bunch of maniacs, and they still have a far way to go."