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Sometimes trying to figure out how good a sitcom will be based on one episode is like guessing what college a baby will get into when he or she grows up.
There are precious few comedies that are perfect as pilots, as 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation and plenty of others can attest (perhaps especially Seinfeld). Last season, New Girl, Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23, Happy Endings and Bob’s Burgers all showed impressive creative growth (though nothing might compare to 30 Rock and Parks in how dramatically they turned around dubious starts). That’s really the norm: Excellent sitcoms taking a while to find their footing.
But especially critical eyes will be on Go On, which is getting an early airing Aug. 8 connected to the network’s all-encompassing Olympics coverage. (The series officially premieres at 9 p.m. Sept. 11.)
Go On stars Matthew Perry as Ryan, a sports-radio host forced to take time off after his wife dies unexpectedly and the station doesn’t think he has grieved adequately. So he goes to a support group and acts like Joel McHale does as Jeff on Community (which Go On resembles, only with fewer right angles and less winking). That is, he’s the wacky malcontent who winds everyone up because he just wants to get his 10 sessions in, have the proper paperwork signed and get back to work.
But, of course, that doesn’t happen. He’s ultimately stuck with a group of people suffering in some way, in a session headed by Lauren (Laura Benanti), who might not be the qualified therapist everyone thinks she is. But ultimately, Go On is about a group with quirks and heart, stirred up by Perry, and the pilot is largely appealing until the final minutes, which are as broad as the 405.
The cast includes John Cho as Ryan’s boss at the radio station; Suzy Nakamura as Yolanda, who sucks up to Lauren and wants to lead the group; Julie White as Annie, a lesbian who has had anger issues since the death of her partner; and Brett Gelman as Mr. K, who’s just creepy and weird.
The premise might be thin in that Perry’s character will always need to stay in therapy, but it’s not like they can’t milk the quirk (and, sigh, the saccharine) for a lengthy period. And it’s pretty obvious Ryan and Lauren might be heading for a romance, though they’d be better off keeping that for later. What might define the show is whether it can adequately use Perry’s snark in the role of radio host to cut the therapy-shtick warmth by at least a third.
It’s not Parks and Recreation, but then again neither was Parks and Recreation for a long time. Full judgment withheld pending more episodes. After all, there are plenty of examples of lousy pilots turning into lousy seasons, but comedy is a genre that needs a little patience if you want a surprise payoff.
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