(with all due disrespect to Charlie Sheen and Matthew Perry, the therapy-comedy was mastered a while ago)
NBC premiered the latest star vehicle for Matthew Perry — aka This Generation’s McLean Stevenson — earlier this evening, with the Tampa Bay Times Eric Deegans warning “Go On” might be a ratings stiff because the comedy’s endless Olympics promos, “are a) not particularly clever and b) so ubiquitous they’ve left some viewers — okay THIS viewer — feeling exhausted with the shows before they even hit the airwaves.” And then there’s the small matter of the show sucking.
The series features Perry playing the cynical quippy version of himself we’ve seen in most every other role he’s taken — this time as sports radio host Ryan King, a workaholic struggling to deal with the death of his wife. Sounds sidesplitting so far, don’t it?
But his boss, played by Star Trek/Harold and Kumar alum John Cho, insists King attend 10 sessions at a therapy group before he can return to work, prompting the quippy host to unleash the Perry magic. When the therapy leader shows up late to his first session, King gets his new, super-dysfunctional pals to rate their problems in a twisted, NCAA-style bracket of pain, upsetting the future love interest/Type A controlling therapy leader.
The pilot is a predictable, if well-made adventure — zipping through the set up of King’s problem and his resistance to the therapy with a speed required for today’s attention-challenged TV audience. But Perry is essentially playing the same, self-centered, nice-guy-struggling-to-show-it character he embodied in ABC’s failed comedy Mr. Sunshine — another game effort that struggled to connect with viewers.
The extra pathos of Go On may solve that problem for Perry and NBC. But if the audience is so tired of seeing the show’s snarky one-liners plastered all over Olympics coverage, it may not matter much.