THE SHOW "Go On"
WHEN | WHERE Previews Wednesday at 11:08 p.m. after Olympics coverage on NBC/4
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Grieving sports talk radio host Ryan King (Matthew Perry) lost his wife in a car accident, took a month off, and is now chafing to get back to work. He can't face his loss, but his boss, Stephen (John Cho), pretty much insists that he does, by going into grief counseling. Ryan plays along, gets himself into a group, and fully expects to have his release papers signed after one session. But New Age-y group leader Lauren (Laura Benanti) has other ideas. Meanwhile, Ryan gets to meet his fellow inmates, like Anne (Julie White of stage and "Transformers" fame), Owen (Tyler James Williams -- Chris of "Everybody Hates Chris") and the odd, very odd, Mr. K (Brett Gelman).
MY SAY As if in the dead of night -- no, wait, definitely in the dead of night arrives Perry's latest effort. The real launch of "Go On" is weeks away (Sept. 11), but NBC's bet is that a Perry charm offensive will be so irresistible that the warm glow will last until then. Or something like that.
Who knows why NBC is pursuing this preview strategy after its nightly Olympics coverage, but the fourth-place network needed to do something. Why shoot this out of a cannon when the rest of series television wakes from its long summer slumber? Then, it risks becoming fodder. So tomorrow night, the only real risk is that a dozen or so million viewers will hate it all at once or love it all at once. I'm betting on some variation of the latter.
Perry can't go home again -- to Chandler Bing and the glory days -- but he can hire the guy who wrote so memorably for him all those years ago on "Friends." Series creator Scott Silveri has produced something here that has warmth, heart and enough lunacy to make it all interesting. The show's not particularly funny, but it's not supposed to be. The new comedy mandate at NBC is to strike some sort of balance between pathos and humor. Irony is out. Tears are in. It sounds odd -- even borderline icky -- but "Go On" makes the case that at least it's possible.
BOTTOM LINE The cast is good, even excellent. But Perry's the one who sells "Go On."