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Monday, November 26, 2012

"Dinner Takes All" for Go On

NBC's Go On has been one of the few pleasant surprises in a lackluster slate of new broadcast shows this fall. Buoyed by a strong lead actor and a very talented ensemble, it continues to be entertaining, funny, and heartwarming week in and week out. This week's Thanksgiving episode, "Dinner Takes All," is no exception.

The set up to get the whole group together is slightly convoluted. Ryan (Matthew Perry) has feelings for his college chum, Amy (Lauren Graham, Parenthood, Gilmore Girls), but isn't ready to act on them, since he is still mourning the loss of his wife, Janie (Christine Woods). Steven (John Cho), on the other hand, is interested in starting something with Amy right now, taking away Ryan's future possibility. So Ryan selfishly invites his support group to the station for Thanksgiving, where he can keep an eye on things, and try to thwart any budding romance.

Ryan is slow to grow as a person. Steven is his best friend, and Ryan is OK sabotaging Steven's happiness for some vague idea of something Ryan might want sometime way down the road. This is not the action of a good friend or a kind man. Yet, somehow Ryan does this with enough charm to keep from being detestable, as usual. How a man exists, who can be so thoughtless towards those he cares about, yet still evokes sympathy from the audience, is hard to fathom. But Go On makes it work.

The resolution is very cool. Amy says no to Ryan because she doesn't want to compete with Janie. Amy says that he must date several other women first, and only then would she consider going out with him. There is no clue as to whether Amy might consider dating Steven, though if she's waited this long for Ryan, it's unlikely that she'd be interested in another friend. It keeps the door open for Amy to return (if Parenthood is canceled, as it is often in danger of being), and it also stops Ryan from ruining a great friendship by jumping into something he isn't ready for.

The rest of the characters are used very effectively. Anne (Julie White) has to deal with her children falling under the Ryan spell, which she herself often fights off. Owen (Tyler James Williams) gets a fantastic subplot in speaking openly with his mother. Mr. K (Brett Gelman) is creepy. The others are along for the ride, and they all have a hilarious, Brady Bunch-style opening.

I did miss George (Bill Cobbs), though. It's understandable that a freshman network sitcom cannot afford to employ all of these actors full-time, meaning that some group members will have to take weeks off, as George does in "Dinner Takes All." George also would have made one too many people for the Brady Brunch gag. But each person contributes to the overall dynamic, with gels so well, that anytime someone sits out, it's sad. Hopefully, the series will prove popular enough to expand the main cast by season two, mostly preventing such absences.

Another casualty of such a large number of actors involved in a sitcom is that many are often underused for weeks at a time. So far, Carrie (Allison Miller) seems to be the most effected, living in a separate world from the rest. In "Dinner Take All," she provides the laughs when forced to cook dinner for Ryan's gathering, but her reaction to this isn't fully explored, sadly.

The group, along with Steven and Carrie, are Ryan's window into being a fully developed person. The only chance he has of improving himself is through learning to care about these other people. He might often consider himself better than them, but what he is slowly realizing is that he isn't, and others have feelings, too, a fact most adults acknowledge. This is helped along when other characters have their own stories, with resolutions that don't concern Ryan, such as Owen's mother thanking Lauren (Laura Benanti) this week for helping her son.

The humor mixed with the touching moments are what makes Go On special, and oh so worth watching. That, and the fact that the series is taking its time with Ryan's growth, not forcing him to unnaturally speed through any drastic changes.

Watch Go On Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.

Want to read some of my fiction? It's on my website, JeromeWetzel.com! Also, for the latest updates and article links, as well as commentary on episode I don't fully review, please follow me on Twitter! Article first published on TheTVKing

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