Monday, December 10, 2012

Go On over to fall's best new sitcom

Episode Grade: 95%

At the beginning of this fall television season, my favorite new sitcom was The New Normal. What can I say? It spoke to me on an emotional level. But a close second was NBC's Go On. Featuring Matthew Perry back in fine form, the series presents a group of misfits, kind of like Community, but less weird. Not that weird is bad. Community remains my favorite currently running sitcom. It's just not necessary to go super-weird in every show, and for Go On, more moderate levels are appropriate.

The point is, Go On exhibited seeds of something special. As the initial run of episodes has played out, that opinion has only been cemented more and more firmly, pushing it into first place status on my list. The series features one of the best ensemble casts ever assembled, and their interplay with each other, exhibited in varying pairs and groups, as well as the genuine warmth they feel for each other, a connection made in a very raw emotional state, raises this show up to another notch.

In the latest episode, "The World Ain't Over 'Til It's Over," Ryan (Perry) takes Anne (Julie White) on a trip to the vineyard with himself, Steven (John Cho), and a girl that Steven just met. Perhaps there is some selfishness on Ryan's part, not wanting to be alone, and finding Anne a charming companion. But there is also a desire to help Anne, who is having trouble forgoing a daily visit to her lover's grave. This is Ryan putting himself out there, inviting one of the group into another aspect of his personal life, and finding new understanding as he goes for, and achieves, a laugh, a drink think, and a cry.

What is really cool is that there is no sexual chemistry. Anne is a lesbian, and while other shows may ditch that when convenient (cough, Glee, cough), Go On never seeks to build anything more than a platonic relationship between Ryan and Anne. She calls him on his stuff more than anyone else in the group, and the two also seem the most "normal," compared to the others, most of the time. This allows them a bond, and it gives Ryan an opening to go deeper into his support circle, something he really needs to begin to heal.

Of course, there is a love interest for Ryan on Go On, and that's the leader of the group, Lauren (Laura Benanti). Ryan is definitely interested in her, and has even made some little attempts to thwart Lauren's relationship with Wyatt (Hayes MacArthur, Perfect Couples) in order to keep the possibility open. In The World Ain't Over 'Til It's Over," Ryan advises Lauren not to accept Wyatt's proposal unless she is sure it is right, partly because he likes Lauren, and partly because he is remembering his marriage through rose colored glasses.

Lauren does take Ryan's advice to heart, at first, having doubts about whether she is ready for marriage. But then she ends up accepting anyway, seeing how much Wyatt cares for her and wants to make her happy. Which is good, because Ryan soon rushes off to take his advice back, once he remembers the reality of being in a couple.

Which makes one wonder if the Lauren / Ryan pairing may ever happen. Maybe it won't. Maybe Ryan is just projecting a romantic interest onto Lauren, the same way every other member of the group has done. Maybe Lauren only looked at Ryan twice because she was getting cold feet about committing to a long-term relationship. Maybe Wyatt will die after the wedding, leaving Lauren open to be a true member of the group once and for all.

I really love the scenes of Yolanda (Suzy Nakamura) and Sonia (Sarah Baker) helping Wyatt plan the proposal. I like that Wyatt doesn't fall for their poorly disguised attempts at sabotage, which makes it all the more rewarding when he wins them over. Yet another small branch off that works, one among many, many possibilities with this cast.

While Ryan and Anne are away, the rest of the misfits gather for Mr. K's (Brett Gelman) end of the world, party, hence the name of the episode, "The World Ain't Over 'Til It's Over." It's sweet to see them all support the least likable member of the support group even when they don't agree with his opinions. And the only reason Ryan isn't there is probably because he's helping Anne. Which, as I've said, will only bring him more involvement with the others, and lead to his attendance of such functions in the future. So it's all good.

If you're searching for the next great comedy, look no further than Go On, which airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC, beginning again on January 8th.

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Article first posted on TheTVKing

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