Go On Review: "Bench-Clearing Brawl" (Episode 1.04)

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<i>Go On</i> Review: "Bench-Clearing Brawl" (Episode 1.04)

Go On is one of those shows that receives a lot of complaints: its premise is washed up, it’s not funny enough, it contains too much pathos, there are too many characters and none of them are developed enough. But it also has received a lot of praise that counters each of those arguments.

After all, haven’t all television premises been done before? Now it’s all about finding wrinkles. The traditional sitcom has been wiped away, and now we expect more? Matthew Perry and company try their best to make a show about such overwhelming loss funny. For the most part it works. However, the show should be exploring the depths of these characters and not treading so lightly over the character’s emotions. A lot of focus of the show has been on its similarities to NBC’s oddball comedy Community, but the show needs to be more like The Big C and Enlightened. Write it as a drama with funny characters in it, not a comedy about dramatic characters.

“Bench-Clearing Brawl” focused heavily on Ryan’s need to prove he’s a big shot. He puts a cardboard cutout of himself in his living room (which actually has bigger meaning), he adamantly eyes a spot in former NHL star Jeremy Roenick’s weekly hockey game and consistently tries to be the top dog in the group.

This is who Ryan is. On one hand, the character isn’t as big of a jerk as he can be and he’s still lovable. The other way to view it is that he’s a likeable character who is sort of a jerk. By walking that fine line, the show has yet to really grab in a lot of loyal fans.

Ryan’s swagger (his word, not mine) has gone through the blender the last couple of months. He’s slowly coming out of his shell and being redefined as a person. Here we see his relationship with Anne (Julie White) a high-powered attorney who is still in the anger phase of grief after the death her long-term girlfriend. They bond over getting invited to weddings and fearing the dreaded “plus one” because they are, in fact, “minus one.” The show throws in these sentimental moments at the right time and is starting to balance the comedy/drama seesaw better.

Another balancing act the show was struggling with was exactly how much this series was going to be about the group. The first few episodes went back and forth being about the therapy group and really focusing on Ryan. This was a Ryan-centric episode. The group scenes were focused on Ryan’s cathartic breakthrough (which almost happened) but it seems clear that Go On is 100 percent about Ryan. It’s his journey we care about and the rest are there to help us interact with the character.

That’s OK. I’d love to see more of the group and maybe as time goes on, and Ryan starts to heal, the show will be about a group of friends who have accepted they need to go on with their lives and try to be happy. Until then, we’ll see Ryan’s frustrating journey towards acceptance of the death of his wife.

With such a touchy subject, it’s no wonder the show is trying to feel out its audience before diving right in. I say it has been a smart choice so far, but will eventually need to go off the deep end to gain those loyal viewers every show craves.

One last note: How much does Matthew Perry look like Rachel Maddow?