Widower Wednesday: Go On

I don’t watch a lot of TV. With five young kids and four books in various stages of completion, I don’t have the time or energy to commit to the boob tube. But with Marathon Girl glued to the Olympics for two weeks (about the only time she watches TV) I kept seeing the promos for the new Mathew Perry show Go On. The subject matter of a recent widower trying to move on was enough to entice me to put down the pen for 30 minutes and see if the show was worth watching.

Much to my surprise, the pilot episode was entertaining, funny, and heartwarming. If done right, the show has lots of potential.

For those who haven’t seen it, Matthew Perry plays Ryan King, a recent widower who’s required to attend grief therapy before he can return to work. He ends up in a support group for “life change” filled with a bunch of eccentric characters who are dealing with the loss of their cat to a brother who’s in a coma. He brings cheerfulness and humor to a group that run by a strict Kubler-Ross type named Lauren (played by Laura Benanti) who wants to help people but whose “qualifications” for running the group is motivating people to lose weight through Weight Watchers.

It’s hard to find humor in loss and grief but the writers find the perfect mix of humor and heartfelt moments while doing a good job poking at the general absurdity of so some of the grief techniques and practices that “help” people move on.

As a former widower, Perry’s character felt real. He wants to move on with his life but is in denial about the need to get his life in order. Instead of dealing with his emotions, he turns to humor to deflect his feelings about loss. And the moments in the support group when he starts a March Sadness tournament in order to give someone sob-story bragging rights flat out hilarious. And even though his character is egotistical and self-absorbed (his favorite activity is listening to past sports shows he’s done), we see a hint of warmth as he goes out of his way to help certain members of the group come out of their shell.

Whether or not future episodes of Go On will be just as entertaining will depend a lot whether or not the writers let all of the characters in the show evolve. In real life we don’t like people who can’t move on with their life after a tragic event and it’s the same for characters in TV show. It would be easy to let those in the support group become standing punch lines for whatever situation Perry finds himself in. But since they showed some of the people taking baby steps at moving forward in the pilot, I’m hoping that they’ll move on from the group and be replaced by others.

The Perry character will have to evolve as well. Currently he’s kind of a sad jerk who we end up rooting for only because we see his genuine sadness at different times during the show. However, in order for us to root for him week after week, he can’t be a sullen jerk forever. At some point he’s going to have to come to terms with his loss and do what it takes to move on and either leave the group or become someone who leads. As part of his evolution, I’d like to see him start flirting with and dating the support group leader, Lauren, as there is plenty of funny and heartfelt dating a widower situations that could fill up an entire season or two.

I highly recommend watching the pilot. (You can watch it below). For the first time in years, I have a show to watch on regular basis. Hopefully future episodes are just as good.