I must admit I am very confused by NBC's Fall Premiere schedule, so I missed the official premiere of Go On after The Olympics and The New Normal after The Voice last last night, but never fear, they ACTUALLY premiere in their time slot tonight, so if you were confused, you have another chance. However, I must show my true feelings here and I'm not sure that either are worth watching at all.
The pilot episode of Go On feels like one of the most contrived comedies I have seen in a while. The premise states that Matthew Perry's character Ryan King, is "an irreverent yet charming sportcaster who, after a loss, finds solace from members of his mandatory group therapy sessions". However, the pilot sets up nothing in terms of this, and it isn't until about 20 minutes in that we even figure out that King lost his wife to a car accident (sorry if that is a spoiler, but I think it actually might help in this case). The montage that supposedly explains why King is forced to go to group therapy is so quick and confusing I still don't understand what he did to land himself there. However, no matter how he got there, the it just doesn't gel for me. The cast of characters are so stereotypical, that they offer nothing fresh (the fat girl who is in therapy because her cat just died…really?) and nothing interesting. There are a few laughs when the support group has a competition to see whose life is the worst, but the gag quickly grows tired.
I also have to say, that I'm just not sure if Matthew Perry can carry a comedy. This is second attempt in his post-Friends career and I'm not sure if it is the writing or the projects he has been attracted to, but he seems to be playing away from his strength at hitting comedic notes, and is just coming up bland. Personally, I would love to see him in an amazing ensemble again that doesn't put him in the center of the show, but rather as guy that can come in with the strong comedic punches. Overall, the show feels like it is trying to follow the formula of Community – put a bunch of strange characters together that would probably not interact on a regular basis and see what happens. The difference is, I don't want to see any of these characters interact every week, let alone talk about their problems. I'm always willing to give a show a second chance, but in this instance, they have a high bar that must be met to impress.
I like a lot of things about the concept and idea of The New Normal. In today's society we are surrounded by progressive and unusual family structures and I am happy about the prospect of a comedy that explores those situations. However, it's the way in which the pilot that handles the situation that makes it a little less than spectacular. Rather than just exist in a way that is actually and completely normal, the show feels the need to call attention to it with lines like "Face it honey, abnormal is the new normal". If that's true, than just be normal – don't talk about it. The show a couple in Los Angeles who want to adopt a baby, because they are in a gay relationship. Cut to the life of Goldie Glemmens (Georgia King), who breaks up with her boyfriend, hates her life in the midwest and gets in a car and literally drives until she reaches the ocean (because that is a good idea for a single mom to decide to uproot the life she and her daughter have made). Oh, and then her overbearing mother follows her there, because that would be normal as well. I want to say that the high point of the show is Ellen Barkin in the role of Goldie's mother, but I can't. The character likes to make casual "ignorant" comments, and while they are funny, it feels like she is pushing for laughs. I'm not sure if it's her fault or the fact that so much else falls flat that her character feels out of place, but either way, it doesn't work. I especially like Justin Bartha in the National Treasure movies (even more so than the 15 minutes he is in both of The Hangover movies), but somehow his charisma and charm is just squashed in this role. It almost looks as if he is not comfortable in the skin of this character, and for a comedy that rests on that, it is a big problem. Andrew Rannells, performance as Bartha's partner Bryan, seems like it belongs more on a stage, which makes since since theater is where he started his career.
Essentially, it's a pilot that should be better than it is, and while the elements are there – they just don't gel.