“Dinner Takes All” is a fantastic example of the show Go On wants to be. This is a really good episode. One that brings together the creepy group dynamic, Ryan and Steven’s friendship, and Ryan’s continuing grief over his dead wife—without feeling contrived. I’m excited to see Go On find a voice, and I'm looking forward to it continuing in this vein (though I’m going to remain cautious before swooning outright).
“Dinner Takes All” nails what Go On ought to be: a show about very strange people coming together in brief moments of hilarity. It's authentic precisely because the characters know how screwed-up they all are, but they're trying to embrace. Above all—it’s fun without being too self-serious. It’s hard to deal with grief in a sitcom. The structure of a 30-minute comedy isn’t built for that kind of thing. Go On is inconsistent, in my mind, because it is having some trouble finding the right tone to strike about this whole "loss" thing. Sometimes, it just feels weird; the episode just never comes together (like last week's episode, "Videogame, Set, Match"). But sometimes, like with “Dinner Takes All,” it gels in a surprising way.
The main plot is that a stranger comes to town: Ryan and Steven’s friend from college visits, and both guys find that they want to date her. Guest-star Lauren Graham is a lot of fun as Amy. She’s the right kind of comic actress for this show—funny, but always sweet. Ryan ends up throwing an impromptu Thanksgiving at his workplace to attempt to woo Amy (or to be exact, to attempt to put Amy "on hold," for when he's ready) going out of his way to make the atmosphere as unsexy as possible. (Poor Steven!)
I’ve been complaining about all kinds of things in Go On for weeks now—but "Dinner Takes All" gave me many things I’d been waiting for. Yolanda and Danny deliver some good old-fashioned character-building humor. Yolanda tosses in a casual line about having a Tiger Mom which she then follows up with increasingly funny references to the same; Danny makes a pretty hilarious joke about his experience in wartime, which also manages to be depressing (my kind of humor!). Mr. K has never had a real back-story to delve into, but he gets some of the best lines in the episode nonetheless—I laughed out loud more than once, particularly when he approached Owen’s mom and asked if he could be Owen’s father.
Speaking of Owen: He gets real character work in this episode. He not only stands up to his mother for what he wants, but forms a connection with Yolanda, which I thought worked very well. Up until now almost all of the friendships and relationships on the show have been Ryan-centric, which is understandable. But as I’m still not convinced that Ryan’s character (or Matthew Perry in Ryan’s character) is the best lead for Go On, I’m eager to see relationships in the supporting cast emerge and develop. In “Dinner Takes All,” there’s enough going on without Ryan that when the story does get around to his plot, it's a refreshing narrative thread. Perry is still too strained; the hijinks are still too contrived. But it doesn’t matter: Graham and the rest of the cast steal the show.
Of course, there are still some major flaws with Go On, despite this promising episode. The group getting together for Thanksgiving, forsaking their families and loved ones, was a little too weird to accept, as was Ryan’s dismissive attitude towards Carrie’s already scheduled Thanksgiving plans. “Dinner Takes All” is lighthearted enough to pull it off, but it’s the type of thing that can just as easily fall flat.
I have no idea if Go On is going to continue to be this fun. Sadly, most signs point to no: This has so far been the most inconsistent season of television I’ve ever watched. It’s hard to find an excuse to get the support group at the office every week, as fun as it is: Thanksgiving is but once a year, as are guest appearances by Lauren Graham. But here’s hoping.
- I love the guy, but Matthew Perry needs to lay off the spray tan.
- Carrie chugging liquor in the back while she was cooking in the office kitchen is perfect.
- The entire subplot with Anne’s kids is fantastic. And those kids are freaking adorable!
- Anyone else have “Electric Love” in their head?