Ryan King is still a loveable sports radio host in denial about his wife’s death, but this time, he is in denial with a house full of cats. Go On’s pilot, which first aired during the Olympics, established the basics. “He Got Game, She Got Cats” continues to pretty much express the same fundamentals. In some sense this is the beta-pilot, so it’s not that surprising that we essentially covered the same ground. Ryan’s got issues, support group’s got ‘em, too. Hijinks, you are now free to ensue.
As a result, “He Got Game, She Got Cats” is a little scattered. Each relationship presented appeared to have been contrived merely for a cheap laugh: the group chanting “dump him!” to encourage Sonia to break up with her boyfriend, or Ryan and Steven running around trying to find something that looks and feels like a basketball for George. They were all relatively funny scenarios, but it wasn’t quite clear where the episode was going.
Here’s what we learn: Sonia is sweet but has a cat addiction. She’s using cats as a crutch for having meaningful relationships. Lauren is trying to get her to work on that, but Ryan, in his infinite wisdom, decides that she doesn’t need to feel things; she needs to act. This is not dissimilar to what Ryan is doing himself. (Twist!) Ryan realizes he can't fix everything by bulldozing through his feelings, but he can help in his own, unique way.
That is a completely reasonable sitcom plot, and it has room to be pretty funny (legitimately; cats are hilarious). But the show leaps right into Sonia’s cat problems without letting the audience get to know her at all, and her escalating cat scenario, as well as Ryan’s cluelessness on how to deal with feelings, was rather predictable, even if you hadn’t seen the pilot. Ryan’s denial of his own feelings is a recurring theme at this point, and it’s only been two episodes. I am pretty sure that by this point we kinda get it.
The fact is, the premise of Go On is pretty thin right now: Ryan learns things about grieving from his kooky support group. They learn things also, usually because he impedes them at first and then swings in with a last-minute inspirational gesture to patch everything up. It makes for light, lukewarm comedy: fun, but not too fun. Matthew Perry is the right star for a comedy that tries to have a soul; he adds warmth to a scene even when he’s at his most neurotic. The interplay between Ryan and his assistant Carrie demonstrates this well—he’s annoyingly asking her to work overtime so he doesn’t feel lonely, but he’s also wounded and kind of pathetic, and Perry lets us see both sides. Carrie is trying to have a life separate from work, and Ryan is getting in her way with his neediness. The resolution to their conflict challenges them both and reveals a little more about their personalities: It shows the extent to which Ryan is grieving and how much Carrie does care, despite her work boundaries.
But the rest of the realizations were kind of stock. As he discovers, Ryan can’t help Sonia in the way she needs, but he can help George, whose prize autographed basketball was stolen. So he takes George to a Lakers game and tries to narrate the entire thing to his blind friend. Did it go for the easy “I’m blind but I appreciate the world better than you” angle? Sure. But was it still kind of cute? Yeah. Predictable, but still mildly heartwarming.
Go On is not appreciably leaning on either a solid plot arc or well-rounded characters. As a result, it feels just short of sketch comedy. Not bad sketch comedy—but still, not comedy with characters we’re invested in and well-established stakes. But I could see that changing. The characters are all interesting, to be honest. If they can transcend being stereotypical setpieces, it could be a strong cast. So I’m cautiously optimistic.
- As revealing as Carrie and Ryan’s exchange was... is it possible that it was also kind of creepy? Ryan’s admission that he needs someone to care about him was extraordinarily vulnerable, but as a line from a boss to an assistant, it was a little weird.
- So do you think the show is ever going to address the fact that it looks like the title of the show is Goon? Is it a deliberate pun to be played with later, or was it an unfortunate mistake that NBC just decided to run with?