unpopular stances

In Praise of the Unloved Go On

GO ON Photo: Robert Trachtenberg/NBC

The 2012–13 TV season was not a success. Very few new shows captured any kind of audience — congratulations, Elementary, for being the only legitimate hit. I like Nashville enough, and I was pretty into The Carrie Diaries, but only one new show this season seemed to improve, to win me over more and more each week. And that show is Go On, which finishes its first season tonight.

Most people did not particularly care for the show. New York Magazine’s own Matt Zoller Seitz wanted to “punch [it] in the crotch” when it first launched. The premise is kind of a turnoff, too: The show is set in a grief support group, and star Matthew Perry plays a sportscaster whose wife recently died. Hilarity!

But actually, yes, hilarity in the long run. Brett Gelman’s mysterious bearded Mr. K has been my favorite (“Everyone loves the funny guy. I’m like Robin Williams. Oh, or Mitt Romney! What ever happened to that guy’s show? It was on every channel for a year, and then nothing”), but the weirdster romance between cat lover Sonia (Sarah Baker) and whimsical war veteran (Seth Morris) completely slayed me. I wish John Cho as Ryan’s boss had more to do on the show on the whole, but I’ll take what I can get. Julie White’s uptight mom Anne turned out to be the perfect confidante and occasional foil for Perry’s Ryan, and as the season has developed, their friendship and shared pain — they both lost their wives — has created a surprisingly rich relationship.

The show hasn’t been renewed for a second season yet, and there’s a good chance it won’t be, which would be a real shame. For a show that sounds like it’d be pretty sad, Go On is surprisingly optimistic. Sure, grief is not inherently funny. But, speaking personally, grief has made me act like a lunatic because I am unable — or maybe just unwilling — to experience shame. Yeah, I’ll wear pajama pants to a bar! I will make no secret of the fact that I’m wiping my nose with a receipt I found in my purse. I’ll read an e-mail so many times I feel like Rain Man, and I’ll keep a number in my phone for years and years after that person died, and sometimes I still think about calling it, even though I know it’s probably some stranger’s number now. In some lights, these behaviors look (and feel) pretty damn sad. In other lights, though, they seem pretty silly — and that’s the light Go On tries to shine on things. Sometimes it works.

In Praise of the Unloved Go On