Go On is Matthew Perry's third post-Friends TV project, but there's something different about this show from his previous ones.
"In my efforts to have a TV show and come back, the characters have progressively gotten nicer," Perry told reporters Tuesday at NBC's Television Critics Association fall TV previews. "The Showtime show [End of Steve, which was not picked up in 2008] was about a terrible guy, and I thought it was genius. Everybody went, 'I don't wanna watch that.' Mr. Sunshine, he was sort of down and out. And now this guy is a nicer, more well-intended guy. ... I don't know why that is, but you certainly wanna play a guy that people can get behind and root for."
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On the NBC comedy, Perry plays Ryan King, a sportscaster who tries to move on from his wife's death through mandatory group therapy sessions. "I gravitate toward broken characters who try to be better people," Perry said. "That setup is much better here, first of all. [Mr. Sunshine's Ben] was in a bad mood and people didn't know why. This guy had bad stuff happen to him ... and he's in denial when you first meet him. It's an excuse to be funny."
But how funny can Go On be? On paper, its premise sounds rather depressing, but executive producer Scott Silveri insists that the series is not about grief, but rather about people helping each other pick up the pieces. The cast includes Laura Benanti as Ryan's therapist, and Julie White, Tyler James Williams, Suzy Nakamura and Brett Gelman make up the motley crew of support group characters. John Cho also co-stars as Ryan's boss.
"People are going through all kinds of change in the group ... loss of a spouse to a lady whose cat died. Those folks experience all these different things, find some commonality together," Silveri said. "It's really not exploring so much that grief as it is coming together and moving on. ... The subject of loss is very much on the table. It's been a fun challenge finding where the line is, finding what's funny and what's just sad."
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Silveri and Perry previously worked together on Friends, whose pop-culture phenomenon the actor attributed to "a little bit of magic." Reteaming for Go On was a no-brainer, Silveri said, given their similar sensibilities. "It was always very easy to write for [Chandler]," he said. "Now we just get to do it with a different subject matter. Having worked with [Perry] for eight years, I was well aware of the spectrum of this talents, but I still get surprised day to day on set."
One thing has changed since their Friends days though. "He knows my name now," Silveri quipped.
Go On premieres Wednesday, Aug. 8 after NBC's coverage of the Olympics. It moves to its regular timeslot on Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 9/8c.