Go On was one of the first three new shows to earn a full-season pickup this fall, and its success comes as big of a surprise to the cast and crew as it may anyone else.
"Nobody knew whether it was going to work," Matthew Perry told reporters on a conference call. "Nobody knew, really, whether people were going to laugh at these sad situations."
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The show's premise reads more like a drama than a comedy: Sportscaster Ryan King (Perry) attends group therapy to deal with his wife's death. But Perry believes the series — or more specifically, creator/executive producer Scott Silveri, with whom he worked on Friends — has managed to find that perfect tonal mix of funny and sad that has struck a chord with viewers.
"I think it was the third episode ... when I had said it was hard to tell people that my wife had passed away [and] I should just get vanity plates that say it, and then everybody starts pitching what those vanity plates could say, like "Dead Wife,' 'Nomo Wife,'" he said. "That was a really risky scene and people loved it. Then we knew that people were going to laugh at this stuff."
With a full-season order secured, Perry says the show will explore the backstories of the group's eclectic members, while Ryan will dip his toe back in the dating scene. That all begins with Lauren Graham's November guest spot. The Parenthood star, a longtime friend of Perry's who appeared on his previous show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, will play Amy, Ryan's college pal with whom he shared "some sparks" before he got married.
NBC picks up Go On, New Normal and Revolution for full seasons
"Now that things have changed in his life, Amy comes back," Perry said. "It was really fun to work with [Graham] again — she's just so good. There were some sparks there, which is the first time Ryan has had any kind of feeling like that in a long, long time. So it was really interesting."
Staying true to the grieving process, Perry cautions that Ryan won't immediately rush into a relationship yet with Amy or anyone else. "Just like any person, he's going to sort of grow and move forward. Part of that is dating and ... getting himself out there," he said. "We're talking about a story right now where he really throws himself out there into the singles scene, and it's pretty funny. [He'll] start to get into that world for sure. And Lauren Graham — you couldn't ask for a better person to come on the show and jump-start that."
Perry, who will also reprise his role as Mike Kresteva on The Good Wife this season, names Ryan — a "very deep, enriching character" — as one of his two favorite roles ever. The other? Chandler on Friends, of course. "I loved playing Chandler. I grew up sort of playing that part."
Lauren Graham to pal around with Matthew Perry on Go On
With Go On, the actor is now the fourth Friends alum to have a successful show on the air — following Courteney Cox (Cougar Town), Matt LeBlanc (Episodes) and Lisa Kudrow (Web Therapy) — but he takes slight umbrage with the suggestion that the cast was "cursed" after the hit sitcom ended in 2004. Perry's first two post-Friends shows, Studio 60 and Mr. Sunshine, each lasted one season, and his 2008 Showtime pilot, End of Steve, was not picked up.
"The six of us are like six of the luckiest people on the planet, so ... I just never really listened to it. But I guess it's good that they're not saying that anymore," he said. "Friends was a magical thing. No one's ever going to have anything like that again. You try to just search for good projects. For me, I did Studio 60, which everybody thought was going to be amazing, and it was pretty good, but it didn't work. Then I tried my hand at writing something, trying to create a show myself — Mr. Sunshine, which worked to a certain degree creatively, but audiences didn't really follow it. Then I learned that there was somebody else who could create a show for me better than me, and that's what happened with Go On."
Go On airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC.