The season finale of “Go On” is in the books, and the show’s prospects for next season are up in the air. After a strong fall run airing after “The Voice,” the show’s ratings dropped off sharply without the lead-in, putting its prospects for a second season very much in question (although Zap2it readers would like it to return).
So would this Zap2it writer. Early in the season, I wrote about how well “Go On” was coming together, and it’s continued to improve as the season has gone on. The show has remained true to the idea that Ryan King (Matthew Perry) and the other members of his therapy group are all bent or broken in some way. Its supporting characters have continued to grow, and it hasn’t rushed to put Ryan and group leader Lauren (Laura Benanti) together.
Could the show head that direction with Lauren and Ryan in the future? It absolutely could, particularly now that Lauren has called off the wedding to her nice-guy fiance. But if it does go that direction, it will do so with a year of Ryan’s tentative, choppy steps back into the dating world behind it, and with the two characters knowing very much what they’re getting into. (Last week’s episode also included a wink at that idea when Ryan believed Lauren had drunk-dialed him, and she quickly disabused him of the idea.)
Thursday’s (April 11) season finale does a great job keeping some ongoing stories — namely Ryan’s continuing grief issues as he decides what to do with Janie’s remains, and Lauren’s insecurity about her abilities as the group leader — on track while also implicitly answering a nagging question about “Go On’s” potential for a sustained run: Why would Ryan stay with the group longer than he has to in order to keep his job?
As reluctant as Ryan was and often still is to go through with counseling, he clearly recognizes that it’s helping him. His bursts of insight into what’s making him act the way he does are often very funny, but the humor doesn’t hide the fact that what he’s learning about himself is affecting him deeply. Anne (Julie White) and Mr. K (Brett Gelman) kidnapping and then losing most of Janie’s ashes is a sitcom-absurd plot*, but the way Ryan reacts to it, and ultimately finds a way to honor his late wife, is really touching. I am not ashamed to say I cried a little at the batting-cage scene.
(*Having the deeply weird K is involved with the urn-napping gives the show some leeway. “Go On” has never been afraid to go silly, but for the most part it has managed to contain any impulse to get too hammy and balanced out the silliness with grounded emotions.)
“Go On’s” writers have also learned to play to the show’s strengths, including putting Ryan and Anne in scenes together as often as possible. It feels like an almost weekly occurrence now that I say “Man, those two are great together.” The show has also let John Cho‘s Steven loosen up and be more than just Ryan’s wingman/straight man, zeroed in on Yolanda’s (Suzy Nakamura) neediness without taking it too far over the top and used Tyler James Williams‘ deadpan to great effect.
And, even with the second-half fade, “Go On” — which averages 6.2 million viewers and a 2.4 rating in adults 18-49 — is still NBC’s most-watched comedy and second to “The Office” in the 18-49 demographic. That obviously speaks to NBC’s continued struggles, but with “The Office” going away and the rest of the network’s comedies also in limbo, it makes some business sense to bring “Go On” back. It’s certainly shown it has the creative chops to stick around.
What did you think of the “Go On” season finale? Do you want to see it back for another season?