till you laugh
‘Go On’ is a sitcom based on grief
On “Friends,” Matthew Perry created one of
the funniest TV characters of all time in the
neurotic quipster Chandler Bing. Perry hasn’t
clicked in any starring vehicle since then but
not for lack of trying. After the doomed “Mr.
Sunshine” and “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,”
he returns in “Go On,” playing a sports broadcaster
named Ryan who’s sent to a grief-counseling
group to deal with his wife’s death (Tuesday,
8 p.m., NBC).
The series draws on Perry’s strength — nonstop
wisecracks — but can’t find the right tone.
It often comes on like a silly farce with Ryan
making a mockery of the kooks in his group.
But then the soundtrack strikes a sensitive
chord, images of a cemetery flash onscreen,
and Ryan begins pouring out his heart. I don’t
mind mixing drama and comedy — Shakespeare pulled
it off pretty well — but that approach takes
a certain delicacy. Delicacy is in short supply
in “Go On,” at least, so far.
I’m still pulling for it, though. I’ll have
to join a grief-counseling group myself if the
great Matthew Perry is forced into early retirement
after yet another flop.
Thursday, 8 p.m. (CW)
I don’t approve of the title, which awkwardly
turns an adjective into a noun, but I like everything
else about “The Next.” It travels from city
to city, identifying four locally popular singers
in each one. Then the show’s four mentors, Joe
Jonas, Nelly, Gloria Estefan and John Rich,
get the singers ready for a performance showdown.
During that time, the mentors move right into
the contestants’ lives, meeting their friends,
mowing their lawns, etc. It’s a gimmick, but
a successful one, thanks to the stars’ appealing
personalities. They take the concept just seriously
enough but also have fun with it.
“The Next” is so much more appealing than the
fading “American Idol.” I’m going to start calling
it “The Excellent.”
‘The New Normal’
Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. (NBC)
This new sitcom is all about tolerance for
alternative families. An L.A. gay couple (Andrew
Rannells and Justin Bartha) decide they want
to have a baby with a surrogate. Enter Goldie
(Georgia King), a single mother who’s escaped
from the Midwest with the hope of starting a
new life. “The New Normal” challenges the notion
that there’s only one way to raise a child.
As someone says, “Face it, honey, abnormal is
the new normal.”
It sounds great on paper, but “The New Normal”
hedges its bets by casting Ellen Barkin as Goldie’s
small-minded granny. She’s there to represent
the traditional point of view, and the script
takes her character way over the top. Barkin
spews hateful comments about Jews, Asians, African-Americans,
gays and handicapped people. True, the series
is technically satirizing bigots like her, but
it’s also trying to get a charge out of Barkin’s
nonstop slurs. In the pilot, our homosexual
heroes chime in with a few nasty cracks of their
own about fat people. Where’s the tolerance
King is a lovely presence, so maybe “The New
Normal” can build on that. At the moment, I
see no evidence of a heart, and that’s pretty
disappointing given the theme.
Tuesday, 9 p.m. (Syfy)
I like to collect pop-culture artifacts as
much as the next nerd — OK, maybe a little bit
more — but this reality series profiles people
whose collecting passion has become a dangerous
obsession. We meet a guy who spends all his
money on Catwoman collectibles rather than pay
his mortgage and a grown woman who weeps at
the thought of selling her “Star Wars” figurines
(a.k.a., her “friends”). Who knew you could
develop an intimate relationship with a plastic
To the rescue comes Christie’s auctioneer Elyse
Luray, an expert in pop-culture collectibles.
She wades into houses full of junk and gently
weeds out the collections, convincing the hoarders
to auction off as much as they can bear.
As horrified as I am by these people, I’m also
slightly interested in buying the plaster Michelle
Pfeiffer Catwoman bust, depending on the price.
Photo courtesy of Robert Trachtenberg/NBC