Crashing Pilots: Go On

By David Mumpower

October 3, 2012

They'll be there for Matt Perry.

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As the new Fall TV season reaches full steam this first week of October, I will be taking the opportunity to evaluate several high profile television pilots. I plan to examine roughly four of them, one of which I already know will be canceled in short order. I believe that this will serve a purpose just as gushing over the best pilot of the new season and eviscerating the worst one will also provide utility. Before I get to any of these three, however, I want to celebrate the warmest debuting program of 2012, Go On.

Matthew Perry has been going through a phase and that phase is called “I’ll make a lot of very unpopular television shows.” After Perry’s breakout success in the 1990s’ most enduring sitcom, Friends, he has starred in a couple of unwatched movies, been largely a background player in 17 Again and anchored two television programs. You know the rest.

The more successful of these two is Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, a program I happen to adore. The rest of the universe disagrees with me as Studio 60 was on cancellation watch after about four episodes. Remarkably, this is a stronger performance than Mr. Sunshine managed.

That program was aired on only nine occasions with its cancellation a foregone conclusion after the pilot. Studio 60 was eviscerated for being too Aaron Sorkin-y at a time when the media was profoundly anti-Sorkin. Mr. Sunshine was an exhausting hodgepodge of quirky characters acting quirky solely for the sake of quirkiness. Even the most ardent attackers of Studio 60 would acknowledge that it was a new The Wonder Years for the 2000s in comparison to Mr. Sunshine.


Given the woeful quality of Mr. Sunshine, I was sketchy about the prospects of another Matthew Perry comedy. Its ads during the Olympics screamed Joey! Being a former Friend is a brutal status these days.

This is not just a criticism of Perry, though. Five of the six key members of the cast of Friends are suffering the same fate. None of their careers will ever approach the apex they jointly experienced with the seminal 1990s NBC Thursday night staple.

Lisa Kudrow works in films but her days as a potential lead actress ended before they ever got started thanks to a movie called Marci X (google it). Matt LeBlanc has been reduced to portraying a fictionalized version of Matt LeBlanc in order to keep the paychecks coming. I quite enjoy Courtney Cox’s post-Friends sitcom, Cougar Town, but it was relocated to TBS because the ratings were unacceptable for network television. The ever-pretentious David Schwimmer will eventually embrace a dramatic role in some network or (more likely) cable program, I’m sure. Until then, he seems satisfied to direct in projects such as Trust and Run Fatboy Run.

Despite Aniston’s popularity in mainstream romantic comedies such as Just Go with It and Along Came Polly, I am squarely in the group that considers Perry and Cox the heart and soul of Friends, the anchor players who would be aptly described as The Talent.

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