Perhaps it was better that a new kind of dramedy previewed during NBC’s coverage of the London Summer Olympics rather than a raucous and ribald sitcom. When you have to abruptly transition from inspiring and dramatic Olympic stories to a new fall comedy in prime time, you can’t expect anything less than some uncomfortable complaints. But when you watch with expectation of comedy and find out that light drama exceeded the comedy, you know NBC is onto something different.
If NBC wants to dart back to No. 1 in the mainstream network wars, they simply have to think differently. The new Matthew Perry sitcom “Go On” had long been marketed as being a guffaw-worthy sitcom about a support group for widows and widowers. However, that latter element of the show hasn’t been touted heavily, no doubt avoiding having to explain the odd collision of harrowing drama with sitcom level comedy.
Once the preview pilot aired on Wednesday, August 8, it was quite clear what ” Go On ” would be: The new direction of dramedy not seen in years. The dramedy hasn’t been used often in full form for a sitcom since 1970s and ’80s-era “M*A*S*H” became the progenitor and modern equivalent of the genre. In fact, ” M*A*S*H ” had the widest evolution of meshing comedy and drama by moving away from comedy and more toward drama by the end of its run.
The transition to drama worked well for “M*A*S*H,” because a sense of comedy had already been established in the first half of the series run. “Go On” sets up a new method of having a challenging subject surround the zany comedy brand of Matthew Perry.
With the uneasy balance of drama and comedy in the first episode of “Go On,” it made the actual comedy substantially milder and the drama an odd mix of irony. Yet real life of today seems to work that way as we face so much tragic news on a daily basis while maintaining an ironic sense of comedy in entertainment. It may make “Go On” the right sitcom for today’s audiences as sitcoms taking us away from reality become a relic.
Such a dramedy may also be too much of a risk when we also want to laugh heartily. “Go On” seems to provide more inward laughs than outward ones, which we hope was intentional. The true tragedy is if we think we’re looking at a dramedy here when it wasn’t supposed to be one.
In time, though, it might behoove “Go On” to just move closer to drama based on Perry’s best acting skill. If it fails, at least he can say he tried something bravely different that could still be the only sitcom representing the true heart and philosophy of how the bereaved in America tick.