Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Go On "Dinner Takes All" Review

Go On attempted to tell four stories in a 20 minute plus window tonight. The episode description was worrisome. Go On struggles to balance the absurd humor of the group with the heartfelt human moments of the characters overcoming their grief; how the heck would Silveri and his writers balance four stories within one story in which every character is together? Ryan contemplates dating for the first time since Janie's passing; Steven's interested in the same woman Ryan; the group eats Thanksgiving dinner in the radio office, with Owen's mother who challenges Lauren's qualifications; Anne brings her children and then watches them gravitate to Ryan because he's on the radio and is on a standee.

Ryan's recovery from grief has been natural and well-paced. One week, he has trouble sleeping because of his wife's absence; the next week she's with him because he needs her, i.e. he makes her be there with his mind; the following week he deals with his first birthday without his wife. So it follows Ryan will wrestle with the idea of dating other women after Janie. Ryan's thoughts about other women happen in reaction to an old college friend's visit, Amy (portrayed by Gilmore Girls' and Parenthoods' Lauren Graham). Amy's the female Ryan. She loves sports, radio, and matches Ryan step-for-step, joke for joke, sports reference for sports reference. Amy's personality is infectious. She's down-to-earth, casual, and attractive. Steven falls for her. Ryan, though, falls for her despite not wanting to, feeling that feelings for her are happening too soon and that it's disrespectful to his love for Janie. The Janie feelings doesn't prevent Ryan from entering a battle for Amy's affections with Steven, who, it should be known, was given the blessing of Ryan not more than one day ago.

The selfishness of Ryan is his major flaw and a driving element in each one of his stories. Ryan's already been selfish with Steven, but this is a different kind of selfish: he fears losing the girl he could have to his best friend who just genuinely wants her. Ryan's basically a dick throughout the episode, arranging Thanksgiving dinner to prevent Steven from having a night alone with Amy, and interrupting their afternoon walk because of what might happen if he doesn't. Carrie's not allowed to fly home to Kentucky, because she needs to prepare the Thanksgiving feast in the office kitchen. The dinner is vast once finished, and his group, and Carrie, sit down to enjoy their meal; however, Ryan's absent from the table and with Steven because of the Amy situation.

Lauren Graham's good as Amy, but the character suffers from a lack of sufficient screen time. Amy's essentially only who Ryan and Steven remember her as. Amy's attraction for them is their memory of her, and because she's a woman who talks to them and who isn't Carrie or a walking advertisement like the K-Ball girl. Ryan needs to re-learn the valuable lesson about friendship over anything else, but he also needs to re-learn how to be with another woman. Janie's gone, and he likes Amy, but he's not ready. Amy's in sync with his feelings about her. She likes him, but she won't be the first girl after Janie because of the pressure and for other reasons. Ryan needs to heal and find peace. Go On is usually excellent in its human moments, and Ryan's narration about re-building, and of the importance of one great player changing the entire re-building process, is spot-on and a nice button to the Amy story. The story got lost within the other stories, but it resonated.

The Thanksgiving meal in the radio station allows some of the characters to deepen and interact with others they normally wouldn't. Anne's motherhood has been unexplored, but her children's affinity for Ryan amounts to nothing. Owen's mother challenges Lauren's qualifications, and is not impressed that Lauren earned a certificate in comfort. Owen's mother is a puzzling character. Presumably she sent her son to the group after he stopped talking following his brother's accident and subsequent coma. Owen's mother challenges Lauren and desires Owen spend less time with the group. Owen needs to stand up for himself, and the group, for his mother to understand the necessity of the group in his life and in his healing. New bonds are formed at the Thanksgiving table: Yolanda and Owen discover a shared string instrument talent; Mr. K doesn't weird so many people out, though he does weird people out. The group's more like a family now, considering less than half of them have family to eat with on Thanksgiving, which is ignored and not a big deal in the show but makes a blogger wonder about the deeper issues of sadness and loneliness within the group aspect of Go On.

"Dinner Takes All" was the funniest episode to date. Mr. K had his best jokes; Lauren Graham's comedic timing and energy brought some laughs; Anne's hardened exterior always gets a chuckle or three out of me. John Cho's an excellent comedic presence, and Matthew Perry's brand of comedy is becoming more familiar. Some of his sight gags fail miserably, like the pull-out couch and the montage of Ryan staring at the ceiling while Amy hugs and cuddles him like a stuffed zebra.

Go On's come together nicely as a sitcom. Through nine episodes, it's not the best sitcom on TV nor the worst. It's not reinventing any tropes or trying to be Community, despite the comparisons. Go On's going to struggle with its balance and it'll hit the emotional points. Overall, Go On is what it is: a mildly pleasant sitcom with a likable cast and plenty of heart.

Other Thoughts:

-The Brady Bunch homage that closed the cold open was slightly annoying but slightly not. I mean, it took all the characters and put them in a situation that usually irritates me any other episode; but the Bobby Brady reference, and the ridiculous smiling by the cast sort of saved what could’ve been an absolute disaster.

-Carrie needs more to do. I love the character and can’t wait for her love life and career to go the right way.
Where was Ryan’s apology for screwing up her holiday plans?


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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.