Perry’s Sportscaster Gets Friends; Monkey Doesn’t: Review

'Go On'
Matthew Perry as Ryan King in "Go On." The show airs Wednesday as a sneak preview on NBC, following Olympics coverage, and returns Sept. 11, 2012, at 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Photographer: Jordin Althaus/NBC via Bloomberg

“I’m back and better than ever,” announces Matthew Perry, in character as a recent widower in deep denial on NBC’s new sitcom “Go On.”

No one could blame the network for welcoming its old “Friends” star back to the fold. Or for sneaking a preview of it into the middle of its coverage of the Olympics.

But better than ever?

Not so fast.

Perry plays Ryan King, a big-shot sports radio host returning to work only a month after his wife’s untimely death.

He copes by quipping, as when he describes the lost love of his life: “Completed me. Doesn’t come around much anymore.”

Ordered by his boss to undergo grief counseling, King begrudgingly attends “Transitions,” a New Agey support group filled with loveable oddballs dealing with “life changes.”

There’s a sharp-tongued lesbian (the standout Julie White) who has lost her life partner; a creepy lech (Brett Gelman) and a crotchety old man with diabetes (Bill Cobbs), among others.

The beautiful therapist (Laura Benanti) spouts the kind of platitudes King hates (“It’s a safe space”), but romantic sparks seem inevitable.

‘March Sadness’

By the end of the first episode, the initially disdainful King has bonded with the gang. He organizes, cuckoo’s nest-style, a “March Sadness” tournament to decide who has the best sob story.

If that dynamic sounds familiar, you’ve probably seen NBC’s “Community,” in which Joel McHale’s smug, disgraced attorney character is forced to attend community college classes.

“Go On” borrows both the formula and the feel-good quirkiness that has built “Community” a modest, weirdly devoted following.

“Community” standards require a group-hug sentimentality, and “Go On” wastes little time arriving at that breakthrough.

The new show, created by “Friends” producer Scott Silveri, has sufficient ambition (and the solid performances) to justify another look next month.

Now if only Lisa Kudrow’s acerbic shrink from Showtime’s terrific “Web Therapy” would prescribe some bite.

“Go On,” airs on NBC Wednesday following Olympics coverage; returns September 11 at 9 p.m. New York time. Rating: **1/2

‘Animal Practice’

Justin Kirk (“Weeds”) costars with a monkey in scrubs on “Animal Practice,” NBC’s fall sitcom and early favorite for worst concept.

Like “Go On,” “Animal Practice” is getting a sneak preview during Olympics coverage this month.

Kirk, snarling, plays Dr. George Coleman, a brilliant, misanthropic veterinarian at a New York City animal hospital. It’s “House” with critters, including Dr. Rizzo, the hospital’s cute monkey mascot.

Some shows rise above their spotty concepts. “Animal Practice,” at least in its pilot episode, does not.

Romance, or its potential, arrives when Coleman’s ex-girlfriend, Dorothy (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) inherits what looks to be an absurdly large animal hospital.

“I’m not going to sit around and let you turn my grandmother’s legacy into a zoo!” she snaps, angered by the doc’s unorthodox, belligerent style.

Cue Dr. Rizzo, who rides down the hall on a toy ambulance.

“Animal Practice” airs August 12 on NBC following the Olympics closing ceremonies and returns Sept. 26 at 8 p.m. New York time. Rating: *1/2

What the Stars Mean:

***** Fantastic
**** Excellent
*** Very Good
** Good
* Poor
(No stars) Avoid

(Greg Evans is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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