Go On's unsurprising cancellation
News of the demise of Go On, which was cancelled a few weeks ago by NBC - but is thankfully playing out the remainder of its season here on TV3 (Tuesdays at 8pm) - was met with grief at my place. It's a great show. Anchored by a strong performance from Matthew Perry and a brilliant ensemble cast, Go On is guaranteed to make you laugh more than any other show on television right now. Except maybe New Girl.
But I shouldn't have been surprised by its cancellation. The writing was on the wall from the moment the show hit the airwaves - and here are five reasons why:
1. It aired in the USA on ... NBC (dun, dun, dunnn*): NBC seems to be a place where good comedies live out their low-rating lives in constant fear of cancellation (see: Community, Parks & Recreation), and where bad comedies go to die. Just in the past 12 months or so, NBC has started and cancelled 1600 Penn, Are You There Chelsea, Animal Practice, Bent, Guys With Kids, The New Normal, Whitney, and Up All Night - and that's in addition to the end of both 30 Rock and The Office. In fact, Parks & Recreation and Community are NBC's only returning comedies next season. Put it this way: if Go On had aired on either Fox or CBS, we wouldn't be having this conversation.
2. It has a somewhat quirky premise. We talked a little about weird shows yesterday, and Go On could almost count as one - Perry plays Ryan King, a recent widower who falls in with a wacky group of fellow mourners in a grief support group, after being forced to attend by his boss. As a result, even though the show is riotously funny at times, it also has a heart and can be moving at times. Naturally, mass audiences don't really give a stuff about this - they want their simple comedy shows, and they want them now: four geeks befriend a bimbo, an alcoholic a-hole moves in with his brother and nephew, two fat people fall in love. Ugh.
3. Sport is a plot point/running theme on the show. Perry's character, Ryan, works as a talk radio host for a sports station, so the show has a tendency of framing stories through Ryan's understanding of team sports, and inviting on guest stars from the world of professional sport (such as Terrell Owens and Chris Bosh). For whatever reason, though, American audiences don't seem to like shows about sports. Aaron Sorkin's Sports Night was a funny, albeit inconsistent, comedy about a sports news show, but it lasted only two seasons. The very funny Sports Show with Norm MacDonald only lasted a single season on Comedy Central. NBC has even failed in this arena before: critical darling Friday Night Lights rated so low that, after its second season, NBC made a deal with DirecTV to co-produce. Go On's connection to sport was a little more tenuous, but it may have played into its downfall.
4. It boasts a large ensemble cast. Some of the best comedies on television in the past few years - shows like Community, Parks & Recreation, 30 Rock, The Office, and maybe Modern Family - have large casts. Go On's main cast features 11 regulars. And most of those shows are either struggling in the ratings or off the air already. By comparison, the most successful comedies, at least according to ratings and ubiquity (Two And A Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, New Girl), typically feature between 2.5 and 5 main characters. Why do large casts fail? I guess viewers can't really keep track of everyone. Or, when it comes to comedy, they simply don't want to.
5. Matthew Perry ... is cursed. Perry hasn't had a hit since Friends ended. Feature film 17 Again (rightly) met with bad reviews, and shows Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip (like Sports Night, written by Aaron Sorkin) and Mr Sunshine were both canned after a single season. I don't really know why Perry hasn't succeeded - though I suspect it might be because his Friends character, Chandler Bing, was so beloved that he can't shake the natural association fans make. (By the way, don't sleep on The Curse of Allison Miller: Miller plays Ryan's assistant, Carrie, and has featured in two relative flops, Kings and Terra Nova - and she starred in 17 Again, too.)
So why do you think Go On failed to grab a larger audience? What do you think was its downfall? And are you as upset by the news of its demise as I am?
(*) Yeah, yeah. I know the dramatic gopher doesn't really work there, and I know it's old. But I like him. Or her. Or both. I don't know how to identify gopher gender.