Monthly Archives: August 2012

Go On: A New Matthew Perry Series I Can Get Behind

I’ve always been a fan of Matthew Perry. From his early days as a messed up guy on Beverly Hills 90210 to the obvious favourite  – Chandler Bing (aka Miss Chanandler Bong) on Friends, I was even one of the few who actually really loved Aaron Sorkin’s short-lived Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and was sad when it was canceled.

I’ve been hoping for a long time that Perry could find a new long-term role, a new show all his own. I watched the first episode of Mr. Sunshine he tried to make last year, but didn’t like it and it didn’t last long before being canceled.  But after what I hear was a very well done stint on the Good Wife, he’s back with a new pilot called Go On, which aired as a special NBC preview last night after the Olympics. A little late, airing at 11pm last night I finally got a chance to watch it tonight. I hadn’t seen any promos and read very little about the show, except that it was supposed to be about dealing with grief, so I really had no idea whether I would like it or not – but I actually really did.

Matthew Perry stars as Ryan King, a sports radio broadcaster dealing with the recent loss of his wife in a tragic accident. After being told to attend mandatory counseling by his employers (a well cast John Cho), Ryan joins a transitions support group and more or less rolls his eyes at everyone. As the reluctant joiner, he is quick to judge and make a joke, believing he doesn’t really belong there. Of course, we all know that’s not true.

What I liked about this show was its ability to be funny, but sad at the same time. The members of the support group are particularly intriguing, like Julie White (Grace Under Fire) has anger issues; the group’s leader has no real credentials, and another really weird guy whose deal I haven’t yet figured out quite yet. But what really sold it for me was the developing relationship between Perry’s character, Ryan and timid group member Owen (Tyler James Williams from Everybody Hates Chris). I was particularly struck by his story and his quiet way, and I laughed when they ran after the Google car together dressed up in stolen LARP (Live Action Role Play) gear.

This show seems to find a balance between humour and an earnest way, which are two things I loved most about Chandler and Matt Albie, it’s where Perry really thrives. I think the fact that the support group leader has no expertise and that Perry’s wife died from texting while driving, were strange choices, but there’s unlimited potential where this series could go and I will be watching to see what happens.

Maybe it’s because I’ve experienced loss myself that this show seemed to resonate, maybe I just like people being brought together in a comical way – but Go On was a pleasant surprise and I really hope that viewers get behind it this fall so it can go on (pun intended).

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Gary Marshall Has Love Actually Envy

Director Gary Marshall has made some great movies over the years (i.e. Pretty Woman – come on, it’s a classic). But I can’t understand why he keeps trying to make these terrible ensemble movies: Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve and now to a different extent – The Big Wedding. Generally speaking I’m a fan of an ensemble cast – celebrities aplenty, never knowing who will make a cameo or who will pop up next as a potential costar. But these types of films are only as good as their story, their plot, and their heart. Having seen Valentine’s Day, and New Year’s Eve (two of the worst holidays) were missing all three.

These movies seem to be trying to recreate the strength and heart of one of my favourite ensemble and holiday movies: Love Actually. I remember going to the theatre with friends when it came out in 2003, there was nothing quite like it. Such strong performances, tales of celebrated and wildly excited love, silent heartbreak and pain – issues that pulled you and made you feel invested. My heart broke for Laura Linney’s complex family situation and Emma Thompson’s devastating revelation. These painful, cutting scenes played just as sincere and true as the happier ones. I cheered for Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister as he one-upped creepy US President Billy Bob Thorton and I reveled in the joy of Kiera Knightley’s wedding – particularly when the band started to play. Liam Neeson and his little step son waxing philosophical on the validity of true love was touching and truly special. Love Actually really has something. I’ve watched it many times and it still has the ability to make me laugh and tear up at the same time.

Love Actually is a beloved film, (especially among women) and it stands to reason that Gary Marshall would want to recreate the magic – except he hasn’t. Valentine’s Day had some small, cute moments, but the stories did not feel genuine, the characters didn’t connect with the audience. As much as I wanted to buy Julia Roberts as a US solider coming home to see her son for just 24 hours – it just wasn’t believable. She was too polished, too perfect (as she often is) and it just didn’t compute. Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner as a high school couple in love were very annoying, all the time and the list goes on. But Valentine’s Day I’d watch ten times over, before watching New Year’s Eve ever again.

Only earning a mere 7% on Rotten Tomatoes, New Year’s Eve seemed to throw as many celebrities into one movie as possible – at the expense of the story. People falling in love in what felt like five minutes, Bon Jovi unconvincingly trying to win back Katherine Heigl (who was even more unconvincing as a professional chef). Hilary Swank as a wide eyed idealist in charge of the Times Square balling dropping – there’s something about her face I’d just like to punch.

In fact the best thing to come out of New Year’s Eve was the parodies. Saturday Night Live did a particularly great one, which I can’t find a link to because I live in Canada. However! 30 Rock also brought the hilarity as usual:

So now it looks like The Big Wedding is the newest Gary Marshall movie that’s sure to bomb. Allow me to break it down for you. A long-divorced couple: Robert DeNiro and Diane Keaton must pretend they are still married for their adopted son’s Alejandro’s wedding. Why? Because his birth mother is coming from Columbia for the wedding and believes divorce is a sin. You know that old story…right? Talk about your ridiculous plot lines, what year is this? Not to mention that Robert DeNiro’s character now lives with a fun loving Susan Sarandon who, angered by the current situation, looks to stir the pot. Alejandro is marrying Amanda Seyfried, Robin Williams plays a priest, again. Katherine Heigl and Topher Grace co-star as Keaton and DeNiro’s other children. Hilarity ensues, I’m sure. See it for yourself below and ask yourself – why?

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