This fall, an old “Friend” is heading back to TV: Matthew Perry returns to NBC to star in the new sitcom, “Go On.” We know Perry, of course, as the charmingly quippy Chandler Bing on NBC’s mega-hit sitcom “Friends.” But as beloved as that character (and Perry) are, he hasn’t had much luck replicating that success on the small screen; in fact, his previous two attempts at a TV comeback have failed miserably. Why is that?
Here, we look back at why Perry’s post-“Friends” shows haven’t worked -- and try to predict if “Go On” can break that streak.
“Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” (NBC, 2006-07)
Perry Played: Matt Albie, the pill-popping head writer of a fictional sketch-comedy TV show on Aaron Sorkin’s behind-the-scenes drama.
Why Didn’t It Work? We’re still trying to figure that out. Sorkin’s writing was typically impeccable (this came between “The West Wing” and “The Social Network” for him), and Perry proved he had dramatic acting chops to spare. But maybe Sorkin’s heady intellectualism didn’t fit the setting; by contrast, Tina Fey’s sketch-show comedy “30 Rock” premiered the same fall and just got renewed for a seventh season. Plus, the title “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” is a real mouthful -- which never helps. In any case, a much-hyped debut was followed by steadily declining ratings, and “Studio 60” shut down for good after just one season.
“Mr. Sunshine” (ABC, 2011)
Perry Played: Ben Donovan, the grumpy manager of a San Diego sports arena.
Why Didn’t It Work? Um, it wasn’t that funny? After “Studio 60” crashed and burned, it made sense for Perry to retreat to the familiar sitcom format, and he even executive-produced and co-wrote “Sunshine.” But as great as it was to see Perry exchange jabs with co-star Allison Janney (who played Ben’s boss), the day-to-day operations of a sports arena aren’t exactly fertile ground for comedy. Plus, “Sunshine” got unceremoniously shoved onto the schedule at midseason, so it wasn’t exactly a shock when only seven episodes made it to air before “Sunshine” burned out.
“Go On” (NBC, 2012)
Perry Plays: Ryan King, a brash sportscaster who’s forced into mandatory group therapy after losing his wife in a car crash.
Will It Work? We’ll keep our fingers crossed, but the early signs aren’t great. The dead-wife setup doesn’t exactly scream “comedy,” Perry seems miscast as a loudmouthed sports nut, and the touchy-feely therapy setting feels like a relic from the ‘80s. (Is anybody else reminded of the Judd Hirsch sitcom “Dear John”?) Maybe Perry just works best as part of a larger ensemble, a la “Friends.” Or maybe he needs to give drama another shot; we loved his recent guest turn as the devious Mike Kresteva on “The Good Wife.” But – and it kills us to say this – “Go On” could very well mark the third strike for Perry’s post-“Friends” TV career. Thank goodness for royalties, huh?