CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- NBC used the Olympics to relentlessly promote its new fall shows, even giving full-episode previews to the sitcoms "Go On" and "Animal Practice." I'm not sure why those were chosen, but my guess is that the former is one of the shows NBC has the highest hopes for, and the latter is one that needs all the help it can get.
"Go On," which officially premieres Sept. 11, stars Matthew Perry as a sports radio talk-show host ordered to attend grief counseling after the death of his wife (and an unfortunate incident involving Terrell Owens). There, he encounters an oddball group of folks dealing with "life changes," including a cuckolded military vet, a mourning cat lady, a widowed lesbian and George, a blind, arthritic, diabetic stroke and heart attack victim.
I was looking forward to this, based on the three-and-a-half minute trailer I'd seen, and it didn't disappoint. It's funny and sweet, drawing laughs and poignancy from the group members' grief. On the one hand, there's the humorous "March Sadness" competition to determine whose tragedy is the worst, and on the other, there's a touching montage of them dealing with their griefs outside the group setting.
Perry's goofy charm is on full display as he wisecracks his way through sessions, burying his pain and just trying to get the group leader to sign a form so he can go back to work. Although I wasn't really into "Friends" (gasp!), I've enjoyed Perry on "Mr. Sunshine" and "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." He's quite affable here, backed by a strong group of comedic talents, my favorite of whom is Julie White as Anne, the angry, widowed lesbian.
Unfortunately, "Go On" faces stiff competition from already-established shows on other networks: CBS' "NCIS: Los Angeles," ABC's "Happy Endings" and Fox's "New Girl." That's what DVRs are for, though, right? So if this one clashes with one of those for you (as it does with "Happy Endings" for me), record it, but don't ignore it.
"Animal Practice," on the other hand, you might want to just forget. Why NBC thought this dud was worth not only airing during the Olympics -- but pre-empting The Who's closing ceremony performance -- for is beyond me. If you've seen ads for it and haven't found anything funny in them, you won't in the rest of the show, either.
Those ads have focused heavily on Crystal, the capuchin monkey star. Not only was this a wise move because she's a monkey -- and who doesn't love monkeys? -- but also because she's probably the most likeable character.
(Crystal, by the way, has a more impressive resume than any of her human co-stars. She's appeared in "Community," "The Hangover Part II," both "Night at the Museum" movies, "We Bought a Zoo" and "Zookeeper.")
The main human character, played by Justin Kirk, is not just unlikable but downright unpleasant. A veterinarian who loves animals and hates people, he berates patients, defies their wishes, bets on animal activities with his co-workers and clashes with his ex (JoAnna Garcia Swisher), who's the new owner of the animal hospital.
The show premieres Sept. 26, and it will be up against much better entertainment in its timeslot, especially ABC's very funny "The Middle" and The CW's pretty awesome new superhero drama, "Arrow." I love animals, but this is one dog I can do without.