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Archive for Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sitcoms try to force laughs

September 11, 2012

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Matthew Perry returns in “Go On” (8 p.m., NBC). The former “Friends” star plays brash sports radio personality Ryan King, who has just lost his wife in a car accident. He wants to jump right back into his old job, but his superiors order him to take time off and seek counseling.

Let’s stop, or rather start, right there. Mixing personal grief with sitcom yuks is a tricky business that almost never works.

Perry is very good at the arrogant part of his character. But his attempts to explore inner feelings are forced and unnatural. It’s not his fault. The show’s collision of emotional tones seems better suited to a quirky indie film where a character can emerge and evolve over 90 minutes than a weekly sitcom where 20 seconds without a gag is like an eternity.

‘‘Go On” lurches from Ryan’s gung-ho attempts to hijack his therapy group to soft-focus, moody musical montages. There are fun characters and familiar faces at work here, and you have to admire the clash between women paid to talk about emotions and men who’d like to do anything but. Ultimately, “Go On” is far less than the sum of its parts. That’s because none of them really fit together.

• Clearly inspired by the runaway success of “Modern Family,” the comedy “The New Normal” (8:30 p.m., NBC) lacks much of that series’ charm, wit and heart. Georgia King offers a winning performance as Goldie, a struggling single mom who sees surrogacy as a chance to change her circumstances. Ellen Barkin has a much harder time as her bigoted grandmother, Jane.

The gay male couple who decide to pay Goldie to bear their child also suffer from a lack of good lines and less than believable chemistry. David (Justin Bartha) is a solid, sober Beverly Hills doctor unsure if he’s ready to be a father. His more flamboyant partner, Bryan (Andrew Rannells), happens upon parenthood as a means of buying even cuter accessories. A character as shallow and self-involved as Bryan usually requires the compensating ballast of quick wit to keep from floundering. Here, he’s given little to do except roll his eyes.

Tonight’s other highlights

• “The 9/11 Surfer” (7 p.m., Discovery) profiles an unusual World Trade Center survivor.

• The 2011 miniseries “The Crimson Petal and the White” (7 p.m., Encore) concludes.

• Neal goes undercover as a Wall Street schemer on the half-season finale of “White Collar” (8 p.m., USA).

• An unfamiliar face on “Covert Affairs” (9 p.m., USA).

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