Seeking friends and family.
There's a light “black market” trade on pilot scripts during the early months of the year. As scripts are written and as they hope to get it to pilot and, later, a series order, the scripts get passed around, openly but unofficially, and everyone, including people who have nothing to do with the shows themselves, forms their opinions. I'm sure it's not an accident that some are easier to get hold of than others. Everyone I know read 1600 Penn and Cult, whereas some are harder to come by (if you have a copy of the Nashville pilot script, send it over!).
I did not read Go On, Matthew Perry's new vehicle. I'm not sure what I would have thought if I had, but I know what I think now that I've seen the trailer. Watch here, then come back:
I think Perry is incredible to watch. It's something about his face. All his angst (and he always has a lot) is right there. But whenever the trailer turned to the “group”...I lost interest. There was a momentary “hey, that guy!” when I saw Tyler James Williams, from Everybody Hates Chris, but that was about it. The silliness of the group, the obviousness of the hot group leader - I just can't see myself really wanting to watch this show. My usual caveats apply here: haven't seen the whole pilot, haven't read the script, everything can, and often does, change after the first six episodes. But they put the trailers out so that we can get excited about shows...and I'm not.
So why does Matthew Perry want to make it? Why does he choose things that are so clearly sub-par, or have the potential to look that way? His movie roles have been meh at best, and though I really wanted his last show, Mr. Sunshine, to be something, it really wasn't - at least not before it was cancelled very early in the game.
The TV season, as I've mentioned before, begins in March-April if you're an actor who's auditioning or reading scripts. If the show gets picked up, you start shooting in June, end around March again, and hear within a reasonable amount of time whether you're coming back or not. It's a long haul. Or - and this is how insiders think of it - it's a long time to be employed.
We know Matthew Perry doesn't need money. There is categorically no need for any of the Friends actors to work again. But think about what else we know about that show. Those actors really were friends, as evidenced by their commitment to only do things that all six wanted to do (renegotiations, no reunion, etc). There were the six of them, and a 100-person crew who I can guarantee were also very close. It's what happens on a TV set. You know who you're coming to work to see, you have your rhythms and buddies and likes and dislikes. I'm not saying it's a love-in every day, but it can be a lot of the time. Friends was the holy grail of sitcom work: a show that ran 10 years at the very top of its game is incredibly rare, and showbiz veterans know that and appreciate it. I'm willing to bet it was, by and large, a very happy set (except for the obvious case of Amaani Lyle, which is a long but fascinating read about the writers' room that you can check out here).
This experience can be addictive. And I wanted to use another term, because we know Matthew Perry has some addictions of his own he's battled in the past, but it's true. A movie is three months or so, maximum. A TV show can be years. In an industry that can be so incredibly unpredictable, the normalcy that comes from going to the same workplace every day for years and seeing the same people is really, really heady stuff. Especially if you do have other demons competing for your time and attention. It's comforting to not have to worry about where you're going and what you're going to work on every 10 weeks.
So I humbly submit that Matthew Perry is looking for what he once had - a stable, happy “work home” where he can rely on everyone being on board doing the best work they can, hopefully for years. For his sake, I'd like to be wrong about Go On. I hope it grows and challenges him and the writing is great (the creator is a Friends alum...but also a Joey one) and it's a place where he can feel safe and do some real work again. I'm just not seeing it from this trailer.
Attached - Matthew Perry at the Stanley Cup Finals in LA and posing with Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Brian Killian/Mike Coppola/Getty