The Virgin Mary’s Sitcom Appearance

If I told you a statue of the Virgin Mary – specifically Our Lady of Guadalupe – played a role in the plot of a modern sitcom, you’d probably assume it would be the butt of some religious joke. In the case of episode 3 of Matthew Perry’s new show, “Go On,” you’d be wrong. The statue, though played for a laugh initially, actually provides a moment of poignancy and grace in the story.

“Go On” is about a sports radio host named Ryan King (Perry) whose wife dies in a car accident because she was answering a text from him while she was driving. In addition to the sense of loss Ryan suffers, he’s also racked with guilt. As a typical guy, he’s not used to processing emotions in a healthy way so his grief leads him to act out in combative, self-destructive ways. His boss and best friend forces him to enter a therapy group to help him deal with his loss. Other members of the group are naturally oddballs who can be mined for laughs. The writers of “Go On,” however, also seem to want to make the group members three-dimensional characters so viewers don’t just laugh at them, but also relate to them.

The episode in question is entitled “There’s No Ryan in Team,” was written by series creator Scott Silveri, and directed by Todd Holland. Part of the plot deals with Ryan being unable to break the news about his wife’s death to their Mexican gardener, Miguel, because Ryan is uncomfortable with people offering him their pity and condolences. Eventually he’s forced to tell him anyway. Miguel responds by starting to build a fountain crowned by an Our Lady of Guadalupe statue in Ryan’s backyard.

At first, this is not an attractive option to Ryan. Yet multiple story threads come together in the end that provide a moment of catharsis through the fountain and statue. There are no overt religious implications in the script other than the visual of the statue. The names “Mary” and “Our Lady of Guadalupe” are never mentioned. But the visual says it all if you have even a modest awareness of Christianity. A nice job of showing, not telling, are accomplished by the episode’s writer and director. The comedy throughout the episode works well too.

I’ve only seen a couple of episodes of “Go On” so I don’t know where the show will go from here. But since Catholics and other Christians are quick to point out when Hollywood makes fun of our faith, I wanted to offer a word of praise when they did something well. The episode is embedded below if you’d like to watch.

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