A culture blog, mostly focused on film and television. Warning: spoilers!!!
TV Review: The Good Place (Season 1)
October 6, 2017
From Michael Schur of the late, beloved The Office (the American version) and Parks and Recreation fame comes a new NBC comedy, The Good Place. Kristen Bell plays the recently deceased Eleanor who finds herself mistakenly placed in the “good place” of the afterlife. She must keep her secret from Michael (Ted Danson), the whimsical and naïve architect of the Good Place, or else wind up being sent to the Bad Place. Aiding Eleanor is her ostensible soulmate Chidi (William Jackson Harper), an ethics professor who tries to teach Eleanor how to be good after a lifetime of being bad.
Light-hearted, a bit quirky, and instantly likeable, The Good Place is a welcome boon in the current, depressing, snark-filled TV landscape. The zany, utopian Good Place is full of wish-fulfilment fantasies like soulmates, dream houses, and frozen yogurt galore. A chirpy AI named Janet (D’Arcy Carden) provides all the information and material needs for the residents of the Good Place; a universal translator helps Eleanor understand the French-speaking Chidi (although it also stops her from swearing); and no one can die (again).
To balance out the whimsy, Bell is at her least lovable: in flashbacks, Eleanor is shown to be selfish and rude to both friends and strangers. Her quest to be good frustrates Chidi and throws him into an ethical dilemma as Eleanor’s presence in the Good Place seems to be damaging the carefully calibrated system that runs it. However, not everything is as it seems, and even other residents, namely Eleanor and Chidi’s neighbours the stunning socialite Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and silent monk Jianyu (Manny Jacinto), have their own secrets, which are gradually revealed in even more flashbacks (there really are a lot of flashbacks in each episode). Danson seems to be having boundless fun as the grey-suited, white-haired Michael who finds humans very entertaining and is alternately very proud and very worried about his work in maintaining the Good Place, which is never quite under control.
Even with a sort of silly premise, The Good Place also takes bold risks in storytelling and concludes the season with bang, generating fresh conflict for season two, which is airing currently.