The Good Place returned “Must See TV” Magic to Thursdays at NBC with a truly unique and hilarious show – The Good Place Review
*Almost entirely spoiler free review of Season 1
NBC has struggled for years to provide quality comedy for their Thursday night primetime lineup. A slot they used to rule with shows like Seinfeld, Friends, Scrubs, The Office, 30 Rock, and Parks and Rec. Thursdays used to be “Must See TV at NBC.” I remember using the slogan as an excuse as to why I didn’t do my homework and my teacher laughed let me off the hook. But for the past few years, NBC has struggled to the point where they did not even put Comedy on Thursday. But luckily, NBC is beginning to make a comeback with Superstore and The Good Place. Both shows are hilarious and brilliantly written and performed, but this piece is about The Good Place.
The Good Place is a half-hour sitcom created by Michael Schur, who also co-created Parks and Rec and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Last night, two episodes aired ending the show’s first season with an epic reveal, and a truly captivating cliff-hanger. The show stars newly deceased Eleanor (Kristen Bell) and her otherworldly guide and Good Place neighborhood architect, Michael (Ted Danson), as she attempts to adjust to life in The Good Place. The Good Place is essentially paradise, where all of the wishes and desires of its inhabitants are granted and they are also paired with their eternal soulmate. However, unlike every other person in this neighborhood of the Good Place Eleanor does not belong. She confides in her soulmate Chidi (William Jackson Harper), and he attempts to teach her morals and ethics in order for her to fit in and potentially earn her spot in the Good Place.
The show’s concept is truly unique, and one of the boldest ideas on network television. There are a few shows that deal with supernatural, and a few that have addressed the afterlife, but I cannot recall any that approach it as a serious comedy premise. The setting of the Good Place creates a natural game that perfectly contrasts with the show’s protagonist, couple that with the seemingly perfect inhabitants, there are endless conflicts for Eleanor to get into. The writing of the show throws everything at her, not only to contrast her character, but build her, and also break her.
The cast is one of my favorite ensembles to date. Kristen Bell and Ted Danson are the big names on the project, but the rest of the cast definitely hold their own and bring a lot to the table. Harper’s Chidi is a brilliant portrayal of a neurotic academic, Manny Jacinto’s duplicitous role as Jianyu/Jason is constantly hitting extremes as a silent monk to a “pre-successful” Florida EDM DJ, and Jameela Jamil is effortlessly classy and back-handedly polite Tahani. However, my personal choice for breakout star and role goes to D’Arcy Carden’s for her performance as the Good Place’s Siri-like AI. She constantly steals the show with her deadpan synthetic deliveries of facts and corrections and her wild range of programmable emotions. Bell and Danson, of course, both deliver stellar performances; Bell is the heart of the show and Danson would be the Brains. Bell is the developing good person constantly fighting her natural tendencies and habits, where Danson is the learning logistician who comes to find out that humans are much more complicated than what can be deduced from observation.
The first season of The Good Place begins fully realized, something many shows are unable to do. It immediately knows what it is, where it’s going, and how it’s going to do it. This is not only evident in the writing and performances, but in the schedule of its release. Many episodes end on cliffhangers that are liken to that of Lost and many episodes were played together to create even more dramatic effect. Every hour block hit with a powerful cliffhanger in the middle of the block and would end on an even more powerful one at the end of it. The Good Place is a master of the one-two punch. The show hits hard in all aspects of its conception, to its delivery, and leaves the audience wanting more.
In its first season, The Good Place was able to tell a truly compelling, and hilarious, story about living in the afterlife, and it does so hilariously. It has pun humor, condescending humor, race jokes, sex jokes, it has comedy for all without being needlessly crass or vulgar. I want to emphasize, needlessly, because it does not mean there isn’t that type of humor to be found. It is all organically woven into either a character’s personality or the environment of the Good Place. The social commentary is a big favorite of mine, I mean I wouldn’t doubt the Good Place has frozen yogurt on every corner. There were multiple episodes that actually had me gasp for air from laughing too hard. All of that comedy, and it is still able to tell a deep and fulfilling story.
The Good Place is my favorite new show of the season, and will likely take the place next to Parks and Rec and How I Met Your Mother in my list of all time favorite shows. It is the most outrageously conceived sitcom that is as somehow grounded and relatable as the many of the greatest sitcoms of all time. Full of laughs, incredible (and did I mention diverse) cast, and intense intrigue, the first season of The Good Place gets a 5/5.
The first season of The Good Place is fully available to stream at NBC.com and Hulu.
The Good Place
- Season 1