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The Good Place: a NBC fantasy-slash-comedy created by Michael Schur, writer and creator of hit comedies such as The Office, Parks and Rec, and Brooklyn Nine Nine.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you of its immense potential, here’s a brief synopsis: Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) dies and is sent to The Good Place. She soon realizes that she doesn’t belong and convinces Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), her assigned soul mate and a moral philosophy and ethics professor, to teach her how to be a good person to that she can stay in The Good Place.
Although I’m very familiar with Michael Schur’s work and tv comedies in general, I was slow to watch this show due purely to the shoddy marketing. Promotional imagery and tv spots thoroughly emphasized the fact that Eleanor is forced to say quirky things like “What the fork!” and “Holy shirtballs!” because you can’t curse in heaven! While I don’t know for sure, this was probably one of the many factors that lead to the general underrated-ness of this show to the general public.
While this show is very much a comedy at heart, you’ll find an unexpected philosophical discourse regarding Good and Evil. This is done very literally, with Chidi giving Eleanor lectures on moral philosophy and ethics to figure out how to be a good person so that she can stay in the good place. Eleanor and Chidi then put these different moral philosophy theories to the test by doing “good things” in different situations according to each theory.
On a more meta level, the basic premise of the show questions of what makes a good person, what makes a bad person, and what lies ahead for us in the afterlife. In one of the first laughs of the show, Eleanor asks which religion was right about the afterlife. Michael says that “every religion was about 5% right except for a college kid who got really high on mushrooms and got it 100% right.”
The driving force of the show is the diverse cast of characters and their unique dynamics. Eleanor Shellstrop is self centered, incredibly sarcastic, and, as we see in her various flashbacks, the worst parts of human indifference. Michael is played by Ted Danson, and hits all the right comedic notes as the kooky and eccentric architect of the neighborhood in which the characters live. His curiosity about humans leads to some of the funniest lines in the whole show. Chidi is a cautious academic who is so relentlessly indecisive that conflict gives him a stomach ache.
Eleanor and Chidi’s neighbors are the terminally delightful Tahani Al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil), a fount of humble bragging, hilarious name dropping and insecurity. Her assigned soulmate, a buddhist monk named Jianyu, doesn’t get much to do for the first few episodes but to frustrate Tahani, because he’s taken a vow of silence even in the afterlife. It’s also worth mentioning that the cast is racially diverse as well. Tahani is Pakistani, Chidi is Senegalese and Jianyu is Filipino.
Now, I need to warn you, DO NOT READ ANYTHING ELSE REGARDING THIS SHOW OR SEASON 2. There is a huge plot twist in the last episode that changes everything and will leave your head spinning, especially if you’ve been binge watching the show for 3+ hours as I did when I first watched the first season.
The Good Place is filled with intricate world building, an engaging plot and constant laughs to keep you entertained. With the twist ending of the first season leaving the door wide open for new developments in season 2, i for one at utterly intrigued to see how the show develops.
Author: Danielle Fraser
Editor: Mara Zain