Summary: It’s good so far. And it’s on NBC! Roll credits.
The Good Place, not to be confused with The Good Wife debuted Monday night on NBC and it was a light, fun romp that really showed off the butterfly-light comic whimsy of creator Michael Schur (Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn 99).
We open with lead character Eleanor Shellstrop, played with verve by the beloved Kristen Bell. She opens her eyes and sees this:
And then she meets Michael, played with aplomb and veteran perfection by Ted Danson, the mayor/demigod of this place —whatever this place is — and she finds out she’s dead.
That’s when the fun begins.
Eleanor is treated to a welcome video, has her ideal house waiting for her, and all she had to do was be an amazing person in real life. It’s very very similar to Defending Your Life. There’s a judgement, though it happens before you arrive. If you made it to The Good Place? Well, the grand total of your Earthly deeds — both positive and negative — gave you a score high enough to gain admission.
(Click on any of the pictures to make them go big.)
There’s a very clear system, you see, and that’s the best thing about The Good Place. These graphics and this kind of humor.
Who didn’t have the numbers to make it? Mozart, Elvis, Picasso. Basically every artist ever. Every president except for Lincoln.
Florence Nightingale almost had the numbers, but sadly she didn’t make the cut.
So what happens to everyone who goes to the other place?
“Don’t worry about it,” Michael says with a smile. (Later we get a tiny audio clip of the other place which is filled with hellish screams like in Event Horizon and you hear a woman yell ‘That bear has two mouths!”
So you have to be really, really good to make it.
Eleanor finds out that each person also has their perfect, ideal soulmate waiting for them in The Good Place. “You know that feeling you get when you see two otters holding hands?” Asks Danson’s Michael, “That’s how you’re going to feel every day.”
I was kind of hoping for some shenanigans where Eleanor has to actually find her soulmate, but no. He shows up in her double-wide sized, Icelandic primitive style, clown-themed house.
Everyone in The Good Place gets exactly what they want. So that’s Eleanor’s house there on the left, next to a neighbor’s house.
Anyway, here’s her soulmate, Chidi, played note perfect by William Jackson Harper.
So it’s all frozen yogurt and instant-call Cortana-like assistants and flying in The Good Place. Not flying in planes. Flying. Like Superman.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, for starters, it’s Michael’s first neighborhood. He admits that he’s been on the bench for 200-odd years and his boss just gave him the call to the pros. He worries that he may have missed something.
Oh, and I almost forgot….ELEANOR DOESN’T BELONG HERE.
On Earth, she was a selfish, drunken boor. Michael got her name right, but none of the memories she sees are hers. She hates small houses and nice people and she despises clowns.
The Good Place is a romp, in the old fashioned sense of the word. It’s breezy and fun and if you’re tuning in to a comedy, it should make you laugh. I did. Several times, in kind of a pleasant, surprised way.
The Good Place airs three episodes this week as it settles into its official time slot on Thursday nights. The creator is a pro, the cast is fantastic and the setting is imaginative and easy. It’s mind candy. It’s inspired fluff. It’s a world I’m going to enjoy going back to. On NBC! Who would have thought…
So far, Kristen Bell and the inane graphics are the best things. But the rest of it is pretty damn fun.