Let me ask you some questions.
Do you like Master of None and Emmy Winners of color? Because “Chapter Two” of The Good Place is written by Alan Yang. Do you like Cabin the Woods as produced by Joss Whedon? Because the pilot, “Chapter One,” was directed by Joss Whedon’s protege Drew Goddard, who wrote and directed that movie. Drew is also one of the executive producers. Another executive producer? Thanks for asking! It’s none other than Parks and Rec show runner Michael Shur. Michael not only created this show, he also wrote the first episode. So many hats he wears!
The show stars Kristen Bell as Eleanor Shellstrop, a dead woman who finds herself lucky enough to end up in the Good Place. It’s not necessarily Heaven or Valhalla or the Promised Land. It’s just a nice place to be.
In the Good Place you can have whatever you dreamt of on Earth: the perfect house, the perfect soulmate, the perfect frozen yogurt flavor blend. Oh, and you can fly. Ted Danson is the architect of Eleanor’s suburban neighborhood and it looks like a pretty Pinterest board from Home and Garden: the Afterlife Edition. (Shout out to the art directors and set dressers!)
Except in this meticulously crafted perfection, there’s one major flaw. Eleanor’s not supposed to be there. Her name matches that of a dead humanitarian, but her IRL antics were nowhere close to good. The flashbacks of her drinking, littering, and ignoring basic Lady Code and human decency are cringe-worthy. But by the end of each episode she’s learned something and the world is righted.
I think Kristen Bell is stellar in this comedic role. She gets to burp, be gross, be crass, and frankly be everything ever listed on a Buzzfeed list of “Stuff We Hate about Basic White Girls.” But Bell gives her character a piece of humanity that grows with each episode.
Thanks to Bell’s performance and the writing on the show, I’m never bored. Because at the end of the day she’s worth cheering for. She recognizes she was a garbage person on earth and for better or worse she has to change. Or else it’s a one-way ticket to the Bad Place.
The rest of the ensemble is worth watching, with or without Eleanor. I want the dirt on all the people in this world, from her soulmate Chidi, a former morals and ethics professor from Senegal, to Tahani, Eleanor’s polite, beautiful, so sweet she-makes-your-teeth-hurt, British neighbor. I completely understand why Eleanor hates Tahani and I love watching it.
I gave this series a full Three View (a termed coined by my Telemazing producer Joseph Mwamba) and watched the first three episodes on Hulu. So while the first episode left me literally asking my TV “whaaaa?”, the second and third episodes bring us further into the world and into the community. There’s a major twist at the end of the third episode that also takes the show out of the world of “Star-Vehicle” and into the world of “Best Ensemble.”
What makes this show work and what gives it life is the community at large. This show is an ensemble piece, with each actor playing their idiosyncrasies with heart and gusto. There’s plenty of growth to be had. But the set up of this world is that anything can happen and I have full faith in the team at the helm.
If you have further questions, please refer to Janet, the Siri of The Good Place.