Spotted: Kristen Bell wreaking havoc in the afterlife…and it’s as funny as you’d hope. The Good Place premiered on NBC last night, and it has added a welcome bright spot to Fall programming. The one-hour premiere gave audiences the first two chapters in Eleanor Shellstrop’s story. Well, technically it’s more of the epilog to her story – first, let’s recap.
The pilot kicked off by dropping us into an office waiting room where Eleanor (Kristen Bell) is assured via giant word art that everything is fine. As she’s called in, we find out that she has actually died, courtesy of a column of shopping carts, a billboard truck, and an ex-boyfriend EMT who couldn’t save her.
Now, she has arrived in The Good Place – not exactly Heaven, but more of a Heaven Jr. According to Michael (Ted Danson), every religion was about five percent right in their imaginings of The Good Place. Thanks to an intricate point-keeping system – that even Mozart, Picasso, and Elvis didn’t measure up on – Eleanor will spend eternity with her soulmate, in a house made and decorated just for her, in the perfect neighborhood.
Here’s the glitch: Eleanor is not a good person. By her own standards, she’s a medium person at best. Somehow, Michael got her name right but everything else about her wrong. Through various flashbacks within the show, we see what Eleanor’s life on Earth was really like, where she lied, cussed and loopholed her way through. For Eleanor, this means keeping a big secret. But for her “soulmate” Chidi (William Jackson Harper), this means eternity in paradise is about to be one big stomach ache.
Everything about The Good Place is bright. From the frozen yogurt to the location to the outfits, the show is bursting with color, giving the audience a real sense that they’ve been transported to paradise. We’re in great company in this paradise, with secondary characters as entertaining as the main ones. This bodes well as the show will have to continue adding characters to support the storyline. It’s off to a strong start; hopefully, the sitcom avoids the common pitfalls ahead.
But, after watching the first five episodes, it appears that NBC is headed in the right direction.
Creator and writer Michael Schur is no stranger to comedy, creating hit series Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The Good Place is very different, but well done all the same. Schur’s skills are brilliantly displayed through consistently well-placed references (that thankfully don’t feel forced) and biting humor, executed flawlessly by Kristen Bell and her castmates.
Each episode manages to deepen the audience’s connection with each character. Ted Danson’s whimsy never gets old, Kristen Bell’s sass is always funny and Janet, played by Broad City‘s D’Arcy Carden, always pops up at just the right moment. The story itself also expands, creating several different storylines to explore. There are enough branches of the story to keep the show moving, but not so many that you get overwhelmed.
No bullshirt, The Good Place is the comedy to watch this Fall.