Imagine that every decision you make, every action you take is given a numerical ranking. The better the deed, the more positive the score. The more bad you do, or lack of action you take, results in a negative score. Now imagine at the end of your life that those scores are tallied up and used to determine if you get into “heaven” (The Good Place) or are sent to “hell” (The Bad Place).
That is the set up for the NBC comedy The Good Place starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. The Cheers alum plays Micheal, an engineer who designed The Good Place, a heaven like structure where everyone is matched up with their soul mate and get to spend the rest of eternity in their dream house, doing everything they always wanted to do. Bell plays the recently deceased Eleanor Shellstrop. However there has been a great cosmic screw up and this Eleanor who shared a name and time of death with another Eleanor Shellstrop, should be in The Bad Place, but has arrived in The Good Place by mistake. Can Eleanor keep her secret from everybody, avoid being found out and sent to The Bad Place to be tortured for the rest of time?
It’s a bit of a high concept for a 30 minute sitcom, but the results are hilarious. The show can be a bit zany and quirky at times, but that’s what I like about it. It’s not just a series of one-liners between bursts of a laugh track. The style of comedy reminds me of something like 30 Rock. It is also not your typical comedy in that it is very much one story sliced into 13 shows, with episodes usually ending on cliffhangers and then the next picking up where things left off.
The show has a lot of fun with it’s supernatural like elements. From the AI personal assistant Janet who appears to anyone who simply calls out her name, to the inability of any residents of The Good Place to use curse words. “Fork” and “shirt” will take on whole new meanings to you after you watch a few episodes.
Bell and Danson are fantastic and the rest of the cast is made up of unfamiliar faces, but all do a great job. It helps that the writing is very smart and it’s nice to see a show with a plan, and not just worried about inventing insane situation to make people laugh for 22 minutes each week before hitting the reset button and starting all over again the next week like nothing happened.
Unfortunately, the first season surprisingly just ended after it’s 13th episode. Or maybe it is fortunate if you need to catch up and are waiting for it to appear elsewhere to allow you to do so. Or if you are like Ryan and only watch stuff when it has ended. The season ending caught me by surprise as the show had just returned after the winter break, but the interwebs tell me it was always designed to end it’s run when it did. This wasn’t a case of it’s order being cut short by the network as the ratings have been good.
I haven’t done the best job of selling this and am trying not to get into plot elements too much to avoid spoilers as some of the best parts of the show are what Eleanor and the rest of the cast discover about The Good Place and themselves along the way.
There’s been no official announcement for a season two yet, but it seems like it is only a matter of time.
So give the first season a shot. There’s only 13 half hour episodes, which I’m sure is less than whatever you binge watched last on Netflix.