TV review: The Good Place


This is a pretty funny show that has a clever premise. It involves Kristen Bell playing Eleanor Shellstrop, a thirtyish woman who opens her eyes and finds herself facing Michael, an elderly man played by Ted Danson. Michael tells her that she has died but that everything is fine because in the afterlife she is in The Good Place. Who ends up in The Good Place is determined entirely by an algorithm that assigns a numerical score (positive or negative) for every single act on Earth and then computes the final tally. Only the people who have lived the most exemplary lives on Earth end up there. He tells her that The Good Place is divided up into communities of exactly 322 people with each community designed by an architect of the afterlife and this one is his first design. Each person is assigned a soul mate and hers is Chidi Anagonye (played by William Jackson Harper) who was a professor of moral philosophy when he was alive.

The problem for Eleanor is that she quickly realizes that there must have been some kind of mistake because she was nowhere close in goodness to her fellow inhabitants. In fact, flashbacks to her life on Earth reveal her to have been a highly selfish, rude, unethical, and inconsiderate person. In order to avoid being discovered and sent to The Bad Place, she confesses her problem to Chidi and pleads with him to keep her secret and in return she promises to learn from him how to be a good person. He is conflicted about participating in a deception but overcomes his initial misgivings and agrees. The first season deals with Eleanor’s efforts to learn what it means to be good.

It is not often that you find a comedy that involves philosophical discussions about morality and ethics and goodness, refers to ideas from Aristotle, Plato, Hume, Machiavelli, and Kant, and compares philosophies of utilitarianism, consequentialism and the like. It is a tribute to the writers that they weave those in quite naturally without being pedantic. There are no discussions about any gods or any religious texts or any religions, except for a cursory mention at the beginning.

There have been two seasons of the show on NBC TV but only the first season is available for streaming so far on Netflix and that is all I have seen. I am looking forward to seeing the second.

Here’s the trailer.

Comments

  1. Owlmirror says

    “The Good Place” is a very frustrating show to discuss, because the many plot twists mean that it’s impossible to get into details without major spoilers.

    I note that NBC has the 2nd season online:

    https://www.nbc.com/the-good-place

    It says that you can “Link your TV Provider to unlock all content”. I haven’t tried it, but there it is.

  2. says

    There are a handful of shows I will make sure I watch when they air and this is one of them. It is very, very good.

    And good news! The second season holds up.

    And bad news! Good News was cancelled, but I’ve only seen a couple of episodes. Apparently it was a decent show.

    And good news! Brooklyn 99 was cancelled by Fox, but saved by NBC! While not as cerebral as The Good Place it is still one of the finest comedies on television today. I recommend it highly, and especially because it allowed us to see how fantastic respected dramatic actor Andre Braugher is at comedy.

    And bad news! If you’re a fan of Arrested Development… Well, I’ve got some bad news…

  3. Marshall says

    Season 1 was fairly amusing for me, but Season 2 is where I felt the show really started to take off. I consider Season 2 to be superior in both plot and humor and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

  4. Jo Seyton says

    How strange – it took me several tries to log in…

    Anyways – this is one of my favorite shows, both first and second season. I am really looking forward to season 3 as well!

  5. mynax says

    I have introduced it to several friends, who have mostly enjoyed it.
    There is an extended version of the first episode of season 1 (a couple short scenes and some lines that were cut out here & there, about 5 minutes longer), and similar extended versions of many 2nd-season episodes available various places, possibly including your cable provider’s On Demand listings.

  6. mynax says

    In particular, in the first episode extended edition, there’s a scene at Tahani’s party where Eleanor is trying to get drunk, and can’t. She calls up Janet, who explains that it’s a malleable rule; she has to decide to allow herself to get drunk, which she proceeds to do. (But she can’t decide to allow herself to swear.)

  7. busterggi says

    Its an amazing show and I’m looking forward to season 3.

    How can a show like this exist when shows like Mama June and Roseanne also get aired?

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