Okay, The Good Place is in season two so it’s not technically a new show, but I just started watching, so it’s new to me. My TV viewing is generally limited to political news and sports these days (when I’m not writing, of course), but when The Good Place was recommended to me recently, I gave it a try.
An excellent decision.
The show starts out when Eleanor Shellstrop (played by Kristen Bell) finds herself in the afterlife. Though not surprised to be dead, she is a little surprised to find out that she’s ended up in the Good Place since she’s pretty sure she wasn’t a very good person in life. It’s not long before she realizes that there’s been some kind of bureaucratic mistake, but since she has no interest in spending the hereafter being eternally tortured in the Bad Place, she does her best to hide in plain sight from the Good Place’s architect Michael (played by Ted Danson) as well as the other obviously-in-the-right-place residents.
Upon her arrival in the Good Place – a charming neighborhood with a preponderance of frozen yogurt shops – she is shown to her new home and introduced to her soul-mate. The home, which is supposed to be her dream home, is anything but – especially those creepy clown pictures on the walls – and she’s not so sure about her supposed soul-mate Chidi, who was an ethics professor in life, but she does her best to fit in. The other main characters are the couple next-door (who have a much larger, nicer house) – Tahani, a philanthropist, and Jianyu, a silent Buddhist monk .
Eleanor’s new neighborhood has some unusual quirks to it, like the fact that there is no swearing (“we turned that feature off”). When she tries to swear, it comes out as “this is shirt” or “what the fork?” Silly, maybe, but it’s amusing. The show is a comedy, but it does a great job weaving in interesting and thought-provoking bits here and there, especially once Eleanor enlists the help of her ethics professor soul-mate Chidi, to help her become a better person who truly belongs in the Good Place.
The show is fast-paced (the episodes are only 30 minutes long) and fun; I binge-watched the entire first season (13 episodes) in about two days. It also does a great job keeping me engaged and really interested in what is happening with the characters.
For those who haven’t seen the show yet, I won’t provide any spoilers, but I will say that the writers did a wonderful job with the ending of the first season. It’s a great example of a turning point that makes a story feel brand new again. Season two has been just as good so far, with lots of unexpected things, including the Trolley Problem. I can’t wait to find out what is going to happen next.
I’ve been listening to writing podcasts lately and the one yesterday mentioned the Venn diagram of the perfect story – that intersection between Character, Plot, and Concept. I’d have to say that so far, the Good Place is right there in the center of the diagram. It has characters I really care about, a strong plot, and a great story concept.
And really, who wouldn’t like a comedy that routinely talks about the ideas of Kant and Kierkegaard?
So, have you seen the show? If so, what did you think of it?
If you haven’t seen it, do you have any TV shows or movies to recommend . . . you know, in case I finish the current manuscript and have spare time to fill while waiting for the next episode of the Good Place?