If you’re a fan of the silliness of Parks and Recreation, The Office or the beloved shows from that illustrious Thursday night comedy lineup, The Good Place might fill a bit of the void you’ve felt since the fateful day that the last episode aired. In fact, The Good Place was created by Michael Shur, writer and/or creator of those shows listed above that you loved as well is SNL and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Or, you know some of the only other bright spots in your TV lineup.
Ok, the plot of this show sounds cuckoo, so just stay with me for a minute. Eleanor Shellstrop, played by the lovely Kristen Bell aka lady goals, has just died and awakes to find herself in ‘The Good Place,’ where all the righteous and noble people of the world go when they meet their demise. She is introduced to this utopia by Michael, aka Ted Danson, the architect of this particular neighborhood in The Good Place that she’s been sent to.
There’s only one problem: Eleanor is a terrible person and it’s pretty clear that her being in The Good Place was the result a very, very terrible mix-up. She was supposed to have gone to The Bad Place for all the crimes she committed throughout her life. Not necessarily real crimes (though we won’t rule those out), but through her general curmudgeon-ness, rude attitude, and lack of empathy for a single other human on Earth. Honestly, she’s great.
In spite of the initial strangeness of the plot, this show is, in my opinion, a return to the kind of comedy that NBC blessed us with back in those mid-2000s glory days. There are one-liners and jokes for days. The writers are doing amazing things and I want to be allowed in their writer’s room. Probably just to observe at first, because they are funny and probably intimidating. Ted Danson’s character Michael is particularly enchanting, and I’m not just talking about his bowties. He’s not a human, though he looks like one, and he tries so hard to mimic human behavior, resulting in some delightful laugh out loud moments. This is arguably his best role to date.
Disclaimer: I’ve never seen Cheers or anything else he’s been in but I’m going to double down and say I’m right.
I’ve already mentioned how great Kristen Bell and Ted Danson are in this show, but wait, there’s more! A lot of actors in the ensemble cast of this show are new faces for me, but they are amazing none the less. There’s William Jackson Harper as Chidi, Eleanor’s supposed soulmate (yes, everyone gets a soulmate in The Good Place, duh). Chidi is a philosophy professor and despite his better judgment, helps Eleanor try to be a better person so she can blend in. He’s straight-laced, proper, and seemingly the total opposite of the moral shitstorm that is Eleanor.
Then there’s Jameela Jamil as Tahani, the woman that all other women love to hate. She’s perfect – she’s gorgeous, tall, has lovely hair, an aristocratic British accent, and brags constantly about her famous friend Taylor and her other friend Kanye, and wait, one more, Beyonce. She can throw a party in an hour that would take the rest of us a good year to plan. She’s magic and it’s not fair. As I’m sure you can guess, Eleanor feels the same about her.
Manny Jacinto plays Jianyu aka Jason Mendoza, a Buddhist monk who’s taken a vow of silence who’s really a part-time DJ, part-time backup dancer, full-time idiot. He also doesn’t belong in The Good Place, if you couldn’t guess. He’s Tahani’s soulmate, what a lovely pair.
And finally, there’s D’Arcy Carden as Janet, the robot assistant for the neighborhood. Think of her like Siri with a body and more feeling in her voice. She can answer any question you have. Janet is perfection from her silky hair to her perfectly matching vests and skirts.
These characters work together to be amazing, annoying, hilarious, and heartfelt. It’s a cast that makes you invested in the side characters just as much as the main character. They’ve managed to find a perfect balance of archetypal personalities to make a believable world. Just like you couldn’t pick your favorite character on Parks and Rec (Leslie…no wait, April. No Andy! Oh wait, of course, Ron! No, I give up, all of them), you won’t be able to decide who you like best in The Good Place. I’ll just come out and say I watched all of season one in one day. And then quickly moved on to season two – even suffering through (grasp) commercials. That’s how captivating this show is.
The first season is streaming on Netflix, and season two is currently airing Thursday nights at 8:30 EST on NBC.