Good things come to those who wait. After NBC closed out a second era of brilliant primetime comedy (underwatched, yes, but beloved nonetheless) with The Office, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, and Community, it seemed unlikely the network would match its own established standard of greatness (remember Animal Practice? Cause I sure do).
Truthfully, it hasn’t. NBC is now known as home of The Voice and Blacklist and
masochist heaven This Is Us. But between the drama and reality and shows about Chicago is The Good Place, the last sparkling vestige of the network’s comedy heights — and it is delightful.
The Good Place is the story of Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), a recently deceased and less-than-compassionate person who finds herself spending the after life in the Good Place. It quickly becomes apparent, though, that Eleanor doesn’t belong in the Good Place — not because we’re judging her, but because she’s immediately made aware of a clerical error that confused her with another Eleanor Shellstrop.
Instead of coming clean to head honcho Michael (Ted Danson), Eleanor seizes a second chance at and decides to prove herself worthy of a spot in the good place. You may be hard-pressed at times to find reasons she should be there, but there are plenty of reasons to watch her journey on the show.
It’s damn funny
Death is not an inherently funny topic, but from the moment Michael describes Eleanor’s final moments to her, The Good Place commits to a sunny absurdity that pervades every episode. Eleanor learns to be good through her alleged soulmate-turned-confidante Chidi (William Jackson Harper), an academic who describes their situation as “a putrid, disgusting bowl of ethical soup.”
D’Arcy Carden never gets old as Janet, an all-knowing humanoid cyborg that answers residents’ questions about literally anything, and Adam Scott makes a delightful guest appearance as leader of the Bad Place. As Eleanor gets to know her neighbors, they all get backstories and personalities which subvert stereotypes and add endless humor to what could’ve been a boring old dichotomy of good and evil.
It’s excellent world building
From the pilot of The Good Place, as with any good science fiction or fantasy show, we’re introduced to a new world with established rules. The Good Place has neighborhoods, each with 322 meticulously selected people. The entire place is perfectly calibrated; if anything goes wrong, such as the presence of someone who doesn’t belong there, it can have catastrophic consequences. Also, you can’t swear, so Eleanor says “fork” a lot.
It’s impressively diverse
Bell may be the de facto white female protagonist, but the arbitrariness stops there. Eleanor is arguably no more central to the show than Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Jason (Manny Jacinto), or Tahani (Jameela Jamil). The Good Place itself is gloriously diverse (with very few white men…it’s almost as if they aren’t perfect) and when the real Eleanor arrives, she’s played with endearing sincerity by Tia Sircar.
At just 13 episodes, The Good Place is a breezy binge full of jokes about death and moral turpitude, and it deserves to be part of your Peak TV repertoire.
The Good Place returns Wednesday at 10 p.m. on NBC. You can stream Season 1 now on Netflix.