Nov 10, 2017

[TV] The Good Place: Season 1 Review

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from The Good Place but it was featured as an iflix exclusive, so that got me a little curious. It wasn't until a friend mentioned that she was pretty into the show that we decided to give it a shot as well. And since we had a standing iflix subscription, it wasn't that hard to get on board.

The Good Place at first seems like an overly traditional comedy with a clear enough setup and even the odd addition of Ted Danson. And initially the show just follows the natural progression of this premise and that's already pretty funny. But then it just pivots into something else entirely and well...that's just good television.

This is not the sort of show I would have expected to feature the odd combination of Kristin Bell and Ted Danson. But it works quite well and I am glad that I was honestly surprised by how the clever the show gets. I'm glad that we gave the show a shot.

Synopsis: The Good Place is an American comedy television series created by Michael Schur. You might remember him from his work on other comedies like The Office, Parks and Recreation and Brookylin Nine-Nine.

Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristin Bell) wakes up with little memory of how she got there. Eventually Michael (Ted Danson) explains that she died in a tragic shopping cart accident but now she's in the afterlife. And when she asks whether or not she's gone to Heaven or Hell, Michael simply answers that she's in the good place. Now she's going to live out the rest of eternity in a home crafted especially for her and matched with her soulmate.

But the first thing that Eleanor confesses to her soulmate Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper) that this is all a mistake of some sort. While she has the same name of the person that everyone seems to think she is, the images of a life of noble work and sacrifice were not from her life. And she begs Chidi as her soulmate (or someone's soulmate) to help her prove that she belongs as he happens to have been a university ethics professor when he was still alive.

What I Liked: At first it was already quite clever that it was an odd mistaken identity story with Kristen Bell doing her best to fit in even though she really doesn't. Throw in some brilliant supporting characters like the perfect woman we all love to hate, Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and her silent Buddhist soulmate Jianyu (Manny Jacinto). And they manage to be just the right sort of personalities to put Eleanor at the most potential for peril and who might make her break her cover.

I really want to talk about how the show gets really brilliant but of course that would spoil things for everyone else who haven't seen the show and it's totally worth holding on to so that you might get surprised. I suppose it makes sense enough in hindsight but the build-up of events and reveals that get to that point are just masterfully done.

And D'Arcy Carden as Janet, the near-magical virtual assistant is probably the best character in the series.

What Could Have Been Better: Eleanor as a character is in that classic category of protagonists that aren't easy to root for she's actually quite despicable. And this makes the initial arc of the show a little tough to cope with as she's quite terrible. And I'm not talking about bad acting or anything - if anything Bell makes it easy to believe she is unlikable and Chidi is a fool for agreeing to help her.

Not every twist in the season is all that great and the role of Tahani also compounds the show with another annoying character whose development doesn't seem all that interesting. Michael is another character that starts out really weak and only becomes a lot more fun towards the end. So this first season needs a lot of investment of time and patience to get through.

TL;DR: The Good Place is a great show with a bit of a build-up for this first season that lays out great ground work for the next one. Stay for the mid-way point in order to get the most out of it before you decide whether or not you're sticking with the show. The season gets a good 4 crazy side-effects of Eleanor's presence in the Good Place out of a possible 5.

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