Tuesday, June 09, 2020

TV Tuesday: The Good Place

Once again, people have been telling us how great a show is for years, but we kept thinking, "Naw, it doesn't sound like we'd like it." We finally tried The Good Place, and my husband, son, and I all love it! Why did we wait so long to try it? We did the same thing with Breaking Bad. I guess we are slow learners. The three of us are enjoying every episode of this smart, funny, warm show about the afterlife.

In the first episode, Eleanor Shellstrop, played by Kristen Bell, suddenly finds herself in the Good Place, after dying on earth. A being named Michael, played by Ted Danson, is in charge of the "neighborhood" that Eleanor has been assigned to. Michael has taken on a human form to make the residents feel at ease with him and is fascinated with all aspects of humanity (though he doesn't always understand them). Eleanor is assigned to her dream house, which comes as a bit of a surprise to her, and her soul mate, a prior philosophy professor named Chidi, played by William Jackson Harper. The surprise is all his, though, when Eleanor admits to him that there's been a mistake, and she doesn't belong there. She was actually a terrible person on earth and did horrible things. She soon realizes, though, that the Good Place is really nice, and she'd much prefer to stay there than get transferred to the Bad Place. She convinces Chidi to help her become a good person, and they embark on an educational journey together, to teach Eleanor all about philosophy and various meanings of leading a good life, while she practices what she's learning. Their next-door neighbors are Tahani, played by Jameela Jamil, a formerly wealthy young philanthropist with a posh British accent, and her soul-mate, a former Buddhist monk, played by Manny Jacinto, who has taken a vow of silence. Eleanor must become a good person and earn her right to stay in the Good Place, and Michael can't know about the mistake.

I'd heard the basic outline of the plot many times before, but what I didn't realize was how clever and funny the writing was, especially in the hands of this talented cast. We all love Kristen Bell in everything she's been in, and I hadn't seen Ted Danson in much since his Cheers days, though my son enjoyed him in CSI. We also didn't expect the warmth of the show; its humor is smart and is combined with an unexpected depth of emotion. Though the setting is silly, cartoonish, and even farcical at times, you really come to care about the characters and what happens to them. It's a brilliant combination that we are thoroughly enjoying.

We are on the last episode of the first season of The Good Place. There are four seasons in all (you may have heard about its big finale just this spring). We are watching it on Netflix. It's an NBC show, so you can also catch it on the new Peacock streaming service or the latest season On Demand or free on the NBC website. You can also stream it on Amazon; most episodes are $1.99 or $19.99 for a full season.

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