The Good Place is an interesting concept. Taking it as a given that there is an afterlife, it further postulates that the traditional Christian model of heaven and hell (or a ‘good place’ and a ‘bad place’) is essentially correct.
Step forward Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), a thoroughly obnoxious woman, who has died and gone on to her just reward. Due to a clerical error, though, she finds herself in The Good Place, or at least one of many thousands of ‘Good Places’: a delightful little town with a few hundred other virtuous souls.
Are there any twists in The Good Place?
All is not as it seems, however, as we find that there are several other people in the town that shouldn’t be there either. A monumentally stupid guy who is told that he is a monk who took a vow of silence (and decides to literally keep his mouth shut), an enormously egotistical woman, and an ethics professor who is utterly incapable of making any decision.
The latter two actually believe that they should be in The Good Place, though they made everyone in their lives miserable. The Architect and de facto Mayor of the town, Michael (Ted Danson) cleverly set situations and events that keep the four on a very high level of stress and worry, effectively making them torture each other.
Why would he do this? Because they are in fact in an experimental version of The Bad Place, pioneered by Michael in a revolutionary new way to torture bad souls. This is all well and good and played beautifully for laughs by the excellent ensemble cast. At least until Eleanor works out the ruse, at which point things start to get properly weird.
The look of the whole thing is elegant and very pleasing (as a heavenly afterlife should be) and the script is tightly written and very funny. Ted Danson is fantastic as Michael, believable both as an Angel and a Demon, which is a hard trick to pull off.
Anything unusual to look out for in The Good Place?
The ethics professor, Chidi (played by William Jackson Harper), is brilliantly uptight and has the best delivery of a single word (‘what?!’) that I’ve ever seen, Kristen Bell is a delight as the morally off-hand Eleanor, and then there is Janet.
Janet (D’arcy Carden) is an afterlife interface. An all-knowing, all-seeing artificial intelligence that can get you anything you want, sort of like a physical embodiment of Alexa. She is also quirky as hell and ridiculously funny.
The best thing about The Good Place, though, is that every time you think you’ve got a grip on the rules of what is happening, they flip the script. So we get three episodes in before you realise that the main characters are in The Bad Place.
Then Michael wipes their memories and re-boots the whole thing, with a few tweaks. A few episodes later it transpires that he has to make the experiment work or he will be stripped down to his component molecules and each one continuously burnt on the surface of a different sun for all eternity. Bit harsh. Unfortunately for him, Eleanor keeps working it out.
Sometimes immediately, sometimes it takes her several months. But after a few more episodes of insanity Michael has racked up an impressive eight hundred and two attempts. Then there is another paradigm shift. It keeps you guessing is my point, it’s consistently funny, endlessly inventive and just a great all-round romp.
Will I enjoy The Good Place?
I can’t recommend The Good Place enough frankly. It looks like it will run for quite a long time yet. It has certainly been picked up for a third series at least. I’m waiting to see when and if they finally write themselves into a corner. I doubt it though, as there’s really no limit to what you could do with the format.
The very idea of more crazy shenanigans with Michael, Eleanor, Janet and the other badniks is enough to put me in my Good Place. Eminently watchable stuff.