Show about heaven reaches for high con­cept

Toronto Star - - ENTERTAINMENT & LIFE - Jo­hanna Schneller

The show: The Good Place, Sea­son 1, Episode 4 The mo­ment: The new room­mates

Eleanor (Kris­ten Bell) and Chidi (Wil­liam Jack­son Harper) died re­cently. They now ex­ist in “the good place,” a heav­en­ish, per­fect small town run by Michael (Ted Dan­son). They’re sup­posed to be soul mates. But there’s a prob­lem: Eleanor was nasty on Earth. She’s in par­adise by mis­take.

Her pres­ence has dis­turbed its en­ergy, cre­at­ing a sink­hole.

Michael asks Eleanor and Chidi to house a cou­ple who’ve been dis­placed by the sink­hole: a mar­riage coun­sel­lor and a psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­filer. Chidi pulls Eleanor aside.

“They’re go­ing to catch us!” he hisses. “I am vexed!”

“They have no rea­son to sus­pect us,” Eleanor says. “I think they may have just come here to, you know, swing. I say we do it! It’ll get them to stop ask­ing ques­tions.”

“I’m not go­ing to have sex with some­one to get them to stop talk­ing to me,” Chidi protests.

“Re­ally?” Eleanor asks. “You and I are very dif­fer­ent.”

Cre­ator Michael Schur wrote for Satur­day Night Live and The Of­fice (where he played Dwight’s brother Mose). He co-cre­ated Parks and Re­cre­ation and Brook­lyn Nine-Nine.

Here he’s reach­ing for high con­cept: Can Chidi, who was an ethics pro­fes­sor on Earth, teach Eleanor, whose mis­deeds we see in flash­backs, to be good be­fore she de­stroys heaven?

The prob­lem with any high con­cept, how­ever, is that the air is thin up there.

The writ­ing is twinkly but arch; the ac­tors’ de­liv­ery zippy. But be­cause the sit­u­a­tion is so un­real, it’s hard to in­vest in the char­ac­ters. It’s like strain­ing to keep con­fetti from fall­ing. The Good Place airs on Global TV. Jo­hanna Schneller is a me­dia con­nois­seur who ze­roes in on pop-cul­ture mo­ments. She usu­ally ap­pears Mon­day through Thurs­day.

JUSTIN LUBIN/NBC

Wil­liam Jack­son Harper as Chidi and Kris­ten Bell as Eleanor in The Good Place, an NBC com­edy series cre­ated by Michael Schur.

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