Show about heaven reaches for high concept
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.
William Jackson Harper as Chidi and Kristen Bell as Eleanor in The Good Place, an NBC comedy series created by Michael Schur.