Making the most of eternity
Only a few weeks after appearing on many critics’ year-end best-of lists, the popular and unerringly of-its-time American sitcom, The Good Place, finally comes to free-to-air.
“Everything is Fine,” says a message on the wall in front of Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), who can’t quite figure out how she got to this antiseptic waiting room. Soon she’s ushered in to see Michael (Ted Danson), who announces with a great flourish that Eleanor is dead and has, thankfully, arrived at the Good Place to spend eternity.
The cheerfully enthusiastic Michael, part angel and part administrator, pairs her up with soulmate and university ethics professor Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper) and installs them in his self-designed neighbourhood alongside fellow soulmates Tahani Al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil), who claims to have been “Baz Luhrmann’s muse for awhile, quite fun that was”, The Good Place and silent Buddhist monk Jianyu Li (Manny Jacinto).
But hang on: Eleanor knows for a fact she wasn’t a good person, so to keep Michael from discovering she’s been sent to the Wrong Place, she enlists Chidi to give her a crash course on philosophy and ethics (unusual territory for a sitcom).
The Good Place is the brainchild of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Parks and Recreation creator Michael Schur, and is of a piece with those two programs in offering fundamental decency with a touch of surrealism (cursing is impossible, which leads to such Eleanor malapropisms as “fork!” and “shirt-for-brains”.
Think pieces have been written and academic papers are surely forthcoming, but for now, welcome to the good place of The Good Place. Monday, 9.30pm, ABC.
Kristen Bell and Ted Danson in a scene from the first season of