Pilot: The Good Place

The Emmys were Sunday! The fall TV season is starting! I’m so excited! Woooo!

So, my plan is to cover at least the pilots of The Good PlaceConviction, and Frequency, as well as the season premieres of Agents of ShieldFresh off the BoatThe Real O’Neals, and Madam Secretary. From there I’m not sure how I want to cover shows; I might do weekly posts for each of the dramas and occasional stuff on the comedies, I might do a weekly roundup up of everything. I’m really not sure yet.

Anyway, The Good Place premiered last night!

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This is, like, the only promo image and it’s so boring!

The Good Place is about Eleanor, played by Kristen Bell, a woman who was low-key awful in life but mistakenly ends up in the approximate equivalent to heaven after her death. With the help of her supposed soulmate, Chidi, she decides to try to learn to become a better person so that she can fit in in the afterlife.

It’s a fine premise, and a lot of shows probably wouldn’t have gone much further. But The Good Place wisely makes this premise a little more interesting with the inclusion of Ted Danson’s character, Michael, who is some sort of angel-like individual who designed the afterlife neighborhood Eleanor and Chidi are living in. It was his first, in fact, and the show directly implies that it was his mistake that caused Eleanor access to the “good place.”

Not only does this provide good explanation for why Eleanor is in the afterlife, it also conveniently explains away any potential contradictions between these characters being the best of the best as far as morality goes, who were specifically chosen to live together for their social cohesion, and the necessary need for conflict and character flaws in a piece of fiction. Eleanor’s stipulation that these people aren’t really that good is not just a horrible woman lashing out, it’s a potentially true statement.

The show makes other implications that could feed later storylines, too; the fact that only the absolute best of humanity make it to the good place, while everyone else is doomed to an eternity of torture, seems, uh . . . kind of harsh. I’d be surprised if the show didn’t try to tackle that, as well as some other questions that arise about a supposedly perfect afterlife when it’s actually working as intended.

The show also has a lot of good stuff going on visually. The main area of the afterlife neighborhood is this sort of primary-color-filled European town square that has a really distinct, attractive look to it, and there’s generally a really strong sense that this show had a good budget behind its design. Actually, the budget seems pretty good in general: every time Eleanor does something particularly selfish or otherwise bad, there are repercussions in the neighborhood, such as an Ariana Grande-soundtracked attack of giant objects and creatures that caps the first of the two episodes that aired last night. There was some serious CGI going on there, and while it was far from being a Marvel movie, it looked pretty decent.

Plus, you know, the show’s quite funny. Kristen Bell has good comedic sensibilities and Ted Danson does a fantastic job with his overly-genuine character. The other characters didn’t get a ton of room so far, but Chidi’s actor (William Jackson Harper, who according to IMDB was a major character in PBS’s The Electric Company, which explains why he seemed so familiar) did a really good job with what he had and, right, I’m talking about the funniness–the jokes were good! The non-swearing was great, Tahani’s fluttery “better-than-thou but in a nice way” shtick worked really well, etc. etc.

I was expecting this to be an okay-to-decent show that I’d probably give up on after a couple of episodes, but last night’s premiere really worked for me. I’m definitely sticking with this one for a while.

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