Fall TV… I have a love/hate relationship with the concept.
On the one hand, I love TV and I love having more options for stuff to watch when I feel like ignoring responsibilities or to help me avoid going into a panic on the weekends when I haven’t left home enough and have a hankering to spend money to fill the bottomless void where random crap from Target lives…
But on the other hand, the entire concept of Fall TV is broken in that it requires it to be Fall to come on. I find the lack of Summer TV options to be so insulting. It’s as if the TV is saying “it’s Summer! Go outside!! That’s how you should want to spend your time from May to September! Don’t bother with that expensive screen your whole apartment is oriented around for four months out of the year!” Needless to say, that’s nonsense. In Pennsylvania and tons of other places in America, it gets way too hot outside in the summer to go out, so you end up chilling (literally!) inside with shit to do but watch re-runs and Netflix. While the TV judges you silently with its lack of fresh options.
Getting back to the point of this post, The Good Place is a new series on NBC on Thursday nights, and also available to stream on Hulu which is where I primarily watch it, featuring Kristen Bell as a recently deceased woman who has been assigned to her afterlife. In the show, there is a “good place” and a “bad place” for people to go after they die, in contrast to the idea of heaven or hell. The good place is only available to the people whose actions on earth had the most positive effects, which are shown to us in the orientation video in the pilot. Positive actions include eating a sandwich, ending slavery, and remaining loyal to the Cleveland Browns. Our protagonist, Eleanor, is of course sent to the good place, since otherwise the show title would make no sense. The “architect” of the neighborhood in the good place tells Eleanor that as a lawyer who got innocent people off death row, she deserves to be there. The main issue of the first few episodes of The Good Place is that Eleanor was actually a salesperson who peddled pseudo pharmaceuticals to the elderly and was actually a kind of terrible person. Her mission is to avoid getting caught in her deception.
The show is from Michael Schur of Parks and Recreation and The Office (US) so right off the bat you know it’s going to be good. The interactions between the main characters is hilarious, especially between Eleanor and her neighbor Tahani. I doubt I am the only one who can relate to the concept of kind of hating someone who is perfectly nice because they seem TOO PERFECT; perfect hair, perfect house, perfect body, so smart and thoughtful and full of energy to devote to showing other people how great you are…. Being that this is a character in a show I doubt that it’s just me and Michael Schur who have encountered that particular person in real life. We can all relate to the schadenfreude Eleanor feels when some of Tahani’s insecurities and flaws are revealed. The Architect, Michael, an eternal being, is so oblivious to Eleanor’s deception for seven episodes (that’s how many have aired at the time of this post) and so is Janet, the all-knowing anthropomorphic computer/everyone’s personal assistant for some reason.
The scenes where Eleanor’s existence in the good place cause literal rifts in the world they live in are hilariously executed, from a thunderstorm that seems to blast Ariana Grande instead of thunder sounds and flying swarms of cocktail shrimps, to trash falling from the sky, to a hole opening up in the world, with great visuals and Michael being desperately panicky about what could possibly be wrong and having no idea at all.
So, we know the cast and setting are great, so how about the story line? This is where The Good Place loses a star for me. The first seven episodes are totally wrapped up in Eleanor’s maintenance of her deception which, while I understand is important to set the scene for the show, I found to be a little overly dragged out and I don’t even have a tiny idea of where they are going with it. Yes, I know part of what makes a show good is keeping the audience guessing, but my guesses basically are: 1) she’ll get sent to “the bad place” once she’s found out – unlikely since that sounds like the end of the show to me… or 2) she won’t get sent to the bad place and then what are our options? So, The Good Place is a solid show, at least a 4 out of 5 for me, and I would absolutely recommend it, but I wonder about the longevity of the basic premise and how long they can keep up the series without getting boring. But episodes 1-7, definitely go for it! If you like Parks and Rec or The Office, I see absolutely no reason why you would not like The Good Place. Although, fair warning, there is no documentary crew.
Let me know if you have watched it or if you’re going to watch it and what you think!
Next TV review will be in a couple weeks for Timeless also on NBC. I’m giving it the benefit of a couple more episodes before I form my formal opinion.