The Good Place
Continuing with the “embarrassment of riches” theme I started in my review of The Marvelous Mrs. Maizel, this show is forking brilliant. No bullshirt! It opens with Kristin Bell sitting on a couch looking at a wall where she sees the words
WELCOME! EVERYTHING IS FINE
While she is taking that in, Ted Danson opens a door and invites her into his office. He says “You, Eleanor Shellstrop, are dead. Your life on Earth has ended, and you are now in the next phase of your existence in the universe.” She replies, “Cool.” So he explains a lot of things, like none of the world’s religions got it right, there is no heaven and no hell. What this is, is the Good Place. There is also a Bad Place. He tells her that she is in the Good Place because of her work as a lawyer who fought to keep innocent people out of prison. Then he shows her new ultra-modern residence, which looks as if it might be made out of Legos, and is furnished with lots and lots of paintings of clowns, because when she was alive she loved clowns. But it isn’t long before we learn that she was never a lawyer, doesn’t like modern architecture, and she hates clowns. There’s been a mistake. She is actually a total sleazebag who never did a good deed in her life.
And it takes off like a rocket from there. In addition to Danson, the supporting cast is terrific.
William Jackson Harper plays Chidi Anagonye, a Senegalese professor of ethics, a man who not only sees the other side of every argument, he can make up another dozen bullshirt arguments. He is so conflicted and hesitant to take a real stand on anything that he takes hours to decide which flavor of frozen yogurt he wants. (The Good Place had dozens of frozen yogurt shops, for some reason, and it is all wonderful.)
Manny Jacinto is a Buddhist monk who took a vow of silence when he was seven or so … except (SPOILER WARNING) he is actually a moron from Jacksonville, Florida, perhaps the dumbest character I’ve ever seen in TV.
D’Arcy Carden plays Janet a relentlessly cheerful … not a girl, not a machine, not a computer, not a robot, as she repeatedly tells everyone. Whatever. She contains all human knowledge, including everything you ever did in your life, can answer any question in a millisecond, and can magically produce anything you ask.
And last but certainly not least, Jameela Jamil is Tahani Al-Jamil, an almost-six-foot-tall, fabulously wealthy, fabulously cultured, fabulously beautiful, fabulously philanthropic, fabulously connected and quite perfect (on the outside) cunt that Eleanor hates instantly. She knows everybody important on a first-name basis, including all the royal family and every musician and actor or celebrity of any kind who amounts to anything, and name-drops relentlessly.
This mix is just about perfect, and the writing is sharp and wickedly funny. Sometimes a gag or cultural reference will slip by me at supersonic speed, and it’s only when the shock wave hits me a few seconds later that I laugh in stunned surprise.
The writers get off some of the oddest and funniest quips I’ve heard in a long time. I mean, really vicious shots are taken at pop icons who I suspect might not have totally been on board with some of the jokes.
Finally, you want to know how good it is? One episode, “The Trolley Problem,” won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. That just about says it all, especially since it was also competed against another episode of the show, which I think most people agree tends to split the vote. I’m really looking forward to the third season.