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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

PILOT REVIEW: The Good Place


Starring: Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, D'Arcy Carden, Manny Jacinto, and Ted Danson

Created by Michael Schur
Written by Michael Schur, Directed by Drew Goddard

The Good Place is a very quirky new sitcom from the genius behind Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. In this high-concept comedy, Kristen Bell is Eleanor Shellstrop, who is killed in a freak accident and discovers the unique afterlife situation where the cream of the crop go to the "good place" while the majority of people go to the "bad place" based on a calculation of their good and bad deeds. Each community within the good place has a leader, this one is Michael (Ted Danson). They are also guaranteed to meet their soulmates in the good place and Eleanor's is Chidi (William Jackson Harper). There's one major catch though: Eleanor is there by mistake as she was a "medium" person at best and they clearly made a mistake with a lawyer who got innocent people off and worked at child refugee camps. Rounding out the main cast are Eleanor's neighbors, Chidi and Jianyu (Jameela Jamil and Manny Jacinto).

This show is quirky to the max but I actually liked it a whole lot more than I thought I would after reading the premise and seeing the trailer. The show does a magnificent job of creating a unique world populated with funny elements, characters, and eccentricities. It had to create a world that had its own rules and ways of life and it accomplished that difficult task very well. I had to pause the episode when they started listing the points people gained or lost based on their earthly deeds and I'm glad they did because there were so many funny ones (a few of the many funny examples were negative points for being commissioner of an American football league, using facebook as a verb, and overstating a personal connection to a tragedy that has nothing to do with you).

The biggest pull to this show besides its unique concept is the fact that it includes Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. Bell is very enjoyable as the leading lady and she had her usual charm and excellent comedic timing. She played a great drunk though I did find the substitutes for swear words more annoying than funny and I think I could tire of that quickly. And Ted Danson is an absolute hoot as the leader of the the community. He was fantastic in the opening scene with Bell though I think he was used a little too infrequently as the episode went on. Danson really is underrated as one of the most versatile actors in the business today. I also enjoyed William Jackson Harper but not as much as the two leads (though Harper felt like more of a lead than Danson, though it would be better the other way around).

I'm very intrigued to see what this show looks like on a week-to-week basis. With its focus on the afterlife, there are some opportunities for some really interesting storylines and some heartfelt, poignant moments. At the same time, Eleanor's initial conflict within the Good Place seems like a finite story so if this show runs for years, it's going to have to morph into a show that's probably very different in conceit than it is right now. But I like and trust Schur to take this to, well, a good place.

Yes. I didn't have time to watch the second episode in the premiere hour yet but I certainly plan on watching that and more to see where this show goes.

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