Give me a show with Ted Danson and I’ll be a happy man were my thoughts going into The Good Place and I was not disappointed.
It begins with Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) being greeted by Michael (Ted Danson). The set up is that she has died and entered ‘The Good Place’ but has been confused with someone else of the same name. Eleanor decides not to tell Michael and, following that, things get messy. Eleanor is introduced to her soul mate, Chidi (William Jackson Harper) who, after the first couple of episodes tried to teach Eleanor how to be a good person, so that she can earn her entry to the Good Place posthumously.
The show is intentionally a little bit silly, and Danson’s swings between being confident and neurotic are brilliantly played throughout the series. Bell’s balance between being obnoxious and likeable is also tread very carefully. However, by far the best placed character is Janet (D’Arcy Carden), a human-shaped entity who serves those in The Good Place like Siri on crack. Throughout the series, due to the events that unfold, Janet becomes corrupted and, in many ways, more human. This is done with some great writing and an amazing performance. All of the performances are strong and most of the characters are intentionally irritating. Much like with Bell, the other actors hold this fine balance well.
Visually, the show looks great. The Good Place is almost Willy Wonka-esque is it’s childlike innocence. Constant subtle changes are always happening and when the characters leave, the other locations are so, so different – usually bland, empty and colourless. When problems arise the world, quite literally, begins to break and we see things like flying shrimp, giant frogs and rainclouds of garbage. It’s a little trippy, but it works. The music reminds me of those old 60’s style American serials and it’s not hard to imagine that in that world, the music is actually playing.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of lulls throughout the series and some episodes that simply don’t need to be there, but the performances hold it all together and, in places, the writing is incredibly strong. A cameo appearance from Adam Scott as a badass demon brings some extra comedy to the show and juxtaposes the clean and shiny setting well.
The first series was strong. I’m currently a little of the way through the second, waiting for new episodes every week and, thus far, have thought it to be a little weaker than the first. Following a twist, it lost some of its edge and feels like there is nothing left to reveal. It’s nice to see different parts of the world, such as the offices where the Good Place was built and the world expanding could lead some exciting plot developments. The writing has remained strong and the dynamic of the characters has changed to bring them all on a more even level. I’m hoping for another interesting development to pique my interest and keep me watching.