By Dustin Cabeal
Why a TV review? Because there’s a section for it and I always wanted to have more than just comics reviewed on the site. That and with all the new shows out I get curious and like to check them out. The Good Place stayed with me, but not for the right reasons. The premise is easy to sum, but the show actually takes seven minutes or so to get you to the answer. The afterlife isn’t what you thought it was and there only exists a “Good Place” and a “Bad Place.” Kristen Bell… sorry, Kristen Bell’s character Eleanor is a bad person that has been mistakenly put into the “Good Place.” For whatever reason, she reveals this to her soul mate, and he faces the dilemma of helping her become a good person or narcing her out. Pretty simple. Things go crazy when all the crap Eleanor talks on day one, suddenly come to life on day two. Now the clock is really ticking for her to be a good person.
I’ll start with the good things about The Good Place. The acting is solid. I don’t believe for one second that Ted Danson is actually a nice person, but since he’s gone grey everyone wants him to play “aged mentor” and he does it quite well. I still don’t believe that he’s a good person IRL. Bell is believable. She embodies the character and after the training wheels are taken off you no longer look at her and say, “Hey, that’s Kristen Bell.” Her character’s dedication to swearing is commendable and probably the only humorous thing about the show. To clarify, she can’t swear and is automatically made to say something in the place of swearing like “Fork” instead of “Fuck.” I have no such censor. It also looks wonderful. The set they’re using and will likely use to death, looks great. You want to be there it’s so joyously designed. The CGI doesn’t feel out of place and if used correctly could add a lot of humor in the future of the show.
Now for the bad. It has a concept that can’t last. Why? Because if she’s bad shit goes south quickly. That and the cliffhanger to the second part of the first episode reveals that someone knows she shouldn’t be there. Why they played that card instantly is beyond me. Back to the flawed concept. It’s like My Name Is Earl. Great show, but after the first season, you understood that it was going to be the same shit over and over. Earl messes up; we get a funny flashback; he makes amends. Same thing here only the flashbacks are pretty terrible. I felt like I was watching Samantha Who: Part 2, New Who, which is to say it’s the same flawed premise. Anything that hinges on a character overcoming their flaws quickly, rather than at a steady pace is never going to last. They’ve shot themselves in the foot with the rules of their own universe. Simply put, Bell’s character is only funny when breaking the rules and when she has to adapt and change it makes it less funny.
Bouncing back to the casting, I should mention that the supporting cast feels worthless. They can act, but right now they’re completely unnecessary to the story. Jameela Jamil’s character is given a lot, and I mean a lot of screen time, and she does absolutely nothing. You could tune out while she talks because none of it is useful to the story or her character. It is the epitome of filler dialogue.
My last point is nitpicky. The show opens with an explanation of sorts about “The Good Place” as it calls it because it’s trying to avoid religionist undertones. Ted Danson aka Michael, explains that all religions have it about 5% right. He goes on to make a terrible joke that breaks the logic of the world’s own rules later on, but that’s not the point I’m making. The problem is that after they blow off religion, they completely and totally do a Christian heaven, just with technology and no mention of God. I’m not offended by this, but it seems like if you’re going to say all religions were wrong, you should bring a stronger version of what’s “right.” Again, it’s me being nitpicky, but it seemed like a really odd way of calling it heaven without calling it heaven. Call it what it is and just be done with it since the title of your show is already pretty annoying.
If you watch this first, double episode, you may find it hard to make it to the end. I imagine they did that because they knew the first episode would chase people off. I almost didn’t finish it and wondered if I would make it to the end. While I enjoy Bell’s character, I really can’t stomach watching a show just for her while her character breaks the logic of their own show. That and comedy plays it safe for the most part waiting to be offensive or sexual in the flashbacks alone. I could just watch My Name is Earl if I wanted to see that again, but I don’t.
The Good Place – E.01 “Pilot/Flying.”
Director: Michael McDonald
Writers: Michael Schur, Alan Yang