“Welcome! Everything is fine..” The Good Place elevates the sitcom to heavenly heights
We as humans are fascinated by the concept of the afterlife. Our ethics, our philosophy, our religion is ultimately guided by what happens after we die and how our actions in life affects where–or when, or how–we transcend into eternity. It’s an exhaustive intellectual topic.
But leave it to Michael Schur, The Good Place’s showrunner and the mastermind behind such beloved series as Parks and Recreation andBrooklyn Nine-Nine, to turn life’s looming moral quandry into sitcom gold.
Starring Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, Jameela Jamil, William Jackson Harper, Manny Jacinto and D’Arcy Carden, The Good Place is arguably the most groundbreaking show on TV right now, which is all the more impressive considering it’s a network sitcom.
The premise is immediately thought-provoking and high-stakes: Eleanor Shellstrop, played by Bell, has died and is welcomed to the “Good Place” by Michael, an eternal higher power architect played by Danson, who has constructed his first Good Place neighborhood occupied by 322 recently departed souls.
As it turns out, “Every religion guessed about five percent” of how the afterlife works, according to Michael (But Doug Forcett, who got extremely high one night in the ‘70s, managed to guess 92 percent accurately and is honored with a portrait in Michael’s office). Every single action a person takes is judged and evaluated on a point scale beyond means of human comprehension, and only the best of the best can end up in the Good Place.
Which means, most people end up in the Bad Place, where even Mozart, Picasso, Elvis, every U.S. President (except Lincoln) and Florence Nightingale end up (although Nightingale was so close). Those who go to the Bad Place suffer eternal damnation and torture.
Unfortunately, there is no Medium Place for average people. They all go to the Bad Place, which rubs Eleanor the wrong way… because she’s not supposed to be in the Good Place at all.
As seen through flashbacks, Eleanor was actually a terrible person, and the Eleanor Shellstrop Michael thinks she is, a selfless philanthropist and clown enthusiast, isn’t her at all.
When paired with the real Eleanor’s soulmate, professor of moral philosophy Chidi Anagonye, played by Harper, Eleanor reveals she’s not supposed to be in the Good Place.
From there, chaos ensues, with each episode ending with an unforseen twist that if I said much else, I’d be giving the fun away.
There is no sitcom right now–and possibly in television history–that is as ambitious and rewarding as The Good Place is. Do yourself a favor and binge on it ASAP.
Luke Maguire, a senior, studies English. He is the Arts & Entertainment Editor of Le Provocateur.