The Good Place: a heavenly show about death and morality
Ted Danson and Kristen Bell star in a glitzy sitcom that turns out to be studded with surprising moments of erudite observation
The Good Place is a shiny American sitcom – the kind with roughly 1,000 episodes per season and a conspicuously attractive cast. You could be forgiven for thinking it is a hollow, gimmicky show – and I’ve certainly spent time secretly binge-watching when my boyfriend is out. But several episodes in, you will most likely have an epiphany: that this show is more poignant than you expected. Elucidating, even. The fast-pace, 20-minute-a-pop setup camouflages a sophisticated, often delightful show.
The premise of The Good Place, which has just been renewed for a third season, is this: a brash, sin-riddled blond woman called Eleanor (played by Kristen Bell) arrives in the afterlife. She is greeted by a superhuman named Michael (played by Ted Danson, in a series of bowties), who informs her that she died in a shopping mall car park and entered “The Good Place”. It is not heaven, precisely, but an ethereal neighbourhood specifically designed to please the top percentile of human beings for eternity. If you did enough objective moral good in your life, you accrued the points to earn a spot here for an infinite stay in an idyllic village dotted with frozen-yoghurt stores and plush topiary. As a bonus, you get a soulmate. Eleanor quickly realises she does not belong here: her life of reckless selfishness and rank disregard for other human beings surely earned her a lava-hot spot in “The Bad Place”, a more traditional sort of hell. What follows is a strangely compelling battle of personal ethics, integrity and loyalty.