Welcome one, welcome all, to a brand new feature to this blog which I have (tentatively) decided to call: Weekend Watching. This will be a hopefully regular post uploaded on Saturdays or Sundays (hence the “weekend watching”) where I talk about a film, TV show, or maybe even YouTube channel/video that I’ve particularly enjoyed recently. I’m hoping to spotlight at least one thing to watch each week and hopefully someone at least will get a kick out of these posts – I will, if no one else does!
This week I will inaugurate this brand new feature with a TV show I did not know I would enjoy so thoroughly when I first came across it. Its premise sounded a little iffy, with the potential to be terrible if done poorly, and even after the first couple of episodes, I still wasn’t sure if I was actually enjoying it… and then I realised I was up to like episode 6 so maybe (just maybe) there was something compelling about it after all. To what do I refer? Why, it’s The Good Place of course!
The Good Place is an American fantasy comedy series created by Michael Schur which is broadcast on NBC and available on Netflix UK – which is where I watch it! Currently wrapping up its second season, it stars Ted Danson and Kristen Bell in the lead roles, but is full to the brim with an amazing supporting cast of William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, Manny Jacinto, and D’Arcy Carden and guest stars including Adam Scott, Marc Evan Jackson, Jason Mantzoukas, and Maya Rudolph.
Its basic synopsis is thus: The show follows Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), an ordinary woman who enters the afterlife and, thanks to some kind of error, is sent to the Good Place instead of the Bad Place, which is definitely where she belongs. While hiding in plain sight from Michael (Ted Danson), the wise architect of the Good Place (who doesn’t know he’s made a mistake), she’s determined to shed her old way of living and discover the awesome (or, at least, the pretty good) person within. Helping Eleanor navigate her new surroundings are Chidi (William Jackson Harper), her kind, open-hearted “soul mate” who sees the good in people but finds himself facing quite a dilemma; her seemingly perfect new neighbors, Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jianyu (Manny Jacinto); and Janet (D’Arcy Carden), the go-to source for any and all information in the Good Place. (Synopsis taken from the show’s website)
Although principally a fantastical premise, the show revolves around the interrogation of moral and philosophical questions about what it means to be a truly good person and whether such exemplary moral behaviour should be rewarded by going to ‘the good place’ in the afterlife. This show is clever as well as hilarious and I don’t think I’ve ever grown to love a group of such misguided idiots as much as I have whilst watching The Good Place.
For me, Jameela Jamil has been the standout revelation of the series – I didn’t even know she could act, and I didn’t know her character, Tahani, who name drops famous friends such as Princess Diana, Taylor Swift, Kanye West, and Pippa Middleton, would come to be one of my favourites in the entire show. Unsurprisingly, Ted Danson’s Michael is a glorious figurehead for the show and helps to shepherd its characters through ‘The Good Place’ as the architect of all that they survey. No spoilers but during the season two finale they finally (finally) made that illusion to Cheers that I think everyone was waiting for at some point given Danson’s casting. Not only does Adam Scott pop up playing a character about as far away from Ben Wyatt as is humanly (or demonically) possible, Maya Rudolph absolutely kills it as a guest star late in the second season – need I say more?
Despite how convoluted a show such as this could become (hello Lost, and yes creator Michael Schur is referencing it at various points), The Good Place is self-aware and clever enough to never become too wacky without having a purpose behind it all – that is why I think I have taken it to heart in spite of – and, in fact perhaps because of – it’s seemingly outrageous premise. Fans of Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and perhaps Pushing Daisies will likely relish this aptly-named ‘deadcom’, but I implore all of you to give it a go!