The Good Place is the newest comedy on NBC and episode one was brilliantly funny. Created by Michael Shur and with a pilot directed by Drew Goddard this take on heaven versus hell is motherforking hilarious. (Sorry could not resist that one. Substituting variations for swear words is an addictive weakness, hence my helpless love for The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.)
Kristen Bell plays Eleanor Shellstrop a recently deceased shining example of humanity’s finest. A woman who tirelessly fought to free people wrongly accused of crime and a selfless member of society.
She is greeted by Michael, who designed the village where she has been assigned. He explains the basic setup of the place and shows her around. Finally Eleanor is shown her new home, based on her tastes when alive and Michael shows her POV clips from her giving and caring life.
Unfortunately none of the scenes on screen are true as this was not Shellstrop’s life at all. She explains to her “soulmate” Chidi later that it is a case of “right name” wrong woman. Eleanor sold dodgy medicine to sick old people and was employee of the year for five years running.
She tries to convince her Senegalese soulmate, who really was a great person when he was alive, to help her out. He is undecided initially as Chidi can see that Eleanor is basically selfish and self centered.
Shellstrop then meets her next door neighbor,Tahani Al-Jamil and her soulmate Jianyu. Al-Jamil has a house that dwarfs Eleanor’s tiny place and both she and Chidi are invited to a party.
Everyone in The Good Place all seem to be one step away from saint-hood. Eleanor is the odd one out and her presence disrupts the manufactured harmony of the place.
Things begin to happen.
Giant bugs and animals invade the place while Ariana Grande sings in the background. This is the first disturbing thing that happens when Eleanor decides to stay instead of telling Michael the truth.
The Good Place, feels like a second cousin to Harlan Ellison’s Strange Wine short story Hitler Painted Roses. In his story the wrong person is sent to Hell it and causes the foundations of the place to fall apart. Although in this instance it is “heaven” where “bad” Eleanor is staying and not “The Bad Place.”
This episode seems to set up the remainder of the season. It shows us that when she was alive Eleanor was self centered and selfish. She was also shallow and non-caring. Terrified of being sent to the other place, where an audio clip proves that it is not a barrel of laughs, she talks Chidi into helping her stay.
It looks to be a hilarious uphill battle. Even in “The Good Place” Eleanor is selfish, stuffing her bra with shrimp and getting drunk at Thani’s party. As she does not belong there, things are going pear shaped.
It rains garbage after giant ladybugs and frogs terrorize the residents. Both occurrences are directly caused by Eleanor. This version of heaven, which has a lot of frozen yoghurt places, is going to be in trouble if Chidi fails to make Eleanor the type of spirit who belongs there.
Bell’s character is exceptionally funny. Her repeated attempts at swearing, “bullshirt, fork, and ash-hole” along with her delight at finding out she can actually say “butthead” makes Eleanor adorable despite being hugely self centered.
Harper is spot on as the Jiminy Cricket of “The Good Place.” His character is so nice that he struggles to help Eleanor even when she acts true to form.
Danson makes the perfect angelic architect and exudes a curious blend of incredible wisdom and innate niceness. He also looks alike a heavenly Orville Redenbacher.
This comedy is a goodnatured look at the subject of heaven and hell based upon religions currently practiced in the world. It also feels like a comic nod to The Prisoner, only inasmuch as the village has that sort of vibe going for it.
The first episode of The Good Place ends with Eleanor working on her “goodness” factor. After Chidi leaves her to it, someone slips a note under Eleanor’s door, “You don’t belong here.” Who else knows that the wrong woman got in?
The Good Place airs Mondays on NBC. Stop by and check it out. It will make you laugh in all the right places.