The Good Place: Code 55 Emergency Doomsday Crisis – Baggage (Review)

 The Good Place - Season 1

The sinkhole from last week’s episode is getting bigger and this causes a “Code 55 Doomsday Crisis.” The Good Place becomes too dangerous to walk about in so everyone is housebound.  Chidi continues to teach Eleanor and Jianyu about ethics and it appears that Tahani has some baggage from when she was alive.

While it seems that Jianyu, aka Jason Mendoza, is getting the hang of ethics pretty quickly, Eleanor is moving a bit slowly.  Although she does allow someone else to go ahead of her at the frozen yoghurt line.

Once it dawns on her what she has done, Eleanor rushes home to tell Chidi. However, something is not quite right with the former ethics professor.

Michael is at Tahani’s eternal house party when Janet arrives with horrible news. The sinkhole is getting bigger rather than fixing itself.  He and Janet go to inspect the problem and leave their holographic computer console at Tahani’s house.

Tahani browses through the thing and learns that her “ranking” in The Good Place is second from last. This brings memories of her childhood and the constant competition between Tahani and her sister.

Chidi and Eleanor get into a long running argument about her taking up all of his time. Michael brings a couple who live near the expanding sinkhole to stay with them until the problem can be fixed.

The new couple attempt to help Eleanor and Chidi to get past their apparent issues.

Tahani’s flashbacks show that her childhood and later life were less than ideal.  Her “good works” were not so much a selfless dedication to doing good but an attempt to better her sister and impress her parents.

To be fair, Tahani’s mother and father doted on her sister so much that in their will they spelt her name wrong. Tahani declares that sis can have it all and dedicates her life to outdoing her parent’s favorite child.

The Good Place - Season 1
Rebecca Hazlewood as Kamilah,  Jameela Jamil as Tahani Al-Jamil

Here then is just the hint of a crack in the Tahani exemplary life. Yet another denizen of The Good Place who may not really belong there after all. Even Chidi, when questioned by the house guests, has a secret.

After a long questioning session, he says that he never had girlfriend when he was alive and that getting used to having a soulmate is difficult. The confession, which is partly to keep the new soulmates from guessing that Eleanor does not belong in The Good Place, sounds dodgy.

Tahani comes out to bring Michael and Janet some donut holes. “Get it,” she asks. She hopes to be instrumental in closing up the sinkhole. Instead the sinkhole affects her and Michael must knock her out.

Later the gaping hole in the village mysteriously fixes itself and Michael is confused and frightened. He asks his new assistant Eleanor to help him figure out what is wrong. Michael has no  idea why the sinkhole suddenly repaired itself.

Chidi and Eleanor make up. She gives him a “Fork off Eleanor’ sign and vows to give him some space.

It is apparent that it is not just Eleanor’s presence in The Good Place that is causing all the problems.  Jianyu does not belong either and it is looking like even Tahani may be there under false pretenses.

The system for selecting the new occupants of the village looks to be broken.  Perhaps there are a number of residents who do belong but the newer occupants may be the problem.

There may be many who have “life” baggage that affects their “calm” in this vision  of heaven.

Kristen Bell is a delight as Eleanor and Ted Danson is sheer perfection as the “newbie” Michael.  Kudos to both a Jamil and Jackson Harper as Tahani and Chidi.  Garden and Jacinto also impress in their roles as Janet and Jianyu.

The Good Place airs Thursdays on NBC. Tune in and see if Michael figures out that his new assistant my be part of the problem.


The Good Place: Jason Mendoza – Forking Silence Was Golden (Review)

 The Good Place - Season 1

Rather interestingly, NBC have shuffled The Good Place from Mondays to Thursdays.  This could be because Timeless is starting on 3 October and the the network wants to give the new drama some breathing space.

Overall The Good Place is performing well with an average of over 6 million viewers per show. (Although moving the show to Thursday cut their viewing figures almost in-half.)

Slipping into episode four, which takes up right after Jianyu confesses he does slipped the note under Eleanor’s door, we learn that the Taiwanese monk is really a Filipino wannabe DF from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  He too is a very square peg in a round hole.

He wants help from Shellstrop who is panicking at the idea of being caught and chucked out of the forking place.  Eleanor is stunned that Jianyu knows she does not belong.

He reveals that she drunkenly told him the night of the welcoming party. “I kind of vaguely remember that,” she admits.  Eleanor realizes that if she wants to stay in the Good Place, she needs to form an alliance with Jason.

While those two head off to his “bud-hole” Tahani is recruited by Michael to host the new restaurant opening. The “Good Plate” will be the event of the neighborhood and Al-Jamil is up for the challenge. The two engage in excited small talk and Michael reveals he is thinking of wearing suspenders.

(Sidenote to the writers here:  Tahani never flinches when Michael uses the term suspenders. In England the items used to hold up one’s trousers  are called “braces.” Suspenders have to do with garter-belts and hose.  So come along chaps, if writing for an English bird with a cut-glass accent, do your homework.)

The Good Place - Season 1

Later, Tahani comes home to swap her gloves and Jianyu speaks. Tahani decides that Chidi and Eleanor are helping her soulmate to talk.  (Another odd “English” phrase is used here, “Whisper in your snicker box .” A phrase never once heard over a 32 year period in that country. There are plenty of real quirky, to American ears anyway, British sayings that would have sufficed.)

At the gala event Jianyu just starts speaking when Eleanor destroys the chef’s three tier cake.  At the exact same time a giant sinkhole appears in the restaurant. People panic and flee the venue.

Tahani believes this to be her fault but Michael talks her into re-hosting the re-opening.  Meanwhile Chidi is invited into Jason’s bud-hole and he joins Eleanor in trying to talk the imposter into taking ethics training.

Back at the Good Plates eatery, the sinkhole (that Michael said would repair itself in a matter of days, is getting bigger.  Eleanor is overjoyed when Jianyu joins the class and she discovers she is the smartest student in the class.

Apart from the English gaffes, there were two outstandingly funny gags in the show. Eleanor’s obsession with “knowing yourself” meaning masturbation and Chidi’s exasperated reaction to it. And the “bud-hole” gag.

As the show continues a couple of  things become clear. Michael is a novice in every sense of the word and there must be more “mistakes” in The Good Place.

It would not be surprising to learn that all the occupants are “boo-boos”  After all, would these extreme examples of “good-two-shoes” be so quick to blow their own horns? So far the only person in the place who seems genuine is Chidi.

The Good Place - Season 1

Kudos to Jameel a Jamil for channeling her inner Penelope Keith. (Keith played upper class neighbor Margo in the 1970s sitcom The Good Life) Although Tahani is a tad more bubbly than Margot…

The Good Place is great fun and hearing  Eleanor call someone a “shirt head” or say “fork” never ceases to amuse.

The series now airs Thursdays on NBC.  Tune in and see if Jianyu learns “ethnics” or not.


The Good Place: Tahani Al-Jamil (Review)

 The Good Place - Season 1

The Good Place veers away from any catastrophic events this week.  Although there is a really funny “burning bush” gag part way through. In episode two, Eleanor zeroes in on Tahani Al-Jamil as the obvious suspect for slipping that note under her door.

Chidi is doing his level best to get his soulmate as deserving as the rest of the denizens of this manufactured nirvana. Sadly Eleanor clearly does not belong here, as the note said, and she knows it.

Shellstrop may indeed realize that she is one bad apple in this barrel, but this does not stop her arguing ethics with Chidi and bad talking Tahini.  She is convinced that the tall and beautiful girl with the cut-glass accent is hiding something.

As her soulmate comes close to giving up, Michael makes a move to divert the former ethics professor with a worthwhile hobby. Nothing Michael suggests seems to fit and both men are disappointed.

Chidi is crushed to learn that  Michael hated the book he was writing when he died.  While the “head” of The Good Place attempts to find something for Chidi to do Janet goes through a number of changes in personality.

Eleanor gets a flowery bush from Tahani as a housewarming gift.  She immediately begins attacking her neighbor verbally and the plant starts to die.

Later, she goes to Tahani’s house with her own gift; a basket of pears. Al-Jamil explains that pears are bad luck to her soulmate; Jianyu,  and throws them in the bin.  Jianyu meditates as the two women talk.

After Tahani leaves the room, Eleanor steals her diary hoping to find that her neighbor is not so perfect after all. When she returns home the small bush catches fire. Chidi is horrified.

(The bush reacts to Eleanor’s anger and distrust of Tahini. It is a sort of Al-Jamil barometer, or mood-bush.)

As the show progresses, Michael gives up on Chidi and Eleanor talks  her soulmate into continuing his book. Michael agrees with his decision to keep writing but insists that Chidi throw his first effort away.

Eleanor goes to see Tahani and finds her crying. It seems that Jianyu will not talk to her at all. This continued vow of silence is driving her to distraction and Eleanor comforts her.

After this the two women bond and Eleanor improves herself by showing not just compassion but recognizing someone else’s pain.  Returning home, the burned bush has been rejuvenated. It is now a leafy, tall plant with lots of flowers.

Chidi congratulates Eleanor on her progress. Earlier he also convinced his soulmate that her guilt manifested the note slipped under her door.

The next day Tahani suggests to Michael that he take Eleanor on as an assistant. She agrees to help him figure out why all these strange things are happening in the village.

Later at home another note is slipped under her door. This asks for a meeting at the town square. She turns up and finds Jianyu. He wrote the first note because  he knows Eleanor does not belong in The Good Place.

Neither does he.

Jianyu tells Eleanor that he is freaking out “Homie” and that he needs her help. It looks like The Good Place may be “good” but it is far from “perfect” as two people are there who do not belong.

Thus far the show is funny. Bell does a great job vacillating between “wannabe” good and bad. Danson is spot on as the bumbling newbie who designed the place as is Carden as his temporary assistant.

Jameel a Jamil is delightful and Manny  Jacinto just killed it in this episode.  Harper is sheer perfection as the somewhat reluctant ethics coach for Bell’s character.

(On a sidenote: Congratulations of the property department for coming up with a scone that looked very close to the real thing and not some strange American triangular bit of pastry. Well done.)

The Good Place is excellent fun and it will be interesting to see how long it will take for more “mistakes” to turn up.

The series airs Mondays on NBC.


The Good Place: Episode One Motherforker (Review)

 The Good Place - Season 1

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.

The Good Place - Season 1
Jameela Jamil as Tehani, Manny Jacinto as Jianyu

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.

The Good Place - Season 1
Kristen Bell as Eleanor, William Jackson Harper as Chidi

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.


‘Fargo’ Season Two Reunites ‘Burn Notice’ Stars

Bruce Campbell and Jeffrey Donovan
News that FX, utilizing the sharper than sharp pen of Noah Hawley, is doing a second season of Fargo is pretty exciting. Even more so is the knowledge that two Burn Notice stars are reuniting in the show. Jeffrey Donovan and Bruce Campbell will both be in the return to the brilliant criminal quirkiness that is Fargo.

The first season of the FX series, based on the Coen Bros big screen award winning cult classic 1996 film starring William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare, did much better than anyone could have predicted. The success experienced by Joel and Ethan Coen  was not expected to transfer successfully to the small screen.

But maestro Hawley utilized the verse of Fargo and introduced new characters and a splendid set of actors to play them. Billy Bob Thornton played the creepiest villain ever, Martin Freeman’s character was a nebbish everyman who murders his wife and Allison Tolman became a star.

The cast list for this second season foray into Fargo “world” includes Ted Danson, Patrick Wilson, Kirsten Dunst, Jeffrey Donovan and Bruce Campbell. The last two were costars on the long running USA network series Burn Notice. In that Miami based show Donovan played the burned (blacklisted) agent Michael Weston and Campbell played his old pal Sam,  a former Navy Seal. In Fargo season two Campbell is slated to play Ronald Reagan and Jeffrey is slated to play a crime family member.

On paper, at least, it does not look like the two will be playing many scenes together. The second season is set in the 1970s, specifically 1979, and Reagan has not yet been elected president. He would be just gearing up his presidential campaign. Considering the chemistry that Bruce and Donovan had in Burn Notice it is hopeful that the crime family resides in California and the two will have a few scenes together.

Donovan has not been overly busy since the USA series was cancelled, he is working on something called Shot Caller and its status (on IMDb) is “filming.” Campbell is also not overly busy although fans are eagerly awaiting the series premiere, in October, of Ash vs Evil Dead.  He is not currently “filming” anything else.

The two Burn Notice actors were a great double act in the show but despite this little reunion, they may be just a little overshadowed by the storyline chosen by Noah Hawley for the second season of Fargo. Information released about the plot reveals that this season is set in Minnesota and…Danson will play his age, Martin Freeman’s role will be played by Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons, and Patrick Wilson is playing Alison Tolman’s dad.

Plemons, who was brilliant as Todd, the thug with the crush on Lydia Rodarte-Quayle;  the herbal tea drinking drug boss (played by Laura Fraser), should have no problem fitting in another criminal type scenario. While there are a number of impressive names involved with this newest visit to Coen Bros territory, fans of Donovan and Campbell can take a moment to be excited about their pairing.