The Good Place
TV Series Review
In most television shows, the death of an important character is the end of something. If it's not the end of the show, then it's usually the end of the character. But even in programs wherein the dead might start sucking air again at any moment (welcome back, Game of Throne's Jon Snow! Hope you had a nice rest!), it's often used as a cliffhanger at the end of the season.
But in NBC's The Good Place, death isn't the end. It's the beginning … of one of the strangest, funniest and most problematic sitcoms of the year.
Shuffling Off to the Big Pedestrian Mall in the Sky
Eleanor Shellstrop is, technically, dead.
And upon her death, Eleanor was spirited up to the Good Place—a beautiful, suburban-like heaven filled with green lawns, big houses and a huge number of frozen yogurt shops. "People love frozen yogurt, what can I tell you," explains Michael, who designed this particular neighborhood in the Good Place.
This ain't heaven, mind you—not a Christian heaven, anyway. As Michael says, each of the world's religions only figured out five percent of the big picture. The vibe in this afterlife is a deeply multi-faith one. The Good Place welcomes Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and others with the same good will. The only requirement to get in is to be a really good person. A great person, really. If you're one of humanity's cream of the crop, one of the folks who spends their weekends building homeless shelters and sponsors at least 57 kids overseas, then maybe, just maybe, you can punch your ticket to eternal bli—, er, yogurt.
And if you are good enough, well, you're in for a treat. Michael has designed your particular corner of the hereafter to suit your personality and particulars. For instance, Michael knows that Eleanor was a compassionate lawyer who defended death-row clients, cared for the needy and just loves paintings of clowns done in "Icelandic primitive style." Eleanor's modest, clown-bedecked home in the afterlife is perfectly tailored to her personality.
But here's the thing: Eleanor hates clowns. And she wasn't a lawyer. About the only charity that she's donated to, we assume, is the occasional swear jar.
Eleanor knows there's been a mix-up. She got someone else's slot. But she's not about to come clean—not with her only other afterlife option being, um, the "other" place, a place we don't know much about other than the endless screams we hear.
"I was a medium person!" she says. "I should spend the afterlife in a medium place! Like Cincinnati!"
The Dingy Gates
In some respects, The Good Place is a good show. Some critics are already labeling it great. Indeed, the writing is crisp, the acting (especially Kristen Bell, who plays Eleanor) is sharp, and the setup is, if nothing else, sweetly provocative.
But that same setup also sets up some of the show's big theological problems. While The Good Place isn't designed to challenge anyone's faith—it's really just too silly for that—it certainly runs counter to what most Christians believe about heaven. This "Good Place" is for do-gooders, as measured by secular, progressive standards of goodness, circa 2016. I think it's safe to assume that gun owners would have a few extra hurdles to hop before making it into this politically correct afterlife. Anyone who believes that marriage should be between a man and woman need not apply.
There are other problems, too. Sex is a frequent topic in these Elysian Fields. Wine flows freely up there, and can be consumed without the danger of a hangover (something Eleanor is particularly excited about). And for such a good place, there's plenty of bad behavior. Characters—well, Eleanor, mainly—lie and steal on occasion. And while swearing is forbidden in the Good Place, that just sets the show up for one of its running jokes: forcing Eleanor to say "fork" instead of the f-word and "shirt" instead of the s-word, both of which she says frequently. Oh, and the Good Place has a profanity loophole, too. While harsh profanities are censored via euphemism, other occasional swears go unchecked.
In other words, discerning families may wish The Good Place was a lot better than it actually is.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Kristen Bell as Eleanor Shellstrop; Ted Danson as Michael; William Jackson Harper as Chidi; Jameela Jamil as Tahani; D'Arcy Carden as Janet; Manny Jacinto as Jianyu