In the US: Thursdays, NBC, 8.30/7.30c
The Good Place‘s biggest problem is that it’s a really good idea for a TV show. A really good idea. For a TV show. Not for a long-running series.
After it all it posits a perfect afterlife (‘The Good Place’) managed by Ted Danson that’s filled entirely with the best of the best. Even some of the people you’d think were good enough to make it there (eg Florence Nightingale) were rejected. Trouble is Kristen Bell’s there and she shouldn’t be. She’s a bad person who should have gone to The Bad Place. And as long as she’s there doing bad things, the perfectly constructed The Good Place is at risk of collapsing, which means one of the genuinely good people there (William Jackson Harper) has to show her how to be good.
And that was pretty fun for the first two episodes. Certainly, a lot of CGI budget went into making it fun and giving life to all these fantastic ideas. But after flinging all its great ideas at us in those first two episodes, the next episode felt like something of a spent force. Kristen Bell do bad thing; William Jackson Harper explain to her why it bad; Kristen Bell learn lesson… well, kind of.
That’s not going to be an interesting show to watch. It certainly doesn’t help that the show’s idea of utopia and really good people is that really good people (eg Jameela Jamil’s wealthy quasi English/Pakistani/French/Indian philanthropist) are irritating. It’s like the producers watched Huis Clos (In Camera) and thought to themselves: “Never mind Hell being other people. Heaven’s bound to be just as bad.” Sure, it gives Bell someone to be annoyed at, but it also wants you to quit The Good Place for the Bad Place (Starz).
So what the show’s had to do in its fourth episode is make this an even more imperfect utopia and reveal that Bell’s not the only mistake – another denizen should have been bound for the Bad Place. And that made for a return to the form of the first couple of episodes, since it gave the show a bit more grit and provided a pecking order – the other imperfect denizen is stupider than Bell, so she has someone she can be better than.
With this foundation, I’m a bit more confident about The Good Place going forward. There’s a greater range of plot and character options available to the writers and the jokes seemed better, too. All the same, the Good Place doesn’t really seem like a good place any more. I do wonder if the producers have a message here, but I’ll wait to see what it is.
Barrometer rating: 2
Would it be better with a female lead? N/A
TMINE prediction: Could well get a second season, but I’m not sure if it’s got much more in it than that