Remember when we thought Lost was about dead people in a bizarre limbo working out their redemption? Reboot the idea as a fantastically funny sitcom and you get NBC’s The Good Place, a heady yet big-laughs comedy about the folly of phoniness, judgment, and perfection. It’s a new show from Parks & Recreation co-creator Mike Schur and it dazzles with his trademark grace, smarts, and huge imagination.
Kristen Bell is a deft, delightful riot as Eleanor, a seemingly hell-worthy wretch who gets mistakenly sent to a subsection of Heaven, a hyper-real, hyper-calculated planned community of customized homes, soul mates, and too many fro-yo shops. No one has caught the error (yet), but everyone feels the consequences. Her moral incoherence causes surreal storms of giant flying shrimp; her lies cause sinkholes.
Fortunately, she’s been bonded to Chidi, an ethics professor (William Jackson Harper, brilliant matching Bell), so she can keep her cover — and save The Good Place from collapse — by learning to be a good person. But poor, lonely nerd Chidi! He was so looking forward to a heavenly eHarmony hook-up. And spending eternity teaching a white lady how to shape up isn’t exactly a black guy’s idea of paradise.
RELATED: Hear what inspired Mike Schur to create The Good Place
Proving anew his amazing versatility, character actor chops, and comic skills, Ted Danson is fantastic as the celestial imagineer smitten with the quirks of humanity (those suspenders!) and appalled by his own flaws. Broad City’s gym rat D’Arcy Carden steals every scene as Janet, the community’s Siri-esque concierge. The show uses special effects to great comic effect, flashbacks to deepen every character and episode, and a mystery-driven serialized structure to hook you. Who knows Eleanor’s secret? How did she get here? Is everything what it purports to be in this allegedly awesome corner of the afterlife? I have theories!
Nothing is perfect, but the wise whimsy of The Good Place comes close. A-