If you seek supremely silly, but intellectually stimulating television, then ascend to the heavens of “The Good Place.” Featuring Kristen Bell’s hilarious star performance and a refreshing focus on moral philosophy, “The Good Place” offers truly intelligent comedy.
Title: "The Good Place"
Year it began: 2016
Where it can be seen: NBC, Netflix
Who’s in it: Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper, Ted Danson, Jameela Jamil, D’Arcy Carden and Manny Jacinto.
Typical episode length: 22 minutes
Number of episodes to date: 26
Brief plot description: After her death, Eleanor Shellstrop wakes up in a planned afterlife community for people who led exceptionally good lives. Realizing she is there by mistake, Eleanor convinces her assigned soulmate Chidi Aagonye to teach her the philosophy of doing good, even as she interacts with her neighbors and the town’s mysterious architect, Michael.
Why it’s worth watching: “The Good Place” offers first-rate situation comedy, with wickedly clever writing and a fantastic ensemble of actors. Created by Michael Schur, “The Good Place” succeeds with its high-concept vision of a town designed to bring bliss to amazingly ethical people. At the heart of the show is the simultaneously hilarious and touching partnership between Bell’s Eleanor and Harper’s Chidi, as the intellectual and upright philosophy professor overcomes his disappointment at discovering the soulmate he had always desired is a shiftless trespasser, and decides to help her become a good person.
Frequently incorporating lessons in which Harper compellingly explains actual philosophical concepts, the show asks thoughtful questions as Eleanor tries to beat the odds and keep her spot in the heavenly “Good Place.” Besides the perfect chemistry between Harper’s kindly Chidi and Bell’s brutally honest and sarcastic Eleanor, the show features many fine performances. Danson is wonderfully weird as Michael, a superior being who constantly grapples with chaos affecting the town he designed to be perfect. Jamil is delightful as the charmingly pretentious Tahani Al-Jamil, a seemingly perfect resident whose very perfection antagonizes the volatile Eleanor. Jacinto is a revelation as the manic Jason Mendoza, a gloriously immature and inarticulate would-be rapper and DJ obsessed with his hometown Florida. Carden provides many deadpan laughs as the ever perky robot assistant Janet.
With its mixture of heady philosophical subjects and celebrity name-dropping, “The Good Place” offers a sublime mix of highbrow and lowbrow comedy that is truly television heaven on earth.
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