The Hindu faith includes as one of its tenets reincarnation until the soul ultimately joins Brahman, Judiasm is vague AF about the afterlife but assumes there is one of some sort or another, and Christians have heavenly streets paved with gold to look forward to, or a fiery lake of burning sulfur for all eternity. Mike Schur, better known in some circles as Moses Shrute, has created an alternative from endlessly cycling through lives or sitting before a throne in a white robe, and it’s known simply as “The Good Place.”
In his new series for NBC, Schur has dreamt up a pastel — think: Italian Riviera not New Mexico — neighborhood, replete with cobblestone streets, fro-yo shops and the unbelievable boon of a hangover-free afterlife. Other benefits of living in Schur’s paradise include being matched with your soulmate for all eternity, living in your ultimate dream home, and having access to Janet, an omniscient, wish granting robot-like person.
Sounds nice, right? It’s also suuuuuuper elite, reserved for only the ultimate do-gooders. Turns out every single action humans engage in has a point value. Saving a child from drowning nets 464.60 points but telling a woman to smile decreases your karmic life score by 53.83 points, as well it should. When your time is up your final score determines whether you make it to the Good Place or the Bad Place. The curve is high though, Honest Abe made it, duh, but Florence Nightingale didn’t.
Unfortunately for whatever unnamed powers that be there was a bit of a glitch in the Good Place’s system when two women with the same name died at the same time and switched places in the afterlife. Kristen Bell is pitch perfect as a recently deceased (male enhancement drug billboard truck accident) Eleanor Shellstrop who has mistakenly landed in the quirky and wonderful neighborhood meant for the human rights lawyer of the same name who died trying to save Bell from the erectile disfunction truck. Bell’s Eleanor is a self proclaimed sort of sucky former telemarketer with a penchant for vulgarity which is forking hilarious, because in the neighborhood in which she is living cursing is impossible, though flying is not.
Bell’s straight man is William Jackson Harper as Chidi, a legit good person, an ethics professor whilst alive, who upon learning Eleanor isn’t actually supposed to be in the good place tries to help her learn to be a good person through a series of ethical philosophy lectures and OTJ training. Chidi’s exasperation and shock at Eleanor’s antics, both before and beyond the grave, are beyond charming as is his willingness to forgo his immediate happiness to ensure her eternal safety.
The neighborhood Eleanor and Chidi live in was created by a bow tie clad, celestial being named Micheal. Ted Danson brilliantly plays this bumblingly benevolent master architect who has chosen, despite grave concerns from upper management, to live with the humans in his neighborhood to act as a sort of guide to their hereafter. When he realizes, through a series of Dali-esque disasters, that his utopian creation is fundamentally flawed he tasks Eleanor to help him root out the source of the disruptions.
The Good Place is clever, whimsical, beautiful and brilliantly funny and more importantly unlike anything else on network television. With a penchant for cliffhangers Schur has viewers waiting impatiently for the show to pick back up again in January and without the parameters of the mortal world literally anything is possible when it does.