It starts off looking like they've set up basically a weird sitcom. Our protagonist, Eleanor (Kristin Bell), wakes up one morning to find that she is dead, and is now in The Good Place. Only the very best people (chosen by a terribly scientific algorithm) get into The Good Place; everybody else goes to The Bad Place, which you wouldn't want. And The Good Place is so terribly *nice*. They serve all your favorite flavors of frozen yogurt. Everybody is there with their assigned (and perfectly selected) soulmate. It isn't heaven per se, but it's lovely.
There's only one problem: Eleanor doesn't belong here. She was really a fairly mediocre person in life: not evil per se, but utterly self-absorbed for nearly her entire life. She's a fish out of water, and things are going wrong as a result.
Like I said, an obvious sitcom, right?
Except that it isn't. Quite unexpectedly, The Good Place is *also* structured as a novel, and they make no bones about it. Each episode is numbered, not named, and they follow hard upon one another, often starting seconds after the previous. To my considerable surprise, it's structured as tightly as any thriller.
Mind, it's *not* a thriller -- it's a comedy, and an unusually funny one for modern network TV. Bell turns out to have better comic timing than I would have given her credit for, and the cast play off against each other brilliantly. There isn't a lot of depth here -- the show is painting in broad strokes -- but episode by episode you start to really like all of our characters.
Mostly, though, this is a ride through the unexpected. It is *so* rare for me to watch a show any more and constantly be going, "I have no forking idea where this is going next", but that's the case throughout the first season. Every episode is full of jaw-dropping WTFery, while still kind of making sense within the scenario's demented logic.
I won't say that it's at the same level of once-in-a-decade brilliance as Westworld. But it doesn't cost an HBO subscription, and it is a *heck* of a lot more fun. Check it out...
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