Reviews

The Good Place (2016) TV Pilot Review

The Good Place follows Eleanor who upon dying finds herself in the afterlife for people who have done good deeds. Realizing that there has been a case of mistaken identity and that in fact she has not been a very good person, she sets out to turn over a new leaf and write her wrongs.

Warning there may be spoilers ahead.

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The Good Place had a lot of things going for it even before the pilot episode aired. With Parks and Recreation creator Michael Schur at the helm, fan favourites Kristen Bell and Ted Danson leading the series and a strong premise in place the show looked to be a winner. A promo released at Upfronts week back in May only served to amp up the hype. With such high expectations, I admit I was a little anxious to watch the pilot lest is be a disappointment. Thankfully my fears were unfounded and The Good Place delivered an excellent two-part series opener.

The show jumped right into the action with Eleanor waking up to finding herself in the afterlife. We (and Eleanor) then see the words “Welcome! Everything is fine.” From this moment I had an idea of what type of comedy this would be. Less forced jokes and laughs per minute like we see so much of on television these days. More intelligent and quirky humour that can keep viewers interested and engaged for the long haul. I’m not sure why I was surprised, Schur is a pro at this type of thing. He cut his teeth on SNL and The Office and gave us the very funny Brooklyn Nine Nine. It’s what he does. And with such an eccentric show concept it makes sense that the humour should match. It was the right direction to go and fits perfectly with series. I actually found myself enjoying it more and more as the episode progressed and after it finished I realised just how the funny this show is. However, understandably it may not be to everyone’s tastes. It seems to be the exact opposite of the classic sitcom. Think more Pushing Daises than Big Bang Theory (which ironically also aired last night).

Whilst its wacky sense of humour and writing was one of the best things about the show, we can’t ignore how well the actors delivered the material. Kristen Bell was, of course, fantastic. I expected nothing less. But it was nice to see how comfortably she fitted into this character who is so different from her most well known role Veronica Mars. She makes the deeply flawed and selfish Eleanor likeable, and we’re soon rooting for her even though we know she should be in “The Bad Place”. Perhaps it’s because the character seems so real. Who among us hasn’t tried to avoid someone on the street asking for donations to their cause? Of course Eleanor does with it so much more sass in this brilliant exchange.

Eco Warrior: “Do you have a second to talk about the environment?”

Eleanor: “Do you have a second to eat my farts?”

Fart jokes are not usually my thing but this one was gold. Eleanor represents the worst of us but she definitely represents a part of us. And she’s not all bad as she proves by the end of the second chapter. The only issue with the Eleanor character is that her interactions have been quite limited to Chidi (William Jackson Harper), her soulmate and the only person to know her secret. Whilst Harper is funny, it would be interesting to see Bell have more scenes with other characters including Danson’s Michael. After his role on CSI and CSI:Cyber it’s great to see Danson take on a more comedic role and Michael seems like a winning part. The scene where he kicks the dog into the sky in a panic is hilarious, and I promise not as horrendous as it sounds. Danson is definitely shining on The Good Place.

But, perhaps the real standout of the show is Jameela Jamil as Tahani, a wealthy but charitable woman who Eleanor takes an immediate dislike to. In the first instalment it seemed as if the writers were setting Tahani up to be the typical perfect yet bitchy antagonist.  However, in the second episode we saw much more depth to her character when she tries to help Michael overcome his worries. She works much better as a friend than a villain and I hope the writers choose to lead her in that direction. It’s not just her persona that makes Tahani a great addition to the show though. It’s how funny she is, albeit unintentionally sometimes. She’s given some great one liners and Jamil delivers them with great comedic timing and enthusiasm. It’s all the more impressive when you consider that this is her first television role. The real joy to see is her interactions with her silent Buddhist monk soulmate Jianyu, played by the brilliant Manny Jacinto. Jacinto does a lot with the part despite having no lines. The pair have great chemistry and I’m looking forward to seeing more of them together.

With excellent writing and acting it’s no wonder that the show works so well but what really ties it up is how the world of The Good Place has been set up for us. Whether it’s the copious amount of frozen yoghurt shops, the list of things that get you into “The Good Place” or the inability to swear (a joke that I thought would get old quick but somehow still had me laughing by the end); it’s clear that a lot of thought has been thought into this show. There is so much attention to detail and as a result the set looks fantastic and the show feels so much better for it. There really are no bad parts to The Good Place. With a strong opening two parter it has set itself up to be one of the best new premiering comedies of the 2016-2017 season.

Pilot Rating: 4/5

Categories: Reviews, TV

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