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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Heaven Can Wait But What A Divine Comedy! #TheGoodPlace #3weekroundup #NBC

Heaven Can Wait But What A Divine Comedy! #TheGoodPlace #3weekroundup #NBC 

All pictures courtesy of #NBC  


It’s that time again, people. That’s right, we are in the third full week of the new TV season, which means that most of the new TV shows have had three chances to earn your viewership (and earn a good rating from the networks ) to see if they will stick around. While some shows decided to do a two-episode premiere and totally throw off my review timing (I’m lookin’ at you The Good Place), I will try my best to get as many reviews out in the next week and a half as I can. So, what about this new NBC comedy, the only of the season? Is it good like the title implies, or is it another comedy dud destined to fall by the wayside with the likes of The Craig Robinson Show, Better or Worse, and those other shows that you totally never saw and I haven’t the lethargy-defeating energy to Google? Let’s find out about The Good Place (#TheGoodPlace).

The Good Place is sponsored by cute Otters holding hands while they sleep. It stars Kristen Bell as Eleanor Shellstrop, a freshly deceased typical white woman—thank god they didn’t make her typically Asian—who was born in Phoenix, Arizona, went to college in Tempe, uh... Arizona, and then she moved back to Phoenix, Arizona. Ha! Typical white girl. Anyway, we learn on the first episode that Eleanor has died after a tragic but totally understandable shopping cart incident. There may have been some bending down to pick something up involved, a decline, an ex-boyfriend, an erectile dysfunction billboard truck, an unattentive grocery store parking lot cart-getter and some other stuff involved. Doesn’t matter! What matters is that she’s dead now and has wound up in the office of Ted Danson.

Ted Danson plays Michael (a play off of the Archangel Michael as opposed to the awesome me that I am... I assume) who acts as the de facto Mayor of this Good Place. We later learn that he is the designer of this particular non-heaven heaven. Wait, let’s back up a minute and explain the rules of this place as told to us by Michael—the Ted Danson character, not me... But me, too. Just keep reading.

OK, so The Good Place is not heaven in the Christian sense (though, it totally is modeled after the modern-day Christian-atheistic blur of what people think heaven should be like), but is rather just a good place. It’s also not one big conglomerate setting, but a series of neighborhoods that don’t ever seem to come into contact with each other. Each neighborhood/town is designed and run by one de facto, uh... designer and Mayor... and FroYo vendor. People in non-heaven heaven love FroYo. This place is extremely exclusive and hasn’t allowed in tons of famous people. It also doesn’t allow cursing and replaces all cuss words with more PC (and network-friendly) words like fork and bullshirt! Also, you’ll meet your soul-mate who is supposed to be in the same part of The Good Place as you. Oh, and you get your own home that is built to the specifications of your dream home. Most people choose a mansion, but Eleanor gets, essentially, a mix between a post-modernist kindergarten-shapes-painting and a Lego, interiorly decorated with tons of pictures of clowns (finally, we know why the country’s clown outbreak happened; promo for this show). It’s small, it’s cozy and it is quite possibly the most hideous house Eleanor has ever seen.

That’s right, as soon as Eleanor meets her supposed soul-mate Chidi (played by William Jackson Harper), a French-speaking African nerd, she confesses that she hates clowns, would prefer the huge mansion that her neighbors live in, has never been a lawyer (as assumed by Michael) and doesn’t share any of the memories that display on her living room TV. The only thing Michael got right was her name. Here is where the fun starts.

As it just so happens, black-guy-with-the-glasses was actually an ethics professor when he was alive. He spent his entire life doing two things: teaching ethics and writing an impossibly long, boring and exhaustive opus/book on ethics as explored in episode three. With only two options of where to live posthumously: The Good Place or The Bad Place (a not-hell hell), and Cincinnati totally off the table for middling, not great, not bad, typical people, Eleanor has but one option. She has to learn how to be good. And she quickly learns that learning how to Good is really going to be exhausting.

Black Guy with Glasses. They Call Me Chidi 

With much of the first episode atmosphere and world-building, the second episode (it came in a one-hour super premiere) picks up in the middle of a chaos started by the thoughts, overly descriptive, and pessimistic mouth of Eleanor. In her self-centered and selfish mind, she has mentioned everything from Ariana Grande to stealing gold from her neighbors’ mansion to calling her neighbor a long-necked giraffe to recalling her real life/job as a non-pharmaceutical pharmaceutical telemarketer that sells a medicine—well, actually it's a tableted chalk pretending to be medicine—to old people. And because of all of her extraneous mentions of things before she went to sleep, she awoke to chaos with Grande songs blasting through the sky, jumbo shrimp flying around and attacking people, marauding giraffes running the streets, huge chalk-tablet bottles rolling through the town, giant frogs and everyone uniformed in blue and yellow stripes. Except her. Only now does she realize that she caused all of this mayhem with her stupid, normal, typical thoughts. Why is she so painfully average!!!!

The town a mess after the chaos, Chidi uses their second day in The Good Place as a test to see if he’ll help her become good. She has the option between helping to clean up or learning to fly like a superhero. Naturally, she chooses flight. I would choose flight, too, but to fair to me I don’t like cleaning garbage. Chidi, like a boss, volunteers them both for the cleaning. Eleanor does some, then responsibly shoves the rest of the dirt and refuse under a rug to go fly. And then all hell breaks loose again. Literally, it is an adult-themed, live-action, non-food Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs. Whatever she’s thinking will fall from the sky, or rise from the ground. A dumpster falls on two guys—it’s OK because everyone is dead, duh!

Look at how attractive and satisfied she is. Oh yeah, she definitely learned a lesson. 

In the end, she learns a lesson: No shortcuts to being good—a lesson she is bound to learn every single episode, every single week, not that that is a bad thing (see what I did there?). But the plot twists when she finds a letter on her doorstep at the end of the episode that simply says she doesn’t belong there (dun dun dunnnnn!)

Episode three opens with Eleanor trying to figure out who wrote the letter. We go deeper into the lives of two of the other main players. Eleanor’s suspicion immediately goes to her giraffe-necked, mansion-living neighbor Tahani. A British medical charity fundraising superstar (she raised something close to a billion dollars in her lifetime for various health agencies), Tahani is all smiles, spice, and sugar—totally not a reference to her Indian (from India) heritage. Played by Jameela Jamil, my god is this woman beautiful. Um... yeah, I forgot what else I was gonna say. And I say that with an eye that has been on Bell for quite a while. She’s a very nice looking mom, but she’s married so I try not to drool over taken women. Thank god Angelina Jolie is single again. (And there’s your sexist comment of the day. You’re welcome).

Tahani and her Buddhist Monk man Jianyu

Tahani is soul-mates with Jianyu, a Buddhist monk who took a vow of silence that he is still committed to keeping in the afterlife... because he’s weird? Let’s just go with that for now. His silence bothers the heaven out of Tahani the overly talkative smile-machine. In order to try connecting with him, she enlists Eleanor’s help on the third episode. Eleanor tries to pull the truth about the letter from her and expose her as just as big of a fraud and horrible person as she is, but can’t because Tahani seems to be the real deal. Only when Tahani breaks down about her Asian beau does Eleanor come to her aid with a shoulder to cry on and helps to build a relationship with her.

Siri--Uh, I Mean Janet. 
As Eleanor is trying to figure out who sent the letter, her soul-mate Chidi is bothered by Michael to find a hobby/job that will help fulfill him in the afterlife. Aided by The Good Place’s Janet, a human-formed version of Siri designed to help Michael and all the “placers” adjust to life after death, Michael tries steering Chidi clear from his ethics book. He finally reveals to Chidi that he read the book and found it abhorrent which is why he doesn’t want Chidi to waste his time on it (forget the fact that he’s dead and the book may be pointless, though, I’m guessing at some point the book will be used to help people in the Bad Place become good). Chidi decides that he still wants to work on his book and all is resolved. Eleanor learned another lesson about being a good person and how to care about others. In the end, it is revealed that Jianyu is the person who actually wrote the letter. How did he know she didn’t belong there? Because she blabbed to him at the welcoming party after filling up on wine/champagne. Ready for the M. Night-twist? He actually doesn’t belong there either and his name is not Jianyu but Jason Mendoza. Sadly, that story is saved for episode four.

So what is my grade? I give this show a B+. Yes, it is that entertaining. In my initial preview of this show about a week ago, I didn’t know what to make of it. This year, instead of doing deeper research on all the series, I went solely off the commercials to glean series specifics. From what I saw of this show’s trailers, it looked awkwardly positioned for a state of “meh!” I didn’t think that it could last the season and that it would focus on making fun of how good people are. While it does do that, it eases the comedy of laughing at people trying to be their best with flashbacks of Eleanor and Jason (starting on the 4th episode) at their worst during their lives. There, we learn that Eleanor was a designated driver hat-draw cheat, frequented a coffee shop with a sexist owner because the coffee was good, and didn’t care about the environment at all. The contrast of them as they were and them trying to learn to be good with Chidi as their Yoda has potential for great heart-warming moments if done right. We also have the potential for a secondary or tertiary plot when, in the fourth episode, it is revealed that one of Eleanor’s missed attempts to be good seems to have opened a gaping hole in the floor to lands unseen, possibly The Bad Place.

Should you be watching? Yes. While I cannot say whether this will be the standout of the season, for now, it has earned enough good fortune with me to be a show possibly worth following. The comedic acting is solid, the cast is diverse and isn’t afraid to approach its diversity (in other words, people’s ethnicities aren’t just there because they decided to cast a black guy instead of a white man), and the writing and directing seem solid. With everyone looking as if they are actually invested in the material, it could turn into one of those cult classic comedy shows in the vein of Freaks and Geeks or Community or Arrested Development where it gains a strong following but may be out of its time or just not what people are wanting right now. Check it out and see for yourself. The Good Place comes on Thursdays at 8:30pm EST on NBC. Check out the first four episodes on demand or on NBC.com now.

What do you think? Have you seen The Good Place or is this the first time you’re hearing about it? If you haven’t seen it, will you check it out now? If you have seen it, what do you think about it? Will that hole in the floor really lead to The Bad Place? Has Eleanor really taken the place of another Eleanor? Is she even supposed to be dead right now? What about the other Eleanor, where the heck is she? Let me know in the comments below (hint: click the no comments button if you see no comments).

Check out my 5-star comedy novel, Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend. #AhStalking
If you’re looking for a scare, check the YA novel #AFuriousWind, the NA novel #DARKER#BrandNewHome or  the bizarre horror #ThePowerOfTen. For those interested in something a little more dramatic and adult, check out #TheWriter. Both season 1 and season 2 are out NOW, exclusively on Amazon. Stay connected here for updates on season 3 coming summer 2017. If you like fast action/crime check out #ADangerousLow. The sequel A New Low will be out in a few months. Look for the mysterious Sci-fi episodic novella series Extraordinary to premiere sometime this winter on Amazon and my blog. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right.

Until next time, "Dude! What hell-hole did you crawl out from?”
‘Detroit.’
“Oh! Fair enough.”


P.S. Ha! An Ohioan making a joke against Michigan. Classic Midwest humor. I’ll come up with a better sign-off next time.

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