Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Fall TV: The Good (Place)

Yes, gentle readers, it's been a while, but with the triumphant sounding of trumpets and a whole parade and procession through the center of the city, I have returned!!

It's exactly like this.

Over the next few weeks, I will be your guide through the Fall television premiere season, along with my fellow slutty bloggers, of course. A lot of new shows have already started, but I like to give things a couple episodes before I make my mind up whether to like, hate, or meh them. Unless I hate it right off the bat, and let's be honest, sometimes those reviews are the most fun to write.

But I thought it might be nice to start things off on a positive note with a show I am really enjoying. It's new this season, features an interesting female lead of the kind we haven't seen before, and it even had a promising start in the ratings. But will the Nielsen gods continue to smile on The Good Place? Will I get attached to a show to see it yanked cruelly away? Should you spend your time watching The Good Place?


Well, that was easy. Goodnight, everybody!

Just kidding, of course. Let's establish something right off the bat: if you tell me there's a show on television starring Kristen Bell, I'm in. Full stop. Everyone here at the blog is a Veronica Mars fan and our Kristen Bell love is pretty much eternal. So I didn't need to know anything else about The Good Place to give it a chance. But the show actually has a lot of other stuff going for it:
  • The executive producer, Michael Schur, also brought us such gems as Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Master of None;
  • Ted Danson has a starring role; and,
  • The look, feel, sense of the absurd, and color palette is very reminiscent of Pushing Daisies.

Just look at their cute little faces!

And I am happy to report that the show is actually good! It's fun, cute but not treacle, with fantastic performances. In fact, Kristen Bell basically saves the show. Before I explain what I mean by that, let's give the network PR folks their moment to shine:
When a tractor-trailer carrying erectile dysfunction products strikes and kills Eleanor Shellstrop, she's surprised to find herself in the "good" area of the afterlife. She quickly realizes she has been mistaken for someone else when her wise, newfound mentor tells her she earned her place by helping get innocent people off death row. She decides that she wants to shed her old foul-mouthed and hard-drinking ways and find a way to embrace the good person within -- at least when she isn't considering finding a way to return to her mundane existence back on Earth.
Everything in The Good Place hangs on Eleanor. Having a unique concept and great supporting players is only going to get you so far. The sad truth is that if the audience hates your main character, the show is not going to work.

Eleanor is a very difficult person to like--she had almost no redeeming qualities when alive (there are some very effective flashbacks to Eleanor's mortal life sprinkled throughout the show), and she treated every person with disdain. She wasn't that far removed from a sociopath, to be honest.

"Oops! I'm a horrible person!"

The thing is though, Kristen Bell is so charming and funny that you don't hate Eleanor. You actually kind of like her and want her to learn how to be a good person. If they had anyone with slightly less charisma and talent playing Eleanor, The Good Place would not work. But it does and I for one am really looking forward to following Eleanor on her journey to redemption. Thankfully, Kristen Bell is back and once again proving nobody is a better lovable misanthrope.

The Good Place airs Thursdays at 8:30PM EST on NBC. The first three episodes are available for streaming on the NBC website.

There is no reason for me to post this picture of Veronica and Logan. Except that I want to.