29. The Good Place: Season 1 (2016 – 2017)

It’s Got: Kristen Bell keeping secrets, Frozen Yogurt, Ted Danson laughing.

The Good Place has this conceit where any time a character tries to say “fuck” in paradise, it comes out as “fork.” That kind of thing is catnip to entertainment journalists, what a fun way for them to show off that they’re down with this show’s fanbase! “We’re so forking excited for the return of The Good Place!” “Are you still forking shocked about THAT Good Place twist?” It’s so hacky, and so surface level. You can do it with any show. “Aw geez! A new season of Fargo is going into production.” “Order some cherry pie. Twin Peaks is getting revived.” “Geronimo! Matt Smith’s final Doctor Who episode airs this Christmas!”

(I was annoyed at first but this is actually kind of fun.)

This is a series where I didn’t know the premise, I tuned in on pure pedigree. Mike Schur, writer on The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Brooklyn ’99 has teamed up with Drew Goddard, writer on Angel, Lost, and Cabin in the Woods, to make a show starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. That gets my attention. What I didn’t know was that they were making the first half hour sitcom that (correct me if I’m wrong) has run on intrigue and comedy in equal parts. Sure, it’s a show about a selfish person accidentally winding up in heaven and trying to avoid detection. That’s plenty interesting by itself. But it’s only a jumping off point for the season and indeed the series as a whole. How often are you excited to tune into the next episode of a sitcom to see where the story is headed?

(Incidentally, THIS is how you do it, journalists trying to connect with audiences of The Good Place.)

There’s so much to love in every Good Place season, and I couldn’t argue with anyone who’d put Seasons 2 or 3 ahead of the first. It’s the freshness that makes the first season untouchable for me. It’s a comedy series with mysteries, exploration of the afterlife, existential questions and examination of morality, and a setting that can indulge pretty much any flight of fancy. I’ve never had anything but goodwill together Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, and they’re both better than they’ve ever been. Plus, The Good Place introduced the world to D’Arcy Carden, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, and Manny Jacinto. That was nice of it.

(Second hackiest journalism trick. In the final sentence call back to the central premise of the first paragraph. Readers love the illusion of an article coming full circle.)

The Good Place has a very finite premise so it’s likely to end sooner rather than later, and that’s ok. Mike Schur may have the best track record of any working TV writer today and I’m ready to follow him to whatever’s next. But I hope this show has a couple more seasons in it yet. The truth is, I’m not forking ready to leave The Good Place.

If I Had to Nitpick…: I can’t watch the show live, it’s just not as satisfying in these little half hour morsels once per week, so I have to wait for the new Netflix seasons. Avoiding spoilers is a real bench.

Notable Episodes: “The Eternal Shriek” as Eleanor goes all out to preserve her secret. “What’s My Motivation,” as she tries to earn her place. And “Michael’s Gambit,” the season finale.

#30 | THE LIST | #28

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