You’re dead. But relax, everything is fine. This is heaven – a.k.a ‘The Good Place’ – and your exemplary life, although now over, means you deserve to be here.
So begins The Good Place, a thought-provoking romp around the afterlife, masquerading as escapist fantasy. Kristin Bell (as protagonist Eleanor Shellstrop, a deceased human rights lawyer) is the star of the show, who awakens post-death to find herself in an idyllic village community peopled by ex-monks, deceased eco-warriors, and former philanthropists.
Everything does, indeed, seem fine. Except for this: Eleanor knows only too well that, during her life on Earth, she was not a good person. She certainly wasn’t a human rights lawyer who saved millions of lives in the Ukraine. In fact, she was a self-styled ‘Arizona trashbag’ with a penchant for shirking her responsibilities, mocking her friends and defrauding the elderly. A Mistake, she realises, Has Been Made.
But when there’s a corresponding Bad Place (where zany tortures include bees up the nose, butthole spiders, and penis flatteners) why admit the truth; if you just keep playing along, surely it will all work out? And in the meantime, there’s a whole new existence to explore, complete with hand-picked soulmate (ethics professor Chidi Anagonye, played by William Jackson Harper), ever-obliging AI (actress D’Arcy Carden as a sort of ultimate flight attendant/nanny) and more flavours of frozen yoghurt than one person could get through in an after-lifetime.
Besides, you wouldn’t want to disappoint the angel of an architect (Ted Danson, in fine form as the creator of the community) would you? He may be delightfully dithery and just a tad odd, but he’s been waiting four billion years to design his first Good Place. Why mess up his dream?
On the surface, this is a gem of a sitcom. Dig a little deeper, and it’s a treasure chest of sparkling wit and wisdom: family entertainment for the intelligent. All four seasons move along at a brisk pace, with just the right amount of wacky happenings and wild plot twists to keep us guessing as to what’s really going on…