The Good Place

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The Good Place
Title card for The Good Place, with "The Good Place" written in white writing on a plain green background
Genre
Created by Michael Schur
Starring
Composer(s) David Schwartz
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 26 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
Producer(s)
Editor(s)
  • Colin Patton
  • Matthew Barbato
  • Eric Kissack
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time 22 minutes
Production company(s)
Release
Original network NBC
Audio format 5.1 Dolby Digital with DVS on SAP
Original release September 19, 2016 (2016-09-19) – present
External links
Website

The Good Place is an American fantasy-comedy television series created by Michael Schur. The series premiered on September 19, 2016, on NBC.[8]

The series focuses on Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), a woman who wakes up in the afterlife and is introduced by Michael (Ted Danson) to "The Good Place", a Heaven-like utopia he designed, in reward for her righteous life. She realizes that she was sent there by mistake and must hide her morally imperfect behavior and try to become a better person. William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil and Manny Jacinto co-star as other residents of "The Good Place", together with D'Arcy Carden as Janet, an artificial being helping the inhabitants.

The Good Place has received positive reviews since its premiere. It has been praised for its performances, writing, originality, setting and tone. In addition, its first-season twist ending and its exploration and creative use of ethics and philosophy have been positively received.

On January 30, 2017, NBC renewed the series for a second season of 13 episodes, which premiered on Wednesday, September 20, 2017 with an hour-long premiere before moving to its normal time slot on Thursday at 8:30 pm, beginning September 28, 2017.[9] On November 21, 2017, NBC renewed the series for a 13-episode third season, which will premiere on September 27, 2018.[10][11]

Synopsis[edit]

Season 1[edit]

After her death, Eleanor Shellstrop is welcomed into the afterlife by Michael, an immortal architect, who welcomes Eleanor into the "Good Place", a utopian afterlife. Soon after, she realizes she has been mistaken for someone else. Eleanor quickly tells her assigned soulmate, a university ethics professor named Chidi, that she has been mistaken for someone else. He agrees to teach Eleanor to become a better person to earn her spot. Her neighbor, introduced to her as a silent Buddhist monk named Jianyu Li, whose soulmate is socialite Tahani Al-Jamil, reveals that he knows Eleanor is there by mistake, and that he himself is actually a former DJ named Jason Mendoza. As Chidi continues to teach Eleanor and Jason ethics lessons, Tahani tries to work out a way in which Eleanor and Jason can be allowed to stay in The Good Place. When those efforts prove fruitless, an eternal judge named Shawn rules that Eleanor and Jason must be sent to the Bad Place. In the season finale's twist ending, Eleanor deduces that the four have actually been in the Bad Place all along, and Michael reveals his demonic plot to have the four human inhabitants torture each other for all eternity emotionally and psychologically. He then announces his intent to wipe their memories and separate the four, but just before he does so, Eleanor smuggles a note to herself into an artificial intelligence named Janet.

Season 2[edit]

Michael erases their memories and attempts the experiment again, but the group figures out the truth repeatedly. After more than 800 reboots, the other demons stage a coup against Michael and threaten to inform his boss about the repeated failures. He eventually teams up with the group and promises to get them all into the real good place. The group later escapes with Michael's help, and they attempt to get to the Good Place by appealing to an entity known as the judge, named Gen. She gives tests to each human which play to their weaknesses. They all fail except Eleanor. Gen is also not convinced that the improvements the four of them have shown are due to them being good people. Instead, she believes that their changes are due to their desire for "moral desert". Michael appeals, believing that all they need is a push and they are all sent back to earth without memory of their afterlife, with their deaths now replaced with near-death experiences to give them a chance to overcome their flaws for the right reasons. After a false start, Michael intervenes and points Eleanor in the direction of Chidi.

Cast and characters[edit]

Main[edit]

Kristen Bell portrays series protagonist Eleanor Shellstrop.
  • Kristen Bell as Eleanor Shellstrop, a deceased saleswoman from Arizona who entered an afterlife utopia called "The Good Place" seemingly after being mistaken for a human rights lawyer by the same name.[12] With the aid of her alleged soulmate, Chidi, she attempts to reform by learning about ethics, believing she still has a chance to earn a legitimate spot in The Good Place. Now that Eleanor knows about Michael's experiments and the memory wipes, Eleanor became the de facto leader in the group "Team Cockroach" after she makes a truce with Michael to keep Shawn from finding out about the reboots in exchange for helping the humans get to the real Good Place. As of season 2, she is the only person from "Team Cockroach" who, having passed Gen's test, qualifies for the real Good Place. However, she lies to her team and tells them she also failed miserably.
  • William Jackson Harper as Chidi Anagonye, a deceased ethics professor who was born in Nigeria and raised in Senegal, Eleanor's alleged soulmate. Though he took a while to accept it, he discovers that he and Eleanor were meant to be soulmates because he was always there for her. He is the first person to learn her secret and begins teaching her about ethics to reform both her and Jason. He died on earth when an air conditioner fell on his head outside his apartment building.[13] Chidi speaks French, but in this afterlife, his speech is translated into whatever languages people who listen to him speak; therefore, he appears to speak English to Eleanor and the audience. However, as he is also shown teaching at an Australian university it stands to reason that he is also fully fluent in English.
  • Jameela Jamil as Tahani Al-Jamil, a deceased, wealthy philanthropist who traveled extensively around the world. She was born in Pakistan, raised in England, and went to school in France. Tahani, whose full name means "Congratulations Beautiful", is a seemingly-good-natured soul with a cheerful and helpful attitude who was constantly overshadowed by her younger sister, Kamilah during her time on Earth. She died on Earth when an attempt to take down a statue of her sister at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio fails. Instead of finally freeing herself from her sister's shadow, her sister's statue crushes her to death. Tahani gradually learns the truth about Eleanor and Jason following Eleanor's arrival. Initially, Eleanor dislikes Tahani, finding her positive attitude, condescending manner, and her tendency to name drop obnoxious, but the two eventually become friends.[14]
  • D'Arcy Carden as Janet, a programmed guide who acts as the neighborhood's main source of information, analogous to an intelligent personal assistant. She is the 25th generation of "Janet" programs like her, dating back to a predecessor featuring a click-wheel. She has infinite knowledge of the universe, can provide residents anything they desire, and details everything of what is happening in the Good Place but does have some flaws. Since she is the only individual who came from a true Good Place (Michael admits to having stolen her in the season 1 finale), Janet is subject to numerous reboots; she pleads with whoever tries to push a red button that shuts her down not to kill her. These reboots give Janet increased abilities as well as programming capabilities that compel her to make humans happy, as she'll only answer to what the humans want her to do, including keeping their secrets to escaping the Bad Place. Janet is incompatible with lies and must tell the objective truth. In season 1, after she was rebooted the first time, Jason and Janet fell in love with each other and got married. It is revealed in season 2 that her feelings for Jason have remained despite memory wipes causing glitches. As Janet becomes more self-aware with each reboot, she realizes that the neighborhood may be destroyed due to her computer glitches, and she begs Michael to "kill" her and turn her into a marble. Michael, after having attended so many of Chidi's lessons on ethics, can not bring himself to permanently disable Janet because he now considers her to be his best friend. Since Michael will not agree to permanently disable her, Janet creates a new boyfriend for herself whom she chooses to disable later in the season.
    • Carden also plays "Bad Janet", Janet's counterpart from The Bad Place.[15]
  • Manny Jacinto as "Jianyu Li", a supposedly silent Buddhist monk from Taiwan and Tahani's soulmate. Eleanor discovers he is actually Jason Mendoza from Jacksonville, Florida, an amateur DJ, devoted Jacksonville Jaguars fan, and backup dancer who sold fake drugs to high school students.[16] After Janet is rebooted in Season 1, Jason develops feelings for her because she is the only one who is nice to him; the two marry, but because his memory is wiped in the season 1 finale, he is unaware of his marriage to Janet until he is told about it in season 2. Prior to that, his forgotten love for Janet led to him bonding (and sleeping with) Tahani; the two almost marry, but decide not to do so after they are reminded of his previous relationship with Janet. Though the two remain together for a time, near the end of season 2, Tahani breaks off the relationship because she recognizes she should not rely so much on others for her sense of worth.
  • Ted Danson as Michael, the architect of The Good Place where Eleanor and her fellow humans reside. He exhibits a deep fascination for humans and human life, delighting from things ranging from paperclips to suspenders to car keys. In the first-season finale, it is discovered that he is a Bad Place demon who constructed a fake "Good Place" to torture Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason. Unfortunately, he ends up repeatedly restarting his experiment due to Eleanor (and one time Jason) always figuring out that "The Good Place" is "The Bad Place", leading to his routine failure, as well as hiding the constant resets from Shawn in order to avoid "retirement" (an euphemism for an eternity of torture). As part of a truce he makes with Eleanor so his failing project will not be exposed and a chance to reform his behavior, Michael agrees to let the humans keep their memories and help them get into the true Good Place as well as to take Chidi's ethics lessons.

Recurring[edit]

  • Tiya Sircar as the "real Eleanor Shellstrop", a human rights lawyer mistakenly sent to The Bad Place, who was killed trying to save Eleanor from a traffic accident, causing confusion because the two Eleanors were close to one another and died almost simultaneously. In the finale of season 1, she is revealed to be a demonic colleague of Michael's named Vicky Sengupta, who is part of the experiment. In season 2, in one of many reboots, Michael gives Vicky a significantly smaller role as Denise, a restaurant owner, to Vicky's dissatisfaction. After having to go through hundreds of Michael's failed attempts, Vicky blackmails him, saying he will reboot the neighborhood and blank the memories of the humans again, and put her in charge of the new neighborhood; if he does not agree to her terms, she will alert Shawn to her documentation of his many failures, and request that he initiate Michael's retirement. This makes Michael desperate enough to team up with the humans, whose memories he only pretends to blank. Vicky is later placed in a cocoon after Michael convinces Shawn that she betrayed them during the experiments.
  • Adam Scott as Trevor. In season 1, he is portrayed as a sinister figure representing The Bad Place, sent upon Eleanor's true identity being revealed, vowing to take her with him. He leads an entourage of demons that parties endlessly and bullies Michael.[17]
  • Marc Evan Jackson as Shawn, an all-powerful Eternal Judge who decides on matters between the two realms. He is called in to hear Eleanor's fate. In the season 1 finale, his true nature was revealed: he is Michael's boss. He believes Michael will fail in his second attempt, and he makes it clear that Michael's failure in this regard will result in Michael's retirement, and that only one more chance will be given. Shawn later buys Michael's "truth" of the second experiment and promote him to oversee an entire universe of neighborhoods.
  • Maribeth Monroe as Mindy St. Claire, the only resident of The Medium Place, a neutral plane of existence between The Good Place and The Bad Place. She is a former corporate lawyer, cocaine addict, and is somewhat sexually depraved, as evidenced by the fact that she has taped and kept track of times when Eleanor and Chidi shared intimacy during their repeated visits. Regarding those visits, she told a reluctant and disbelieving Eleanor that she (Eleanor) and Chidi have been romantically linked for a long time, even though it may seem to Eleanor as if she and Chidi just met. Because of her location and existence, Mindy is a real person and not subjected to the experimental nature in which both places are being run. It is implied that Mindy died in the 1980s as evidenced in her environmental surroundings (such as having a TV set with recordable VHS tapes which enabled her to record one of the sex tapes over Cannonball Run 2; she also has a People magazine cover featuring Pierce Brosnan that she keeps reading).
  • Jason Mantzoukas as Derek Hoffstettler, an artificial "rebound guy" that Janet creates to get over Jason.
  • Maya Rudolph as Judge Hydrogen (or "Gen" for short), an impartial inter-dimensional judge who rules on matters involving the Good Place and the Bad Place.

Episodes[edit]

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
113September 19, 2016 (2016-09-19)January 19, 2017 (2017-01-19)
213September 20, 2017 (2017-09-20)February 1, 2018 (2018-02-01)

Production[edit]

Development and casting[edit]

Series creator and executive producer Michael Schur.

NBC issued a press release on August 13, 2015, announcing it had given the then untitled show a 13-episode order based purely on a pitch by Michael Schur.[18] On January 12, 2016, it was announced that Kristen Bell and Ted Danson had been cast in the lead roles for the series. The first synopsis of the show was also released, stating that the show was set to revolve around Eleanor designing her own self-improvement course with Michael acting as her guide[12] – although the afterlife element had always been a part of the series, as Kristen Bell has stated she was aware of the first-season finale twist when she signed onto the show.[19]

William Jackson Harper was cast as Chris on February 11, 2016,[13] though the character was renamed Chidi. Jameela Jamil was cast as Tessa on February 25, 2016,[14] and her character was renamed Tahani. On March 3, 2016, Manny Jacinto was revealed to have been cast as a "sweet and good-natured Jason" whose "dream is to make a living as a DJ in Southern Florida".[16] On March 14, 2016, D'Arcy Carden was cast in a series regular role that was announced as "Janet Della-Denunzio, a violin salesperson with a checkered past"[15] – although the cast later admitted that this was an intentional hoax.[20]

The final premise for the show, including the afterlife element, was ultimately announced on May 15, 2016, when NBC announced its schedule for the 2016–17 TV season.[21]

Filming[edit]

According to Schur, the premise and idea was to include religious elements into the series after doing research on various faiths and groups, but he decided to scrap the plans, instead going for a concept that included all faiths that was diverse and free of religious views. "I stopped doing research because I realized it's about versions of ethical behavior, not religious salvation", he says. "The show isn't taking a side, the people who are there are from every country and religion." Schur also points out that the setting (shot in San Marino, California's Huntington Gardens) already had the feeling of a pastiche of different cultures, stating that the neighborhoods will feature people who are part of nondenominational and interdenominational backgrounds that interact with each other regardless of religion.[22]

The series' setting and premises, as well as the serialized cliffhangers were modeled on Lost, a favorite of Schur. One of the first people he called when he developed the series was Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof. "I took him to lunch and said, 'We're going to play a game [of] 'Is this anything?'" He then added "I imagine this going in the Lost way, with cliffhangers and future storylines."[23]

The first season's surprise twist, that the Good Place was the Bad Place, and Chidi, Eleanor, Jason and Tahani were the four souls chosen because they were best suited to torture each other indefinitely, is very similar in premise to philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre's stage play No Exit, in which three strangers die, are escorted to a single room by a friendly bellhop where they are informed they must co-exist together, but ultimately determine they are entirely incompatible and thus come to the conclusion that "hell is other people". The only actors who knew the truth from the start were Danson and Bell.[24]

Critics have also suggested resemblances to 1960s surreal TV show The Prisoner in its isolated, rule-bound setting.[25][26][27]

Broadcast and release[edit]

Since the start of season two in September 2017, Netflix distributes the show to various international markets with new episodes being released a few hours after their original American airing.[28]

Home media[edit]

The first season was released on DVD in region 1 on October 17, 2017.[29] The second season was released on DVD on July 17, 2018.[30]

Reception[edit]

Ratings[edit]

Season Time slot (ET) Episodes Season premiere Season finale TV season Rank Viewers
(in millions)
Date Viewers
(in millions)
Date Viewers
(in millions)
1 Monday 10:00 pm (premiere)
Thursday 8:30 pm
13 September 19, 2016 8.04[31] January 19, 2017 3.93[32] 2016–17 #77 5.72[33]
2 Wednesday 10:00 pm (premiere)
Thursday 8:30 pm
13 September 20, 2017 5.28[34] February 1, 2018 3.19[35] 2017–18 #77 5.78[36]

Critical response[edit]

Ted Danson has received acclaim for his work on the series.

The Good Place has received positive reviews from television critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season has a rating of 91%, based on 53 reviews, with an average rating of 7.84/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Kristen Bell and Ted Danson knock it out of the park with supremely entertaining, charming performances in this absurd, clever and whimsical portrayal of the afterlife."[37] On Metacritic, the first season has a score of 78 out of 100, based on reviews from 32 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[38]

The editors of TV Guide placed The Good Place second among the top ten picks for the most anticipated new shows of the 2016–17 season. In its review from writer Liam Matthews, "NBC's new comedy has an impressive pedigree" (referring to Mike Schur, and stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, the latter cited as "arguably the greatest sitcom actor of all time"). Matthews concludes that "The hope is that their combined star power can restore NBC's tarnished comedy brand to its former glory. It won't be the next Friends, but it's something even better: a network comedy that feels different than anything that's come before."[39]

The second season has received highly positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the second season has a rating of 100%, based on 35 reviews, with an average rating of 8.62/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "By voluntarily blowing up its premise, The Good Place sets up a second season that proves even funnier than its first."[40] On Metacritic, the second season has a score of 87 out of 100, based on reviews from 10 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[41]

Multiple critics have praised the show for its exploration and creative use of ethics and philosophy.[42][1][43] Andrew P. Street of The Guardian wrote that "moral philosophy is the beating heart of the program" and that the show "made philosophy seem cool."[44] Elizabeth Yuko of The Atlantic noted that "The Good Place stands out for dramatizing actual ethics classes onscreen, without watering down the concepts being described, and while still managing to be entertaining."[45] For their part, several philosophers have celebrated the show's largely accurate popularization of their line of work while criticizing some minor inaccuracies.[1][46]

Critics' top-ten lists[edit]

  1. ^ Tied with Patria O Muerte: Cuba, Fatherland or Death

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2016 Critics' Choice Television Awards Most Exciting New Series The Good Place Won [49]
IGN Awards Best TV Comedy Series The Good Place Nominated [50]
2017 American Film Institute Awards Top 10 TV Programs of the Year The Good Place Won [51]
Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Actor in a Comedy Series Ted Danson Won [52]
Best Actress in a Comedy Series Kristen Bell Nominated
Gold Derby Awards Comedy Lead Actor Ted Danson Nominated [53]
People's Choice Awards Favorite New Comedy Series The Good Place Nominated [54]
Saturn Awards Best Fantasy Television Series The Good Place Nominated [55]
Television Critics Association Individual Achievement in Comedy Kristen Bell Nominated [56]
Outstanding Achievement in Comedy The Good Place Nominated
Outstanding New Program The Good Place Nominated
2018 Hugo Award Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form Michael Schur (Episode: "Michael's Gambit") Pending [57]
Josh Siegal, Dylan Morgan and Dean Holland (Episode: "The Trolley Problem") Pending [57]
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series Maya Rudolph Pending [58]
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Ted Danson Pending
Saturn Awards Best Fantasy Television Series The Good Place Nominated [59]
TCA Awards Individual Achievement in Comedy Ted Danson Pending [60]
Outstanding Achievement in Comedy The Good Place Pending
Program of the Year The Good Place Pending

References[edit]

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  3. ^ Brogan, Jacob (October 27, 2017). "On The Good Place, Thinking Too Much About How to Be Good Can Send You Straight to Hell". Slate. Retrieved December 20, 2017. 
  4. ^ Moore, Trent (January 31, 2017). "NBC renews acclaimed fantasy sitcom The Good Place for Season 2". Syfy. Retrieved December 20, 2017. 
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External links[edit]