TV that’s worth your time: The Good Place

Last summer, while waiting for the new series to start, I rewatched The Good Place and found myself getting a little weepy at one of the late series 2 episodes. It was a Sunday and I was hungover and feeling a bit delicate but also it’s a lovely, heart-felt show with characters that you really care about and definitely worth having a little cry over! Have you watched it? Do you love it?

Because it’s Christmas, and Christmas is a time for television, I thought I would write about some of the tv shows I’ve enjoyed and that I feel maybe haven’t got enough attention in our current over-saturated tv landscape. The Good Place is the least neglected of my tv picks. It was recently nominated for a heap of Emmys, many words have been written about it already but it’s also a show I love so much that I feel slightly evangelical about it and want to shout about it anyway. It’s a good one to watch at Christmas because I think most people will like it, it’s not violent or confusingly twisty and the episodes are less than half an hour long so each episode is not too much of a commitment.

The Good Place is about the after-life, it is one of two places you go to after you die. The show focuses on four people who have recently arrived in the Good Place. One of them, Eleanor Shellstrop is only there because of an administrative error. Eleanor is not Good Place material, she doesn’t belong there but she doesn’t want to be sent to the Bad Place so she convinces a former ethics professor, Chidi to help her learn how to be a better person. He hates lying but agrees to help Eleanor even though keeping her secret gives him a constant stomach ache.

The Good Place is a show about someone learning to be a better person. It’s about morals and ethics and what we owe to other people, it’s about what actually makes a person “good”, how do you define that and what’s the point of being good anyway? A show about morals feels very relevant to the world in 2018. When “looking after No. 1” has become an accepted philosophy and way to live your life, it feels like the world needs a few ethics lessons with Chidi. We get to see these lessons on the show. They look at many difference branches of philosophy and ethics. There’s an ethics professor on the show’s staff and there’s a Good Place reading list based on Chidi’s lessons, as well as a reading list for the writers of the show. They really take it seriously.

If you cannot imagine how that can possibly be entertaining and you’re wondering why on earth I am so enthusiastic about this show, let me reassure you: as well as being a show about ethics, The Good Place is also a funny, laugh out loud half-hour sitcom that follows a lot of the sitcom rules. There are episode long story lines (as well as a cliff-hangers at the end of each episode), people fall in and out of love with each other, there are farcical misunderstandings and sworn enemies grow to like each other and become friends. There are lots of running jokes and visual humour as well, and like any good sitcom you are rewarded for sticking with it and getting to know the characters.

It’s also endlessly inventive. The world of The Good Place is like a cute holiday village in beautiful pastel shades. It’s built to cater for people who have reached the after-life and can have anything their heart desires! This includes Janet, neither a woman nor a robot, but a virtual AI assistant that appears with a “bing” when her name is called. Anything can happen here, and often does.

As the series goes on and we learn more about the world, ideas that could potentially take three or four episodes to play out in any other show, come and go within twenty minutes. It leaves your brain with plenty to think about and makes each episode worthy of a rewatch.

These are just some of the reasons I think you should watch The Good Place. I haven’t even mentioned how good the entire cast are, how quick and clever the writing is or how funny Ted Danson is. (It’s worth mentioning agin – The Good Place is very, very funny.)

There’s two and half series on Netflix right now, and the third series will resume next year. If you haven’t seen it yet, there are so many hours of goodness ahead of you. It will help soothe your Christmas-addled brain, it’s a good one to watch with a hangover or just before bed. (Though it can be hard to watch just one episode, it’s very bingeable.) It’s a warm hug of a show that will help get you through the festive period. Watch it alone, watch it with family or if your Christmas is too full of people and obligations, save it as a post-Christmas treat!

If you like that, try this:

Brooklyn 99, this fantastically silly cop show by the same creator has a similarly big-hearted approach to its characters.

Dead Like Me, my other favourite show about the afterlife. Here the dead walk among the living and have to worry about jobs and rent and their own grieving families. It’s a pitch black comedy but I love it.

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