Moderator: Chief Couch Potato Kylie
Who: “The Good Place” is a fantasy comedy series, which currently airs on NBC, fall/winter Thursdays at 8:30 PM.
What: “The Good Place,” created by Michael Schur, 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; as a result, she 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,” while D’Arcy Carden plays Janet, an artificial being helping the inhabitants of the place in question.
When: Season One aired from September 19, 2016, to January 19, 2017, while Season Two aired from September 20, 2017, to February 1, 2018, on NBC.
Where: The action is set in the fictional Good Place and other times in the fictional Bad Place and yet other times in the fictional Medium Place. All Places are construed to be in the afterlife – except when the action is not in the afterlife. To explain anymore than that here, however, would invite MAJOR SPOILERS!
Why: To find out why individual podcast panelists started watching this show, listen to the podcast episode via the link below!
As for CPU! Chief Couch Potato Kylie, I picked up this show when shopping for pilots during the 2016-2017 TV season (a yearly ritual for this viewer and this blog, no matter how far behind I am). I said:
“On the strength of the trailer, and the fact that Veronica Mars/Ana from Frozen is playing the lead with Kristen Bell’s best comedic timing, I think anyone would be remiss to pass on this new sitcom. The premise is unique, casting Ted Danson as the ‘Good Place’s’ resident bureaucrat is inspired, and frankly, I had to stifle laughter every few seconds as I sat awkwardly in a public waiting room watching the trailer. The substitute uses for various curse words as delivered by Bell warrant the look-see alone…”
How – as in How Was It?
The pilot/premiere rating scale:
***** – I HAVE TO WATCH EVERYTHING. HOLY SMOKES!
**** – Well, it certainly seems intriguing. I’m going to keep watching, but I see possible pitfalls in the premise.
*** – I will give it six episodes and see what happens. There are things I like, and things I don’t. We’ll see which “things” are allowed to flourish.
** – I will give it three episodes. Chances are, I’m mainly bored, but there is some intrigue or fascination that could hold it together. No matter how unlikely.
* – Pass on this one, guys. It’s a snoozer/not funny/not interesting/not my cup of tea… there are too many options to waste time on this one.
The Good Place = 4.7, by average of the podcast panel.
After her death, Eleanor Shellstrop (Bell) is welcomed into the afterlife by Michael (Danson), the facilitator and architect of Eleanor’s new neighborhood in a “perfect utopia” called the “Good Place.” When Michael tells Eleanor that she made it into The Good Place as reward for her life of selfless devotion to helping others, she realizes she must have been mistaken for someone else. She also learns that each person in The Good Place has a soulmate with whom s/he is matched and (accordingly) with whom s/he will live for eternity.
Hoping to stay in the Good Place, Eleanor confesses her plight to her assigned soulmate, Chidi Anagonye (Harper), a university ethics professor. Despite the moral quandary doing so presents to someone specializing in ethics, he agrees to teach Eleanor to become a better person, so she might earn her apparently mistaken spot in utopia. She also interacts closely with her neighbors: Tahani Al-Jamil (Jamil), a wealthy philanthropist who raised billions through charities in life, and Tahani’s soulmate, Jianyu Li (Jacinto), seemingly a silent Buddhist monk from Taiwan, who turns out to be a dimwitted DJ from Florida named Jason Mendoza. Michael and the Good Place inhabitants are further assisted by Janet (Carden), an artificial being in charge of helping and informing them.
How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS
Do you follow our CPU! social media accounts? Did you ever see a posting or advertisement for panelists at large to join this panel? No, you didn’t. That may be because The Good Place was a runaway hit with the CPU! core and a few close friends and family; apparently, many united couch potatoes consider this show to be forking fantastic. Thus, this panel quickly filled to supersized proportions.
Why, you might ask? Well, I might answer. Common reactions describe the show as hilarious, original, smart, well-written, well-directed, well-performed…you get the drift. In other words, many CPU! faithful think that The Good Place is one of the freshest comedies to hit the airwaves in years, especially and particularly on network TV and, especially and particularly, on the Peacock network, which has long been struggling to regain some of its “Must See” reign of yesteryear and yore but is giving a good go of it with this heady, philosophical comedy. Plus, with this seemingly popular appeal, our panel grew to be comprised of a variety of voices, starting with four frequent panelists, including Kristen, the reigning panel champ; Michael, who typically delights in our Looking Back series and a few Stranger Things; Kelsey, who weathers many of our Supernatural and Unfortunate Events; and Selene, who brings her unique feminist perspective to panels for Person of Interest, The 100, and Marvel’s Agent Carter. The panel also features two brand new voices, Joey and Gabe, who we are excited to welcome to the CPU! fold!
What’s more, this panel spent most of the chat gushing about this series’ first two seasons. In fact, there was little bad or negative to say apart from nitpicks of a typically individual and personal type among each panelist. Everyone universally agreed that the creator and show-runner has produced something totally new, totally kick-ash awesome, at the top of its comedic game, and accessible to most everyone despite its heady premise, all while avoiding the typical tendency of pandering to a larger audience by muting or undercutting the intelligence of the premise and of the situations in which the characters find themselves. To wit, if you are part of The Good Place fan club, this discussion will only serve to validate your adoration for this decidedly traction-gaining cult hit. With all this said, have I convinced you (yet) to listen via the embedded link below?
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Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly! Next Wednesday, we offer the first of a new, two-part miniseries featuring a brand new panel around the CPU! Water Cooler, as we begin ongoing coverage of Netflix comedy Grace and Frankie. In our first episode of this miniseries, we will recap Seasons 1 and 2 in an effort to catch up to the current season. Stay tuned!
1) Is the soulmate construct a fake representation of a concept, i.e. soulmates, that is not real or does not exist? Or, did Michael, as architect of this purported torture chamber, merely build in the soulmate aspect incidentally, as a mere device, missing the point of soulmates entirely – in other words, “getting it wrong?” Is the show advocating that soulmates are real and/or something worthy of considering as possible, or is the show presenting a cynical view of “soulmate” love, platonic or otherwise, by inferring that soulmates are something made up, whether by Michael, by someone or something like him, and/or by the rest of us?
2) Are the four main characters apart from Michael and Janet – Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason – really members of a “soul cluster,” i.e. four so-called soulmates who cannot exist apart from the others and hope to be better people because they, whether fatalistically or not, happen to make each other better naturally, as panelist Michael advocates?
3) Why is Chidi’s paralyzing inability to make a decision worthy of him being sent to the Bad Place?
4) Is the show advocating Eleanor as its “moral center?” Michael comes to the conclusion that the afterlife determination system is flawed based upon the four main characters’ personal growth, especially Eleanor’s, even as Eleanor struggles to maintain that growth in the second season finale. Where will Eleanor land in the end? Will she ever be “Real Good Place” worthy?
5) How will Eleanor and Chidi find Tahani and Jason again, if they do it all, in their brave new world? How quickly?
6) Where will Michael and Janet end up, Good or Bad Place, particularly since Demon Michael seems to have attained some positive personal, and somewhat human, improvement, and since Good Janet, given Michael’s 802 reboots of his construct and of her stolen self, is the most advanced version of Janet ever, with her newfound capability of lying, of loving, and of experiencing some human emotions?
7) Will Michael and Judge Gen’s experiment result in the creation of other possible places – such as more Medium Places, where someone bad can improve, as panelist Selene hopes?
8) Will Michael end up becoming a Judge like Gen, as panelist Joey predicts, possibly with Janet as his assistant-friend?
9) Were Eleanor and Chidi actually brought back to life, or are they being run through some sort of test simulation, to gauge the measure of personal growth attainable without the promise of “moral dessert?” Or, are they in a new construct similar to purgatory, where borderline bad people can try to be good people, as panelists Joey and Kristen surmise?
10) Did Michael’s “torture” plan fail because of Janet, as panelist Gabe guesses?
11) Will the four main characters continue to torture each other without Michael and Janet present, provided that they meet again in their new “near death” version of Earth? Are Michael and Janet the reason why the characters did not attain further personal growth than they already achieved (or, at least, Janet because we know Michael was trying to torture them for at least some time)? Is Janet actually a corrupted computer-like matrix, or is she evolved artificial intelligence?
12) If Eleanor finds Chidi, Tahini, and Jason again, how do the latter three escape death in this new version of their world?
13) Is this new version of the world a new Medium Place, as panelist Kristen posits?
14) Who is actually in the real Good Place? Are there any actual good people, or angels, since there are demons in this universe? Or, are the alleged good people actually morally complicated, similar to the angels on Supernatural, as panelist Gabe theorizes?
15) Why does watching the Red Hot Chili Peppers in concert qualify for Bad Place entry? Is it all about the socks? Give it away, now.
16) Is Michael really a demon? Where do demons come from on this show? What is Michael’s back story? What is boss Shawn’s back story? Why is the Bad Place largely set in an office? Is this a reference to The Office, for which Michael Schur wrote and on which he also appeared (as Dwight’s cousin Mose)?
The Good Place is universally, effusively, and glowingly recommended by all seven panelists, your main moderator included, because of its original, quality premise; complex, layered writing; stellar performances; and fresh take on an intellectual concept that does not meander into trope-filled, didactic territory, despite its meditation on moral and ethical principles and philosophy. One panelist compared the humor of this show to cult favorite Better Off Ted, less the cynicism of that particular workplace satire. The panelists note that each available season is tightly constructed, with rapid-fire pacing, superior wit, enticing and engaging cliffhangers for episode endings, and a refreshing lack of filler episodes. Several panelists described this show as easy to recommend, easy to binge-watch, and easy to which to become addicted, even as the premise is “hard to explain.” The panelists further praise the program’s ability to intellectually challenge the viewer while remaining both accessible and hilarious high-concept comedy; in fact, several panel members deem the show as having significant re-watch value, based upon personal experience (already!). In fact, the entire panel basically recommends The Good Place to anyone, anywhere, with a hearty “Just watch it!” as the overall recommendation refrain.
THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW
The Good Place was renewed for a third season by NBC and is tentatively expected to return in fall 2018. Currently, Season One is available to stream fully on Netflix, while the five most recently aired episodes of the show are available on Hulu and on NBC’s streaming app and website. In the meantime, the CPU! Good Place panel will return to the Water Cooler following the airing of the Season Three finale. Until then – stay tuned!