Pilot Perception: The Good Place

Good Place

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show – here The Good Place – in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: The Good Place, NBC in the U.S. and Global TV in Canada, Thursdays at 8:30/7:30c

The Pedigree: The show was created and is showrun by Mike Schur (Parks and Recreation), who executive produces along with David Miner (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Morgan Sackett (Veep), and Drew Goddard (The Martian). The pilot was written by Schur and directed by Goddard.

The Cast & How You Know Them: The Good Place stars Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) and Ted Danson (CSI), along with William Jackson Harper (Paterson), Jameela Jamil (Playing It Straight), Manny Jacinto (The Romeo Section), and D’Arcy Carden (Broad City).

The Premise: Main character Eleanor dies and is accidentally sent to the Good Place instead of the Bad Place, so she tries to change her ways and become a good person.

A Taste:

 

What Works: Bell and Danson are both extremely talented and do a better job pulling off a fairly ridiculous premise than I expected. The supporting cast was also strong, though if they’re setting up Bell’s character to have romantic chemistry with her “soulmate” played by William Jackson Harper, I’m not seeing it yet. (He was great in general, though.) They make the Good Place concept recognizable without leaning too heavily on any one theology, and the references to specific philosophers, like Kant and Aristotle, make it clear they’ve done their homework.

What Doesn’t: I’m not sure how long the central premise can last, but if the show is a bit flexible I guess it could adapt to sustain itself. Parts of it were right up against my personal tolerance for wackiness. The pilot had a lot of world-building to establish and so could be a bit heavy-handed at times, but there were some moments of real humor that I hope increase as the show get a little room to breathe.

Our Favorite Line: “Oh, did I have a purse? No. Right. I’m dead. Okay.”

You Might Like This if you like offbeat, intellectual comedies and have a high tolerance level for wackiness and whimsy. The tone also reminded me a bit of Pushing Daisies.

If You’re Interested: NBC aired two episodes at a special time this week, so catch them on demand or on the NBC or Global TV sites, then set your DVR for the third episode in the usual timeslot of Thursday at 8:30/7:30c.

(Photo courtesy of NBC.)

About Kate

Kate Linnea Welsh is a New Hampshire-based writer and taxonomist. (No, that doesn't involve dead animals.) She keeps us up to date on TV news in her weekly column "Caffeine." She writes about other TV shows, books, and more at her blog and her site Read the Screen. She'd love to talk to you on Twitter: @katelinnea