There is a long, long history of sitcoms created over the years. Some are straight comedy, aiming for easy non-confrontational jokes that everyone can enjoy. Some are as much drama as comedy and have a strong thesis they are trying to convey. And some are somewhere in between. Funny, but with a certain amount of smart. They try to make a point while they make you laugh. Those are personally my favorites, and I think 'The Good Place' is one of the best examples of that type of sitcom to come along in years.
The show is, first and foremost, funny. But the shows concept, four humans who have died and moved on to the afterlife, allows the show to explore philosophical ideas about ethics and morality. If that just made you cringe a little, don't worry. I promise that it's delivered in very tiny bites and always with a generous helping of the funny to help it go down. In truth, I think you could enjoy the show and never spend a second thinking about the philosophy of ethics, although I also think most people will enjoy thinking a little about the ideas encountered on the show.
I don't want to go into any specifics about plot, because one of the most enjoyable things about the show is the twisting and surprising journey they take the audience on. But I will say that their willingness to not dwell overly long on any particular plot, even ones that are still working, is one of the major strengths of the show. I often find that as they end one idea and move on to the next I find myself wishing there was just a little more of the last one. But that ability to leave you wanting more is one of the most appealing aspects of the show.
The cast is phenomenal. Those of us old enough to remember 'Cheers' already knew Ted Danson was awesome, of course. And I've been in love with Kristen Bell ever since I saw 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall'. But I never would have thought their combination would create such a perfect father-daughter chemistry. Also, William Jackson Harper as Chidi Anagonye is one of my favorite new (to me) actors I've seen in years. His straight man to the rest of the cast is incredible, but he also manages to inject his character with very believable quirks and flaws that add real dimension. Honestly, just the whole cast is terrific; I don't have a bad thing to say about any of them.
One of the smartest decisions they made when designing the show is adopting a schedule more akin to cable television then broadcast, something I've wondered for a long time why more networks weren't doing. Traditional broadcast TV has 22-24 episodes per season, as opposed to cables 10-13. The thing is, writing 24 episodes per year, even with a team of great writers, and maintaining quality over multiple seasons, is crazy difficult. A handful of shows have managed to have mostly quality writing over many seasons, but the norm, unfortunately, is much closer to having maybe four or five good seasons (on good shows!) before things start inevitably declining. The schedule for that much content is just too grueling. I would much rather have shows that are better written with fewer episodes than more content that is increasingly disappointing.
Bottom line, I can't recommend this show highly enough. Catch it on NBC first run if you can, or on Hulu I think, although I don't have Hulu myself so I'm not 100% on that. Or binge the entire previous season on Netflix; typically they put the last season on Netflix when the show breaks for the summer. Also, if you do end up getting addicted like I did, consider listening to the shows excellent podcast. The podcast is hosted by one of the stars and nearly every week they have one of the cast or directors or writers on for a Q&A. Like the show, it's really well done.
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