Kristen Bell playing sarcastic is what she does. Be it Veronica Mars or her role on House of Lies, a character with a slight pessimistic tinge, and a bit untrusting of people, in general, is who she plays best. So with her playing a dead person, who belongs in what is called “The Bad Place,” lucking out due to someone’s mistake and ending up in “The Good Place,” you got to wonder how long is it until they realize she isn’t quirky or different, but someone who does not belong.
Eleanor (Kristen Bell) was a slightly horrible person. She sold medicine to the sick and elderly which was basically chalk, and she was the top sells person 5 years running. Yet, despite that, and her always putting her own interest first, she somehow ends up in some form of heaven. A place where she is given a house, meets her soul mate Chidi (William Jackson Harper), and seems to now have not a worry in the world. That is, besides anyone figuring out there was a huge mistake.
Which is a huge problem for while minor things like being boastful, as Eleanor’s neighbor Tahini (Jameela Jamil) is, doesn’t seem to be a problem, it seems gluttony, lying, and outright name calling makes bad things happen. Be it trash raining from the sky, giant insects flying around, and surely more as the season goes on. But, be it that the bad place sounds like hell, screams and all, Eleanor is going to try to pull an 180. That is, if her soul mate, in a non-romantic way as of now, Chidi keeps his faith in her.
Offhand, I can’t instantly compare this show to anything. Though with it being an NBC show, that feels like the norm. They often have quirky little odd shows like this. Ones which stars actors and comedians who are considered underrated and now are getting to become leads, in Bell’s case, a lead again. Reminding you why you like their style and what is their comfort zone.
However, one of the major issues with this show is while Eleanor seems like someone you’d like to get to know, the same can’t be said for everyone else. For whether they are the boring types you’d imagine would end up in “The Good Place” or like Tahini who you’d question why their hair isn’t on fire in “The Bad Place” something about them all seems like vanilla ice cream with sprinkles. Or, to put it another way, the most bland things you can find with a bit of superficial things thrown on top to make them seem colorful.
Let’s, for example, focus on Tahini. She, to me, would be some sort of relief from the Chidi and Michael (Ted Danson) types. Those you know would end up in “The Good Place.” But she doesn’t end up feeling like a relief from all what Michael makes out to be a neighborhood he curated for perfect people. No. Instead, she has this nails on a chalkboard personality which is like any celebrity socialite since 2000, just without her saying things which are stupid. But don’t think that is some sort of reprieve. For her airs and graces and her condescending tone make you wish this show was about people in “The Bad Place” trying to get to “The Good Place.” Though, to be fair, considering her struggle to try to get her soul mate Jianyu (Manny Jacinto) to talk, maybe they may find a way for us to feel bad for her.
Leading to perhaps the biggest issue: Being given a reason to care. It is hinted Eleanor didn’t have the best family life, but at this point, after that excuse being used for almost a century for people’s problems, you have to do better than that. Heck, even if you want to argue that this isn’t a drama, well then the show can’t be lazy with its punchlines and gags either. Like Eleanor messing up Chidi’s name a million times just because it’s African. Really, that is the best they could come up with? Among someone who is supposed to be all knowing but really has no idea what they are doing?
On The Fence
Religion, thus far, doesn’t really play a role in the show. The benefit of this is that it doesn’t court controversy, yet it feels like instead of sidestepping a mine it is avoiding an opportunity. One which perhaps could bring deeper meaning to each character’s past and even their development on this show. After all, faith isn’t a huge topic on most shows and is especially avoided on network TV. So it would be interesting, considering how supposedly most religions only got it 5% right, according to Michael, what was right, wrong, and despite the religious text, how everyone became someone worthy of being in The Good Place. Especially if there was some struggle involved.
Feelings Since The Pilot
This show is the epitome of the “Stick Around” label for it honestly got so much better since then. I love Tahini now and now can’t name one character I dislike. It still isn’t that funny, but that is compensated with characters who grow on you. Especially as their flaws are exposed to us and their feelings of inadequacy.