September 21, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “The Good Place”


THE GOOD PLACE:  Thursday 8:30PM on NBC starting 9/28

The Season 1 finale of NBC’s THE GOOD PLACE was a tough act to follow.  Michael Schur’s series pulled off the plot twist of the season, which turned out on further examination to have been hiding in plain sight all along.  We learned (2016-17 spoiler alert!) that a story that had seemed to be taking place in a secular version of heaven was actually about a particularly devious form of hell, and that the place’s angelic “architect” Michael (Ted Danson) was really developing a new form of demonic torture.  It will be extremely difficult for Schur to achieve that kind of WTF moment this time around–for one thing, viewers will now be scrutinizing every episode for clues–but that still leaves an ingeniously plotted, often inspired comedy that may be more original and ambitious than anything else on broadcast TV right now.

Although tonight’s special Wednesday night season premiere was technically back-to-back half-hours (the first written by Producer Jen Statsky, the second by Supervising Producer Joe Mande; both directed by Trent O’Donnell), the hour was really a sort of free-standing sequel to last season’s finale.  In the final seconds of last season, before Michael wiped the memories of Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jason (Manny Jacinto) because they’d realized the truth about The Good Place, Eleanor had hidden a note to her future self in robot Janet (D’Arcy Carden).  We knew that note, telling Eleanor to find Chidi, would at least kick off the process of our four heroes figuring out where they were once more.  But Schur was again one step ahead of the audience, who may have thought that journey would be the plot of Season 2.  Instead, he had Michael find out about the note by the end of the hour, and he wiped their memories yet again and set them up for a “Good Place” 3.0 where they won’t have any help from their past selves.

The major structural change from Season 1 was that since the Bad Place cat is out of the bag, Schur can share with us what’s going on from Michael’s point of view, and so we saw him trying to calm down his boss Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson), who favors the old-fashioned kind of hellish torture, and also deal with the increasing restiveness of his “cast,” who aren’t very different from, well, TV actors.  The woman who played Real Eleanor in the original Good Place (Tiya Sircar), for example, relegated to running a pizza shop in version 2.0, demanded a limp to make her character more interesting.

Even without its twists, The Good Place is crammed with inventiveness.  Tonight’s hour approached each act from the viewpoint of a different lead character, moving the action forward bit by bit as Michael gave each of the leads a “soulmate” designed to drive him or her crazy (superficial Tahani got one who was short and shamed her into wearing cargo pants; Chidi, unable to make choices, was given multiple potential partners), and they subverted his well-laid plans, intentionally or not.  The script was well structured and edited with a pace that accelerated throughout, allowing for the amount of information viewers took in each step of the way.

Danson and Bell are the name stars of the series, and they’re terrific–Danson, now allowed to be overtly evil, is having a particularly swell time–but one of Schur’s hallmarks on shows like Parks & Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine is his ensemble casting, and everyone here is up to the stars’ high standards.  Jamil, whose Tahani got to deliver the drunken oration (intended by Michael for Eleanor) at the episode’s centerpiece party sequence was particularly strong in the premiere.

The state of broadcast situation comedy isn’t very bright these days, and that’s certainly true at NBC, which otherwise features the mildly engaging Superstore, the raised-from-the-dead Will & Grace, and Great News, which survived last season for reasons no one can quite understand.  The Good Place of The Good Place may have turned out to be a misleading name, but the show that bears its title is definitely the best part of its network’s comedy line-up.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."