Everything is not fine with The Good Place

This article contains spoilers for the Good Place both Season 1 and 2.

In an attempt to get one or two more shows into my “Top Ten TV Shows of 2017” list for Facebook, I looked up some best-of lists from some otherwise reputable sources, and just about every list included this show called The Good Place. It wasn’t in the 40s, the 30s, or even the 20s. This show was on almost every listicle’s top 10. I was surprised that I hadn’t even heard of a show with such ubiquitous praise, so I set out to watch it that same day. I hunkered down with a goal to watch the entire first season in a few days time. Within the first few seconds, I was already regretting my decision, but a commitment is a commitment, and now, fifteen episodes later, here is what I thought about The Good Place.

Briefly, The Good Place is a concept sitcom, where all the characters exist in a non-denominational “heaven” (the Good Place), where they live in a quaint neighborhood and are expected to eat froyo with their systematically appointed soul mate for all of eternity. They share their neighborhood with their supposedly friendly architect who just wants the best for the inhabitants of his neighborhood, but things start to fall apart because Eleanor (Kristen Bell) is a fraud, who is aware that she was very bad on Earth and was brought to the Good Place by mistake. She enlists the help of her soul mate to teach her to be good so she can make a claim of belonging in paradise. I guess comedy was meant to ensue.

In The Good Place, no one is even remotely a believable character. They’re simpler than the most feeble-minded cartoon characters. Everyone is defined by one single quirk, and even though part of this show’s “concept” is that no one is who they seem to be, once everyone (spoiler) is revealed as their true selves, they only turn out to be the “bad” side of the exact same coin. No one grows or learns anything at all ever, and they just get their memories erased over and over for some reason.

For a few episodes, I was under the impression that this show had a really awesome message, about how the people you are surrounded with can either challenge you to be better or they can encourage your bad decisions. Eleanor (Kristen Bell) literally says that if she had such good friends teaching her to be better on Earth, she would’ve been good enough to have made it into paradise the honest way. However, Eleanor’s weirdly antisocial blob of a character turns out to be surrounded by perfectly fine people while she’s still alive, she just sucks in massively unbelievable ways for no reason. This is what irks me the most. This whole show is so inconsequential. Their fates have already been decided, and whatever they “learn” doesn’t make their characters grow because they’re actually in the “Bad Place” and torture isn’t about growth, its just torture.  And then… They get their memories wiped way too many times. Nothing matters.

Considering how truly pointless this show is, in failing to deliver on its major themes of character growth, ethics, upbringing, etc, I’m willing to put that all aside, but here’s what really got to me.  Why are demons from the “bad place” just people who like their smart-phones too much? Aside from Adam Scott, who is truly “evil” (insists on verbally sexually harassing Eleanor), all the demons are just mildly annoying people who can’t read a room. It felt like the ramblings of a Baby Boomer who think millennials killed the diamond industry because they can’t fart without staring at a screen. It’s not even a joke at the expense of bad contemporary cultural trends, it’s just some truly lazy writing.

I don’t really care about the logic of this reality, I’m happy to accept that there is a non-denominational afterlife, world-building architects, a deed-based point system, etc. But I don’t understand why everything is so 2017. It’s weird that there weren’t any “timeless” elements. The “architects”, the “actors” who fill the neighborhood, and the demons, all these characters were supposed to have existed for all time. Not even one history joke? They were all just born the same year as the show?

I gave up after episode 15 (the second episode of the second season), after they got their memories erased for the third time, and I think I might go back and finish it just so I can confirm to myself everything I hate about this show, but for the time being I give The Good Place 4 out of 10 forks.

 

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