Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Fall TV 2016: The Good Place

I remember when Parks and Recreation debuted, and I kind of wanted to like it but was really underwhelmed. Even then I had way ore stuff I wanted to watch than hours to watch it, so I moved on after giving it a shot. the common refrain for the rest of the show's run was, "yeah, it started out not so great, but then it got great." I tried it again but just didn't get into it.

The Good Place is another NBC sitcom from the same showrunner, and while the first two episodes are pleasant and offer an intriguing premise, they just don't grab me. If I were watching NBC TV in a block and this series came on before/after something I couldn't miss (something I MUST SEE, one might say), then I'd probably watch it without reservation. In 2016, I time-shift everything, and thus I'll probably wait until everyone says the show is great before I seek it out again.

I love the concept of the show. After death, Kristen Bell's character enters the afterlife, making it to not Heaven, exactly, but certainly not Hell. In fact, it's "the good place." Only thing is, she got there due to some kind of mistake. While Ted Danson's character explains that we build up points through our lives for doing good, and that sum determines our destination after we die, we learn that Bell did not actually accumulate tons of good points. To the contrary, she was kind of a jerk.

So Bell tried to adapt to life in the good place while avoiding being found out, even though weird things are happening as a result of her being there under false pretenses. This premise is intriguing and offers a lot of possibilities. It's a legit concern to wonder how long they can run with this, but my feeling is, why worry about that at the beginning?

The bigger issue to me is that the show is amiable and interesting but not all that compelling. I don't find Bell a remarkable comedic presence, and no one else in the supporting cast (I do like her haughty neighbor) stands out. The best reason to watch from what I've seen? Danson, by far. Unlike Bell  (sorry, Marsheads or whatever you Veronica Mars fans call yourselves), he is a bona fide television star, someone who is always magnetic and always someone I want to watch (Uh, unless it's on a CSI). His character here is new on the job and a little unsure of himself, and it's a refreshing change-up from the veteran performer--and one that works.

The writing isn't sharp enough in episodes 1 and 2 to make me stick around, however, and I feel that if they can't make this funny right off the bat, I worry about the rest of the series. I am perfectly willing to be told I'm wrong, though, even if it takes a season or two.

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