Review of The Good Place (2016)

Moving picture, 4.0 hours

Seen in 2020.

This review refers to the first two seasons.

A woman dies ignominiously and awakes in a version of Christianity’s Heaven, but she knows she shouldn’t be there.

A high-concept sitcom. Ted Danson and D’Arcy Carden are very good in it. The concept is not: It’s more fun than classic family- or friendship-based sitcom setups, but The Good Place ultimately goes nowhere with its concept, taken from Sartre’s No Exit (1944).

Despite the fact that one of the major characters is an ethics professor, the script doesn’t do anything smart with the idea of being eternally rewarded or punished according to arcane, secret, obviously arbitrary rules administered by an inelegant and eminently fallible celestial bureaucracy. Instead, the arbitrariness of the afterlife is merely the excuse by which the situational comedy gets its situations. The Good Place is thus better than Risky Safety (1999), but worse than “Death Billiards” (2013).

The twist ending of the first season—of which I was already aware from Obiter dictum—is shallow metafiction, outlining the dramaturgical pillars of the show. The twist as such would be unpredictable only because the writing was internally incoherent to begin with, and there is no sign of that changing. Indeed, season 2 just makes the situational comedy as such truly extreme, by starting with continual retcons and ending with a clear demonstration to the effect that objective good and evil manifest in the living humans of the diegesis.

References here: Soft drinks and ethical nihilism, A caricature of moral philosophy.

moving picture fiction series