TV review: Heaven gets messy in ‘The Good Place’

Tom Long
The Detroit News

Turns out “The Good Place” is a very good place to be indeed.

Understand, NBC’s now comedy created by Michael Schur (“Parks and Recreation”) is not your standard fare. It’s not your standard anything. In fact, it’s out of this world.

Metro Detroit-born girl Kristen Bell stars as Eleanor, a woman who finds herself in the afterlife. But this isn’t just any afterlife, she’s assured by her guide, Michael (Ted Danson); this is the place where the best of the best human beings go, where frozen yogurt shops are plentiful, where lawns are evergreen and everyone finds their true soulmate.

Sounds great, right? Except Eleanor knows the truth — she wasn’t a very good human being at all. Actually, she was a selfish mess. But if she owns up to this she might be sent to The Bad Place, which sounds pretty bad.

Her solution is simple. The soulmate she’s been appointed, Chidi (William Jackson Harper), is a former ethics professor. So she decides he will teach her to be good enough for “The Good Place.”

Things do not go smoothly. Soon giant shrimp are flying through the air, giraffes are running down streets and Michael knows something is not right with his perfect design. Lucky for Eleanor, he doesn’t know what the problem is.

As far-fetched as this all sounds, creator Schur holds it together, creating a small community of kooky characters — keep an eye out for the info system named Janet (D’Arcy Carden) — who bounce nicely off one another, much as the characters in “Parks and Rec” did. They just happen to be doing so in some damaged version of heaven.

Just as “Parks and Rec” was built around a strong female character (Amy Poehler), so is “The Good Place” and Bell brings her daffy range of sensibilities to the show. She somehow manages to run through sassy, clueless, innocent, rude, earnest, spunky, well-intentioned and selfish modes in every episode. Join her in “The Good Place.” Imagine the alternative.

Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.

Twitter: @toomuchTomLong

‘The Good Place’


10 p.m. Monday, then Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.

NBC (WDIV-TV, Channel 4)