Becker, Ted Danson’s underrated late 90s sitcom gem, was something of a staple of my formative years. So, naturally, when a new sitcom with his involvement was announced, I took notice. The Good Place follows one Eleanor Shellstrop, played by Kristen Bell, who dies in a freak erectile dysfunction-related accident and finds herself in the titular ‘Good Place’. There’s just one problem, Eleanor is nowhere near as ‘good’ a person as the location’s creator Michael, played by Danson, believes her to be. The series generally follows her as she attempts to fit in with her surroundings and avoid getting caught and sent to ‘The Bad Place’, helpfully described by horrific screaming. The premise, though it may sound outlandish, is a refreshing change from the banality of contemporary network sitcoms. Instead, it evokes memories of cult classics such as Pushing Daisies, with similarly bubble-gummy visuals. Similarly, the comedy is not abrasive, ostentatious, or too in-your-face. Jokes are subtle and consistent, keeping you entertained throughout. However, extremely stand-out comedic moments are few and far between. So if you prefer big jokes, you may not enjoy this as much. Conversely though, a lot of attention is paid to small details, and there is often humour to be drawn from seemingly small elements of the background. The series also manages to build an uncharacteristically rich lore for a sitcom, all without thrusting needless exposition or details onto the viewer. The show has more layers and mysteries than initial appearances suggest, and a solid foundation is built for any future seasons. Personally, I’m left to wonder how such seemingly ‘selfless’ people are comfortable with some esoteric criteria condemning all others to eternal damnation. Clearly, there’s a catch. The acting is, unsurprisingly, great although Danson and Bell do tend to dominate on that front. Danson really gets to show off his versatility here, successfully capturing Michael’s unsure yet optimistic nature. All things considered, this is definitely an interesting idea, and I’d be glad to see network TV go this way.
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