Monday, September 19, 2016

NBC Fall Pilot Review: The Good Place - Premieres Tonight (Sept. 19); 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Award Winners

The Good Place

The Good Place - Thursdays at 8:30PM ET/PT on NBC
Series Preview Monday, September 19, 2016 at 10:00PM & 10:30PM ET/PT; Timeslot Premiere on Thursday, September 22, 2016 at 8:30PM ET/PT


by Vincent

The Good Place is a unique new comedy that follows Eleanor Shellstrop, an ordinary woman who, through an extraordinary string of events, enters the afterlife where she comes to realize that she hasn't been a very good person. With the help of her wise newfound afterlife mentor, she's determined to shed her old way of living and discover the awesome (or at least the pretty good) person within.

Cast Details:

Kristen Bell as Eleanor
Ted Danson as Michael
Jameela Jamil as Tahani
William Jackson Harper as Chidi
Manny Jacinto as Jianyu
D'Arcy Carden as Janet

Kristen Bell (Eleanor) is known for her role as the titular character in the cult teen drama series Veronica Mars. She is also well-known for her voice role as Ana in the smash hit animated Disney film Frozen. She also starred as Jeannie in the Showtime drama series House of Lies and has appeared in guest roles on shows such as Party Down, Parks and Recreation, and The Simpsons.

Ted Danson (Michael) is known for his role as Sam Malone on the long-running NBC sitcom Cheers as well as the 2000s sitcom Becker. He also spent multiple years in a lead role on CSI and most recently had a major part in the second season of FX's Fargo adaptation. He has also appeared on shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, Bored to Death, Help Me Help You and Damages.

Jameela Jamil (Tahani) is an English actress and television/radio presenter. She is best known as the host of the UK radio show The Official Chart as well as several TV music programs such as Music Zone and Freshly Squeezed. The Good Place will be her first major starring role as an actress.

William Jackson Harper (Chidi) is an actor who is best known for his role as Danny on The Electric Company. He has also appeared on shows such as 30 Rock, Person of Interest, and High Maintenance,

Manny Jacinto (Jianyu) is an actor who has previously appeared in guest roles on shows such as The 100, iZombie, and Bates Motel.

D'Arcy Carden (Janet) is a comedic actress known for her roles on Broad City and Comedy Bang! Bang! She also appeared in a guest role on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the indie film Other People, and is a regular in CollegeHumor online videos.

Pilot Plot:

"Pilot/Flying" (Airs September 19 at 10:00PM & 10:30PM ET)

Thanks to some kind of error, Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), an ordinary woman, enters the afterlife and is sent to the Good Place -- which is definitely not where she belongs. While hiding in plain sight from Michael (Ted Danson), the wise architect of the Good Place who is unaware that he's made a mistake, she's determined to shed her old way of living and discover the awesome person within. Helping Eleanor navigate her new surroundings are Chidi (William Jackson Harper), her kind, open-hearted "soulmate" who sees the good in people but finds himself facing quite a dilemma; her frustratingly perfect new neighbors, Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jianyu (Manny Jacinto); and Janet (D'Arcy Carden), a walking, talking source for all the knowledge in the universe.

Analysis:

The Good Place has perhaps the highest pedigree of any new sitcom this fall. It comes from Michael Schur, former Office staff writer and the man behind critically acclaimed and fan beloved Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It also stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, two of the most talented actors working in TV right now. So, needless to say, my expectations for The Good Place were sky-high, even with a somewhat off-kilter premise that seems better-suited for a quirky indie film than a network television series. And while I do have some concerns about the sustainability of its premise over long periods of time, the first five episodes of The Good Place are charming, confident, funny, and a great use of its talented cast. It's pretty rare to see a network comedy as fully-formed as The Good Place is from the start – the show's pilot, while somewhat exposition-heavy (which is hard to avoid with a premise like this), is a great, funny, and entertaining introduction to an incredibly unique world, and the show only builds upon its that over the next four episodes, each of which do a little bit to expand our knowledge of the show's universe and the characters that populate it.

Although The Good Place is one of the more ambitious network comedies I've seen in recent years, the show does mostly settle into a formula after its whimsical, sci-fi-heavy pilot. Each episode loosely revolves around Eleanor attempting to be a good person, failing for some various reason, and then learning some kind of "lesson" by the end of the episode. This isn't a criticism whatsoever – every sitcom, even the very best ones, finds some kind of formula they can easily repeat to sustain themselves year after year, and it's actually encouraging to see that The Good Place has already found a way to lend its creative premise into network-TV friendly storylines each week without losing what makes it so interesting in the first place. In fact, The Good Place is really smart about getting around the fact that it's a network sitcom with a more cable or streaming-esque premise (there's an amusing runner dealing with how the foul-mouthed Eleanor can't curse in the afterlife, and all of her f-bombs turn into "forks"). Still, if there's a key to The Good Place remaining fresh through-out the rest of its first season and into any potential future seasons, it's to dig a bit deeper into its supporting characters and the world its created alongside the "Eleanor tries to be a good person" narrative. The show already seems to be doing this by the end of these five episodes, and you can certainly see the Parks & Rec­-esque world-building beginning to form, but I think the show could use just a bit more of it, as it's likely its best chance at sustaining a premise that's fascinating but could run out of steam fast. Still, for now, I'm liking just about everything The Good Place has to offer.

Conclusion:

The Good Place is a highly creative and nearly fully-formed new sitcom with great talent both in the writing room and on screen. The show's premise is incredibly unique and yet still lends itself well to the confines of a network sitcom, and the performances from both Kristen Bell and Ted Danson as well as the mostly-newcomer supporting cast are some of the best you'll find on TV this fall. There are certainly questions to be had about the sustainability of a premise like this over long periods of time, and it would be nice to see the show dig deeper into its world-building and supporting cast a bit more in future episodes, but overall there's not much about The Good Place right now that isn't...well, good.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 5/5
Funniness: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

Discuss the show after you watch it on Monday, September 19, 2016 at 10:00PM & 10:30PM ET/PT on our message board.

Related Links:

  • Fox.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • The Good Place Photo Gallery

    Preview:





  • The 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards aired last night on ABC. Here are the winners!

    OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
    black-ish (ABC)
    Modern Family (ABC)
    Master Of Non (Netflix)
    Silicon Valley (HBO)
    Transparent (Amazon)
    Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
    Veep (HBO)
    WINNER: Veep (HBO)

    OUTSTANDING LEAD COMEDY ACTOR
    Anthony Anderson, black-ish (ABC)
    Will Forte, The Last Man on Earth (Fox)
    Aziz Ansari, Master of None (Netflix)
    Louis C.K., Louie (FX)
    William H. Macy, Shameless (Showtime)
    Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley (HBO)
    Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent (Amazon)
    WINNER: Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent (Amazon).

    OUTSTANDING LEAD COMEDY ACTRESS
    Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie (Netflix)
    Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central)
    Tracee Ellis Ross, black-ish (ABC)
    Laurie Metcalf, Getting On (HBO)
    Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmid (Netflix)
    Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep (HBO)
    WINNER: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep (HBO).

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING COMEDY ACTOR
    Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX)
    Louie Anderson, Baskets (FX)
    Keegan-Michael Key, Key & Peele (Comedy Central)
    Ty Burrell, Modern Family (ABC)
    Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
    Tony Hale, Veep (HBO)
    Matt Walsh, Veep (HBO)
    WINNER: Louie Anderson, Baskets (FX)

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING COMEDY ACTRESS
    Niecy Nash, Getting On (HBO)
    Judith Light, Transparent (Amazon)
    Allison Janney, Mom (CBS)
    Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live (NBC)
    Gaby Hoffmann, Transparent (Amazon)
    Jane Krakowski, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
    Anna Chlumsky, Veep (HBO)
    WINNER: Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live (NBC)

    OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
    Better Call Caul (AMC)
    Downton Abbey (PBS)
    Game of Thrones (HBO)
    House of Cards (Netflix)
    Homeland (Showtime)
    Mr. Robot (USA Network)
    The Americans (FX)
    WINNER: Game of Thrones (HBO)

    OUTSTANDING LEAD DRAMA ACTOR
    Bob Odenkirk, Netter Call Saul (AMC)
    Kyle Chandler, Bloodline (Netflix)
    Kevin Spacey, House of Cards (Netflix)
    Rami Malek, Mr. Robot (USA Network)
    Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan (Showtime)
    Matthew Rhys, The Americans (FX)
    WINNER: Rami Malek, Mr. Robot (USA Network)

    OUTSTANDING LEAD DRAMA ACTRESS
    Taraji P. Henson, Empire (Fox)
    Claire Danes, Homeland (Showtime)
    Robin Wright, House of Cards (Netflix)
    Viola Davis, How To Get Away With Murder (ABC)
    Keri Russell, The Americans (FX)
    Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black (BBC America)
    WINNER: Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black (BBC America)

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING DRAMA ACTOR
    Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul (AMC)
    Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline (Netflix)
    Kit Harrington, Game of Thrones (HBO)
    Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones (HBO)
    Michael Kelly, House of Cards (Netflix)
    Jon Voight, Ray Donovan (Showtime)
    WINNER: Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline (Netflix)

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING DRAMA ACTRESS
    Maura Tierney, The Affair (Showtime)
    Lena Headey, Game of Thrones (HBO)
    Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones (HBO)
    Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey (PBS)
    Maisie Williams, Game of Thrones (HBO)
    Constance Zimmer, UnReal (Lifetime)
    WINNER: Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey (PBS)

    OUTSTANDING LIMITED SERIES
    American Crime (ABC)
    Fargo (FX)
    The Night Manager (AMC)
    The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
    Roots (History)
    WINNER: The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)

    OUTSTANDING LEAD LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE ACTOR
    Bryan Cranston, All the Way (HBO)
    Idris Elba, Luther (BBC America)
    Tom Hiddleston, The Night Manager (AMC)
    Courtney B. Vance, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
    Cuba Gooding, Jr., The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
    Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (PBS)
    WINNER: Courtney B. Vance, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)

    OUTSTANDING LEAD LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE ACTRESS
    Felicity Huffman, American Crime (ABC)
    Lili Taylor, American Crime (ABC)
    Kerry Washington, Confirmation (HBO)
    Kirsten Dunst, Fargo (FX)
    Keri Russell, The Americans (FX)
    Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill (HBO)
    Sarah Paulson, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Stor (HBO)
    WINNER: Sarah Paulson, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Stor (HBO)

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE ACTOR
    Jesse Plemons, Fargo (FX)
    Bokeem Woodbine, Fargo (FX)
    Hugh Laurie, The Night Manager (AMC)
    Sterling K. Brown, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Stor (HBO)
    David Schwimmer, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Stor (HBO)
    John Travolta, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Stor (HBO)
    WINNER: Sterling K. Brown, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Stor (HBO)

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE ACTRESS
    Melissa Leo, All the Way (HBO)
    Regina King, American Crime (ABC)
    Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Hotel (FX)
    Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Hotel (FX)
    Jean Smart, Fargo (FX)
    Olivia Colman, The Night Manager (FX)
    WINNER: Regina King, American Crime (ABC)

    View the full list of winners.


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    Complete TV Listings


    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of April 22)

    Monday, April 22

    • Wilmer Valderrama (That '70s Show) - Watch Wilmer on a repeat of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
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    • Gillian Jacobs (Love/Community) and Pete Holmes (How We Roll/Crashing) - Gillian and Pete are guests on After Midnight at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Jennifer Tilly (Out of Practice) - Jennifer appears on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen at 3:30am on Bravo.
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