Welcome to The Indiependent’s Top TV of the Decade! Our very own TV Editor, James Nash, takes a look at one of most good-hearted shows of the 2010s, The Good Place…
What do we owe to The Good Place? As it turns out, a great deal. Mike Schur’s philosophical sit-com begins with a woman, Eleanor (Kristen Bell), arriving in Heaven (‘The Good Place’), only to reveal that she’s not supposed to be there. But whilst the series opens with this unique, thematically and comedically rich premise, the show races through plot like there’s no tomorrow – and all for the better, as the show quickly grows beyond what it initially promised. Rarely has a sit-com been as simultaneously intellectual and widely accessible as this.
Part of this accessibility is no doubt down to its stellar cast; led by comedy heavyweights Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, and beautifully supported by relative newcomers William Jackson-Harper, Jameela Jamil, Manny Jacinto, and D’Arcy Carden, all six leads have given comedic and dramatic performances worthy of multiple awards each (alas, the powers that be seem to have forgotten to watch this series). For a gang that calls themselves ‘Team Cockroach’, they’re pretty damn likeable – and relatable, too.
It is this relatability that endears our four humans, our god-like architect, and our not-a-robot-not-a-girl, to us; despite cruel, reckless behaviour, indecision, narcissism, and sheer stupidity, these characters all strive to be better than they are, but acknowledge that judgement in this matter is subjective, maybe impossible. Whilst the core six, and all of us watching at home, learn the importance of philosophy and ethics, we also learn that nothing is more important than what we owe to each other.
The comedy is always sublime, the drama always heartfelt: Tahani’s fractured relationship with her family is just as impactful as her consistently hilarious name-drops; Eleanor’s insecurity and unfortunate life is perfectly balanced with her bitter wit and even more unfortunate after-life, etc. And if this equilibrium just isn’t enough for you, just wait for the twists – the finale of season one pulls the rug from under your feet like no other television this decade. Where other shows have introduced game-changing twists for the sake of shock value, The Good Place takes these jaw-dropping reveals and runs with them, and each season feels fresh and exciting because of this.
So, if you fancy a funny, heartfelt, educational, sometimes-shocking, strangely-relatable series to binge over Christmas, might I recommend one of the finest sit-coms ever to grace our screens? If anything, you owe it to yourself.
Words by James Nash