‘The Good Place’ Returns Wednesday and it’s the Only Good Half Hour Comedy We Have Left

THE GOOD PLACE -- "Everything Is Fine" Episode 101-- Pictured: Kristen Bell as Eleanor -- (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)

The title was for dramatic effect, obviously Atlanta is good, so is You’re the Worst, and so is your favorite show, so you can resist the urge to @ me.

But the comedy Thursday Night lineup of once upon time actually seems like a fairytale at this point.

The Office left us four years ago and Parks and Rec was gone two years after that and since then, our TV guides are populated with The Big Bang Theory, a soon to be Big Bang Theory spin-off, and a revolving door of one season train wrecks, the half hour comedy is a dying breed, seemingly out of ideas.

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To my surprise, last year a bit of life was placed back into the genre by the hands that played a critical role in both the aforementioned Office and Parks. Those hands belonged to Mike Schur and that savior was The Good Place and it was one of the few shows on our fall preview that actually seemed worthwhile.

And no there will not be a 2017 version, because literally almost all Network TV is bad now.

The combination of Kristen Bell and first ballot Hall of Famer, Ted Danson proved to be a dynamic tandem that flourished alongside William Jackson Harper, Jameela JamilManny Jacinto and D’Arcy Carden.
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The Good Place takes place in its namesake and in turn goes to a setting directly in contradiction with the notion of comedy – the afterlife.

Kristen Bell as Eleanor arrives after her unfortunate demise and meets Michael (Ted Danson) the “architect” responsible for creating the perfect paradise for her and her neighbors.

Soon thereafter we learn the bit of information that sets the wheels of the show in motion – she doesn’t belong there.

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(That would put her in pretty good company as we learn nearly every musician didn’t make it to the Good Place, Lincoln was the only president to make it, and not a single member of the Portland Trailblazer’s basketball team had ever made it)

This unique and challenging setting presents the creators with a sandbox to play in that lacks the restraints of any other show (aside from maybe Twin Peaks, but that was just David Lynch seeing if he could pass the toughest hang in primetime TV history off as “prestige television”).

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Schur consulted Lost and The Leftovers creator, David Lindelof, for pointers on how to craft a world with seemingly limitless possibilities. And while the tone of The Good Place is far from those of Lindelof’s projects, it possesses similarity in the sly construction and the intelligence in which the story is woven through its environment, lead by its characters.

A “high concept” show slated for a runtime of around 21 1/2 minutes on a major network that is defined and carries on like a comedy sounds like a recipe for six episodes followed by a swift cancellation. However, Schur proves time and time again why he had a hand in our favorite shows of the last decade.

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When you first put this show on, you feel like you’re walking a tightrope. Not ready to commit to a show with this subject matter, not ready to take it seriously as you follow Eleanor, our antihero from Arizona, into the sunbathed not-quite-Heaven and her house that looks like it’s made of children’s blocks and seemingly endless frozen yogurt shops.

In the midst of flying shrimp (stick with me), giant lady bugs, raining trash and dogs getting kicked into the sun emerges a show with quite a charming bit of heart (albeit a strange one) and a thoroughly enjoyable television watching experience overall.

And then after twelve episodes it does what no 1/2 hour comedy does – it pulls the rug right out from under you. And not the conclusion of a “will they / won’t they” love, we’re not in Scranton, Pennsylvania anymore, folks.

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It leaves you on your head revisiting every scene from your previous time spent in this world trying to find the signs as it reminds us that it has the ability to do anything it wants and go anywhere it wants, because the rules are different when you’re already dead.

But, mostly it leaves you excited and intrigued for where you’ll get to go with them next and if it’s possible to be surprised quite like that again.

And where Eleanor, Michael and co. end up will be answered in a one-hour double premiere Wednesday on NBC following America’s Got Talent.

And FYI The Good Place gives us a dose of the best Adam Scott, which is undoubtedly dickhead Adam Scott.

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