In this era of cynicism, hopelessness and confusion, we find ourselves turning to TV shows as an escape. There are 1578 shows on Netflix right now, so it’s fair to say it can be tricky to choose what to watch. I’m here to tell you to stop your infinite scrolling through Netflix, switch across to the search screen, and type in The Good Place. Because it’s the best show on television.
I don’t make this assertion lightly. I watch way too much TV for it to be considered healthy. I’ve made my way steadily through the Netflix TV show catalogue, and there are very few shows I haven’t seen. I’ve watched everything from Stranger Things, to How I Met Your Mother, to Wild Wild Country, to Barbie’s Life In The Dreamhouse (Don’t judge me until you have watched it). You name it, I’ve probably seen it. Maybe multiple times. So, when I say that The Good Place is the best show on television, you can trust me.
I promise that there are no spoilers ahead! The Good Place is full of unexpected twists and turns that you should experience for yourself, not via this article.
The Netflix description of The Good Place is as follows:
“Due to an error, self-absorbed Eleanor Shellstrop arrives at the Good Place after her death. Determined to stay, she tries to become a better person.”
This does not even touch the surface of what this show covers – but it touches on the basics. The Good Place is about life and death, ethics, self-improvement, what we owe to each other and asks the question of how we can become a better human. It’s a high concept show that is accessible for all ages. I’ve watched it with my cousins who are in primary school, my mum and my mates. Its messages reach across ages and demographics, and everything is delivered in a vibrant and fun universe. It keeps you on your toes, keeps you thinking and makes you reflect on your own life. There are no ‘filler’ episodes – everything contributes to the storyline, every moment on screen is delightful, ingenious and pause-and-rewind worthy. Above all, it’s a show full of heart that is all about hope, evolution and doing the right thing.
On paper, a TV show about ethics and philosophy shouldn’t work. After all, as the show reiterates “everyone hates moral philosophy professors”. But The Good Place expertly weaves in ethics lessons, making them accessible and enjoyable for its audience. There’s a Kierkegaard rap, the Trolley Problem in real life, and actual ethics classes – all of which have been supervised and approved by a real moral philosophy professor. The Good Place is never preachy in its ethics lessons, instead, it manages to convey complex theories such as moral particularism, nihilism, deontology, consequentialism, virtue ethics, Kantianism, utilitarianism and determinism, through heartfelt and engaging storylines. In every caper and sticky situation the characters find themselves in, we as an audience are encouraged to think about what the right thing to do is. As the characters learn how to be better people, we are also learning.
The Good Place was dreamed up by, Mike Shur, the guy responsible for TV show gems like the US The Office, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Parks and Recreation. NBC gave him full creative freedom to create the show of his choosing after his substantial success with his other shows. Shur took this opportunity and ran with it. A show about the afterlife? Check. A points system that determines entry into the Good Place or the Bad Place? Check. A not-a-robot not-a-girl character who happens to have all of the knowledge in the universe? Check. Add on top of all of this an incredible cast of Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, Jameela Jamil, Manny Jacinto, William Jackson Harper and D’Arcy Carden, and you have magic.
If I haven’t yet convinced you that The Good Place is the best show on TV, here are four quick reasons why you should be watching it.
1.The not-swearing swearing
After arriving in the Good Place, Eleanor Shellstrop (played by Kristen Bell) discovers that swearing is censored because most of her fellow residents don’t like it. So every time a character swears in the Good Place, the word is automatically switched for a more acceptable alternative. Eleanor Shellstrop is a very sweary individual, so the audience is presented with a plethora of fun swear word alternatives. Fork, motherforker, ash, bench, dink, shirt, shirtballs, or the fabulous phrase ‘holy motherforking shirtballs’ will quickly become part of your vocab. A show that makes you less sweary and a better person? Amazing.
2. Tahani’s name dropping
Socialite, philanthropist and Good Place resident Tahani Al Jamil (played by Jameela Jamil) name drops like a boss. It seems like every second sentence she says is littered with celebrity names. “I’m going to tell you the same thing I told Pippa Middleton right before we went paragliding in Gibraltar: ‘Let’s go.’”, “Sure, Ben Affleck told me he’d matured as an artist after he directed Argo, but then, right on schedule, it was, ‘Guess what, Tahani, I’m gonna be Batman.’”, “You know, one of my shyest friends — I won’t say his name to preserve his privacy — but he found my presence so comforting that he asked me to co-host his TV show, Anderson Cooper 360.”, “I haven’t been this upset since my good friend Taylor was rudely upstaged by my other friend Kanye, who was defending my best friend, Beyoncé.” are just some of her iconic name drops.
3. “Ya Basic”
The show’s catchphrase, ‘Ya Basic’, is perhaps the most cutting insult of all time. I am not going to give you any context for when it is used, but let me just say that it is iconic. Believe me, you need this insult in your arsenal the next time someone comes for you. This is just one of the catchphrase gems that The Good Place gifts its audience. Look out for some of the other phrases you’ll be stealing; “pobody’s nerfect”, “Buzz off, Bambadjan”, “Bordels!” and “not a robot” are just a few.
The Good Place’s version of Siri is Janet, a non-robot non-human information system played by the lovely D’Arcy Carden. Janet is essentially an operational mainframe for the Good Place and the Bad Place. She assists the residents, teleporting where she is needed when called and materializes objects for the residents. She also knows all of the information of the universe and lives in a void. She is perhaps the most original TV character ever written, and her counterpart, Bad Janet, the Bad Place’s version of Janet, is hilarious. Fart jokes abound.
If after all of that you still don’t want to watch The Good Place, then as Eleanor Shellstrop says, “Ya Basic”. But seriously, it is the best show on television because it helps make you a better person. Since watching it I have become more ethical, more aware of the philosophical conundrums I encounter every day, and more invested in evolution and positive growth. If that’s not worth watching for, I don’t know what is.
Season 3 of The Good Place is now streaming on Netflix.