NBC Thursday nights were long branded as "Must See TV" or "Comedy Done Right," referring to its four comedies every week. Since the 1995 TV season, NBC has been home to so many favorite TV comedies, such as "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," "Seinfeld," "Friends," "Will & Grace," "Scrubs," "The Office," "30 Rock," "Parks and Recreation," "Community," and of course, many other popular and beloved comedies that may not have become household names, but were still well received.
Even before recent memory, NBC held the comedy crown. In the 2014 and 2015 TV seasons, NBC found itself without its classic comedies as fan favorites reached their happy endings. Soon, Thursday nights on NBC were filled with reality TV, dramas, and a few scattered comedies that didn't become successful.
Those two years, though sad, were brief, and now, NBC finds itself back on top with its Thursday comedy lineup. Now, Thursday nights feature "Superstore," "The Good Place," and the return of "Will & Grace." In January, the schedule will move around slightly to accommodate NBC's newly acquired "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" instead of currently airing freshman comedy "I Feel Bad." Eventually, the schedule will add new comedy "Abby's" and sophomore comedy "AP Bio."
With so much good comedy on NBC right now, I'm going to spend a few articles featuring these shows. First things first, let's talk about "The Good Place."
Season 1 Trailer: "The Good Place"
The premise of "The Good Place" is simple: a woman named Eleanor (Kristen Bell) dies, arrives in the afterlife, and is told that she is in the "Good Place." She is praised for her humanitarian efforts as a lawyer getting innocent people off death row, given a tour of the neighborhood, and introduced to her soulmate, Chidi. Everything is fine...until Eleanor reveals to Chidi that she definitely does not belong in the Good Place. Turns out, she was kind of a bad person during her lifetime. Now she decides to earn her place in the Good Place. What ensues is a whole bunch of wholesome ridiculousness.
Eleanor, a self-described "Arizona trashbag," is joined in the Good Place by Chidi and her neighbors Tahani and Jianyu. Chidi, an extremely anxious, indecisive moral philosophy professor, agrees to help Eleanor become good. They hold regular philosophy lessons, and Eleanor learns while hiding her secret true identity from the rest of the Good Place neighborhood. Tahani is a tall, beautiful, rich socialite who lives next door to Eleanor and Chidi. She spent her life holding fundraisers and raising money for the less fortunate people who were in need of money. Her soulmate is Jianyu, a silent monk. We don't learn much more about Jianyu until a few episodes into Season 1, but let's just say that he's certainly not who he appears to be. The neighborhood is run by Michael, an afterlife architect, and his digital assistant Janet, who knows every detail about the universe and can be summoned at any time to retrieve the residents' every need.
There's not a lot I can say about "The Good Place" without exposing you all to major spoilers. However, I'm hopeful that I can convince you to watch it with just a few characteristics of the show.
"The Good Place" is created by Michael Schur, the writer who brought us beloved comedies "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," "Parks and Recreation," and "Master of None." He also worked on "The Office" and "Saturday Night Live." If you've seen "Parks and Rec," you'll know what I mean when I say that Schur is absolutely brilliant at world-building.
The fictional town of Pawnee was built from the ground up by Schur and his other producers. Every detail is consistent, illustrating a town not only with locations and characters, but also a personality of its own. Viewers pick up small details along the way, eventually building a full picture of Pawnee and the people in it. The town's major landmarks illustrate what the town is like and what it's like to actually live there. It feels like a full place that exists even off-screen, a true place that's out there somewhere, and you know what the average resident looks like without that being stated.
The same can be said of the world building in "The Good Place." Michael's neighborhood has personality, history, and purpose beyond just being a setting. It's characterized by an excess of frozen yogurt shops, perfectly matched soulmates, and houses specifically designed for each member of the neighborhood. Its residents have all made it into the Good Place, making the neighborhood feel like quite an important, pleasant, idealistic place. Janet and Michael are there to attend to every resident's need, bringing it all together to become a true utopia, and again, one that you can imagine yourself in very easily. The Good Place neighborhood feels real; you can imagine it existing somewhere and what it'd be like if you visited.
"The Good Place" also has some seriously clever writing. This plays into the world building and characterization in the series. These writers don't miss a detail, joke, or important moment of foreshadowing, so you'll find yourself rewatching and re-analyzing every scene to see what you might have missed. Not only is "The Good Place" a creative, original, and bold concept for television, but it truly establishes itself as a uniquely clever and funny show.
Without spoiling, I can assure you all that the show manages to create a fresh start at the beginning of each season: the characters, world, and concepts remain the same, but the show itself evolves, giving viewers a different scenario for our heroes. This is done through brilliant plot twists. "The Good Place" has a habit of turning itself upside down in ways that viewers didn't expect, and it always proves to be shocking, hilarious, and amazing.
Lastly, "The Good Place" is genuinely a wholesome, feel-good, unproblematic show. If you watch "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," you'll know that Schur can also create comedies that are diverse and never use a character's identity as the butt of a joke. B99 introduces two Latina women in a high-power job; a black lieutenant; and a gay black man in the highest role in the precinct. The characters on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" transcend stereotypes, building each character around their own personality. Each character's history and identity are important, but they aren't the only thing that defines them. Privilege and lack thereof are discussed in the way they directly impact each character, making the issues come to life and feel more personal.
Most importantly, stereotypical pictures of black men, gay men, Latinx people, and police officers are avoided. Just like in real life, these characters are diverse, each with their own set of problems, positive traits, and shortcomings. "The Good Place" keeps with this tradition, introducing a diverse cast of characters without making their diversity the only aspect of their character. Like other Schur shows, "The Good Place" characters are complex, presenting with individual needs, problems, and goals.
All of these things come together to create a really beautiful show. The antics of these characters for two-and-a-half seasons so far have been heartwarming. Eleanor's quest to be good is inspiring, and the introduction of philosophical topics makes the show a topic to really think about: not only because it makes us consider what it means to be "good" in general, but because it encourages us to question the show itself and the ways in which we judge all people.
Catch up on "The Good Place" Seasons 1 & 2 on Netflix, then watch Season 3 on Hulu and NBC's website as it premieres!Looking for more shows to watch? Check out my previous discussion on NBC's 'Manifest.'