The Good Place
Premieres: Sept. 19 (preview), Sept. 22 timeslot premiere
Airs: Thursdays at 8:30pm ET
Who’s In It? Ted Danson, Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper, D’Arcy Carden, Drew Goddard, Jameela Jamil, Manny Jacinto
Credit the doofuses who push their yellow-arrow luck for inspiring comedy mastermind Michael Schur (The Office, Parks and Recreation) to craft this dazzlingly inventive belly-laugher about boorish Eleanor Shellstrop (Bell), who alters the course of heaven — a.k.a. The Good Place — when she lands there by accident.
“In my opinion, two cars are allowed to do that,” Schur explains. “Sometimes there’s a third car and I would be a little annoyed, but I would give them the benefit of the doubt, like they have to get home to their kid, or something. If there’s a fourth car, I’m like, ‘You’re a bad person! You’re a bad person because you’re putting your need to go left above the needs of all of these people to go straight, and that’s not OK!”
Schur began ruminating on the personality type and dreamed up Eleanor, knowing just whom he wanted to play her.
“It’s my two favorite things on the planet to explore — funny jokes and what does it mean to be a good person,” Bell exclaims. “They’re quite literally the things I think about all day. I’m obsessed with the ripple effect my life will have on people, places and things.”
The Good Place itself is a series of neighborhoods specifically designed to fulfill inhabitants’ fondest wishes, from their homes to the weather to the businesses (“Everything Fits!” “The Small Adorable Animal Depot”). On arrival, newbies are also assigned a soul mate — an afterlife-long bestie perfectly matched to them. In Eleanor’s case, that’s Chidi (the delightful Harper), a conflict-averse ethics professor who thinks he’s getting a like-minded do-gooder and ends up with a quack-medicine telemarketer who stuffs shrimp in her bra at parties and is forkin’ ticked when she realizes she is literally unable to swear.
Says Schur, “I described it to Ted, when I was pitching him the show, as you’ve designed a perfect, mountain-spring oasis of water, and Eleanor is a tiny drop of poison that gets dropped in and sort of ripples out.”
Danson, says the chance to play Michael — architect and overseer of Eleanor’s ‘hood — proved irresistible after a successful run on Fargo and the CSI franchise. “I literally giggle on my way to work, thinking about what I get to do that day,” he smiles.
“The older I get, I’ll find the most creative, original, authentic voice in the room and then ask very nicely if I can be part of it — because you have a good chance of being on something good and having fun.”
A heavenly, er, shirt-ton of it.