The Daily Stream: The Good Place Will Soothe Your Battered Soul

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Series: "The Good Place"

Where You Can Stream It: Netflix

The Pitch: Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) has died and gone to the Good Place, AKA heaven. The thing is, she's not supposed to be there. She wasn't a corrupt world leader or the first person to floss in an open-plan office (that definitely gets you sent to the Bad Place), but she wasn't exactly kind and generous, either. While trying to keep her secret, she recruits her supposed soul mate Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), a moral philosophy professor while he was on Earth, to help her become a better person. Joining her are Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto), Tahani Al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil), a not-a-girl-not-a-robot all-knowing information system known as Janet (D'Arcy Carden), and Michael (Ted Danson), the guy running the afterlife neighborhood Eleanor is living in. While we watch Eleanor and the rest of the gang struggle to become people worthy of this fictional heaven, a million little jokes are happening in the background. Seriously, you have to watch this series several times to get all the jokes. Even the names in the credits are puns. There are twists, turns, and lots of heartwarming moments that will make you sob, while laughing so hard that you might pee a little. (I don't want to spoil anything here, and if you can keep from learning about the big twist, you should. Most of the cast didn't know what was coming.) There is also a scene with Ted Danson as a bartender that will make "Cheers" fans tear up. 

Why It's Essential Viewing

As funny as the jokes are (and they are funny), somehow this show about a small group of strangers in the afterlife is one that will make you rethink every interaction you have with people (remember when we used to have those?) and every action you take in your life. That sounds pretty heavy, but the way it plays out is so joyous that you'll find yourself looking at moral philosophy books on Amazon at the end of every episode. I swear to you, I'm not kidding. I came out of my first viewing of the series (and I've just finished my fifth) with a pretty great understanding of the ideas behind most of the philosophy types. I also have a whole new bag of one-liners to amuse my friends with.

The show comes from Mike Schur, a veteran of "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation," and without his specific pedigree, I don't know how you even pitch something like this. I wasn't swayed by the commercials. It happened to be on in the background when I was doing something else and I felt myself drifting towards the television. We have some comedy masters here between Bell and Danson, and the discoveries of Jacinto, Jamil, and Carden are pure gold. Add in Marc Evan Jackson as the demon Shawn and Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Simone, and you'll wish this show went past four seasons.

Don't Forget to Listen to the Podcast!

That right there is the crux of it all: The creators decided to end it at four seasons, when the network was up for more. The best shows leave you wanting.

"The Good Place" mines humor from the concept of death making life worth living. It's pretty miraculous. Not only that, but the final few episodes will require at least two boxes of tissues. Prepare yourselves. You will bawl your eyes out and grin for the rest of the day. To enhance the overall experience, listen to the companion podcast hosted by Marc Evan Jackson, featuring appearances from the cast, writers, and even one of the effects artists, David Niednagel (who has the best last name and has one of the afterlife creatures named after him). You will absolutely miss some of the visual puns, and the podcast will point them out for you, along with a discussion of what the guests feel is wonderful in the world.

The rewatches I did got me through the hardest part of the pandemic with quotes like, "I am a strong, independent acid snake in the body of a strong, independent woman," "I was just in the middle of torturing William Shakespeare by describing the plot of the 'Entourage' movie," and "I haven't encountered this much resistance since I tried to get Timothée Chalamet to go out into the sun."

"The Good Place" will soothe your soul and make you remember that not everyone in the world is a disaster — and even if they are, change is always an option.