The Good Place is Heavenly Good on NBC
When I was growing up, NBC was the place we turned for comedy. When Thursday nights rolled around, I would be in front of the television for 2 solid hours, laughing out loud to the shows that shaped my sense of humor. “Cheers,” “Seinfeld,” “Friends,” before those I had “Family Ties” and “Night Court.” I still think of those shows with fond memories.
Even as an adult, I loved “The Office” and “Parks & Rec,” but in recent years, NBC’s focus has changed to reality, competitions and dramas. The comedies have been short lived, often with only a few episodes.
That’s about to change.
NBC has made a new commitment to comedy with some original, powerful productions. Building off the success of “Superstore,” NBC is adding one of the smartest shows it’s seen in a decade. “The Good Place” brings the wit of perhaps the most underrated talent in Hollywood, Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars, Frozen)
, with one of the foundations of “Must See TV,” Ted Danson (Cheers, Becker). When you have a cast this strong, you’d better have a show worthy of their abilities. We do.
One of the most accomplished creators in comedy, Michael Schur (The Office, Parks & Rec) has enlisted Drew Goddard (The Martian) with a focus on making each episode like it is the final episode of a season. “The Good Place” follows Eleanor (Bell), who dies, but through a mix-up with heavenly red tape, ends up with quite a different afterlife than she deserves. Michael (Danson) is there to aid her through a journey of repairs, which will be difficult, because Eleanor wasn’t exactly an example of kindness.
According to Danson, “I’d never saw a script. There was just Mike Schur. He’d talked for an hour-and-a-half in my manager’s office, talking about the show. He’s so bright, so smart, then I heard that this beautiful woman (Bell), who actually was a friend before we started this, was interested and I signed on – in the room – without seeing a script.”
With this show, it feels like there might be a mix of emotion within the comedy. I asked Bell if we could expect more than just a half hour of laughs. Will there be emotional discoveries along the way? “Yes,” Bell said. “And that is what I love so much about this. It genuinely combines my two favorite things, comedy and exploring what it means to be a good person. Actually examining ethical dilemmas and what your ripple effect on the world is.” Bell went on to explain that Schur comes at it with the approach of crazy “nerd research,” as he read so many books, isolating each episode with a different ethical conundrum.
“There’s sad, tragic emotional connections,” Danson added. “At the same time, they’re funny.” They both agreed that Schur earns it, because he doesn’t do anything in haste. Schur certainly does earn it. He’s brought a lot of the people he’s worked with at “Parks & Rec” onto “The Good Place,” so there is a familiarity and a mutual respect and love for each other.
With “The Good Place,” NBC has the potential to win Thursday nights. “It’s very exciting,” Shur said. “I’ve worked at NBC continuously since 1998 (SNL, The Office, Parks & Rec). I think the world needs more comedy, that’s my general feeling. It was very nice of NBC to give me this offer and they were very happy when Ted and Kristen came on board.”
Ted Danson back on NBC Thursday comedy? Goddard jokingly admitted that there’s plenty of pressure to make it work. The good news is, these are all first ballot “Hall of Famers” when it comes to entertaining fans and Hall of Famers make the spectacular look effortless. Not to mention, Bell and Danson are a forkin’ match made in Heaven.
NBC’s The Good Place premieres September 19 10/9c following “The Voice,” then onto its regular night and time, Thursday, September 22 8:30/7:30c after Superstore. #GoodPlace