The Good Place (NBC)
Michael Schur’s fantasy-comedy about the afterlife refuses to follow the formulas of broadcast network sitcoms, constantly moving into unexpected territory and renegotiating its format before our eyes. After the series starts by reimagining Dante’s Inferno as a strip mall with a frozen yogurt shop on every corner as a demonic architect test runs an alternative conception of eternal damnation through prolonging self-doubt and stirring social incompatibilities, Schur takes our mismatched protagonists through new laboratories where the nature of humanity is tested. What other sitcom might incorporate spirited debates about metaphysics and moral philosophy, sparking conversations in family living rooms and fan forums about the relative merits of Aristotle, Kant, Kierkegaard, and Philippa Foot? Or tackle virtue ethics, deontology, nihilism, and the unfortunate effects of eating chili mixed with marshmallow peeps—all in one scene? Kristen Bell continues to ground the premise with wicked charm and just the right amount of warmth, while D’Arcy Carden gives a tour de force performance in the “Janet” episode, playing all five leads in a brilliant exploration of identity and the perception of self. Jameela Jamil’s Tahani is winning as an unexpected source of generosity. And Ted Danson’s demon Michael is delightful, emerging perhaps as the most illuminating figure on what it means to be human and reminding us of what we owe each other. The characters are stronger together than they are as individuals, demonstrating again and again that we can be more than we think we are. For its originality and deft balance of serious subject matter and broad comedy, The Good Place deserves a Peabody.
Creator: Michael Schur. Showrunner: Michael Schur. Executive Producers: Michael Schur, David Miner, Morgan Sackett, Drew Goddard. Co-Executive Producers: Dylan Morgan, Josh Siegal, Joe Mande, Megan Amram. Supervising Producer: Jen Statsky. Produced by: David Hyman. Directors: Rebecca Asher, Dean Holland, Beth McCarthy-Miller, Linda Mendoza, Trent O'Donnell, Julie Anne Robinson, Morgan Sackett, Clare Scanlon, Michael Schur, Jude Weng, Alan Yang. Writers: Megan Amram, Christopher Encell, Cord Jefferson, Andrew Law, Joe Mande, Kassia Miller, Dylan Morgan, Matt Murray, Dan Schofield, Michael Schur, Josh Siegel, Tyler Straessle, Jen Statsky. Editors: Eric Kissack, Matthew Freund. Talent: Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, D'Arcy Carden, Manny Jacinto, Ted Danson. Cinematography: David Miller. Music: David Schwartz.