The Good Place Season 3 Review
Most of the series that air on TV try to stick to a tried and true format, and rarely venture from it. There’s a reason that the reboots of hit series like Will & Grace and Roseanne were successful; though time had passed they hadn’t ventured very far from a tried and true format.
But no one has ever explained that rule to the creators of NBC’s The Good Place. Each season, it has the daring and ingenuity to completely change the game of an already hysterical and brilliant format that it has made work for a season. In it’s initial season, the series involved a group of deeply flawed personalities who had seemed to have arrived in heaven, only to reveal in the last episode of the season that they were actually in The Bad Place. The writers then started Season 2 by having all the characters involved in the experiment have their minds erased, and started again. And again. Until it became clear to Michael (the incredible Ted Danson) that the experiment was flawed and things had to be done to help these people. At the end of Season 2, he made a deal with The Judge (please, can we see more of Maya Rudolph?) to have the four central characters sent back to Earth, avoid their deaths, and try to live better lives.
Now, as Season 3 begins to unfold, the experiment is in a new phase. All four characters took advantage of their near death experiences to try to be better people, and fix the flaws that landed them in Michael’s sight. And it worked… for awhile. Eleanor (Kirsten Bell, please nominate her for an Emmy) tried to be a good person for six months, but then things got so rough for her that she quit. Chidi (William Jackson Harper) decided to try a life of science to stop being so indecisive and it worked for him, until one of his closest friends tried the same approach and he faltered. Tahani tried to stop being so self-absorbed and upset at her sister, and gave up all her worldly possession for a life of poverty. Then an internet group discovered her, and she became a self-help guru. Jason… actually, we’ll get back to him in a minute.
Michael realized that there was a flaw, and has since returned to Earth, inserting himself into their lives to help get them altogether, thinking that if they all reunite, they’ll start helping each other. There are actually signs that this may be working in different ways. Eleanor has been taking instruction for Chidi, but instead of falling in love with him, she’s actually helping him find love with a neuroscientist named Kate, who under normal circumstances, you could actually see Chidi ending up with. And there may be signs this is working in other ways. Jason, who has been wonderfully, marvelous stupid for the last two seasons, initially took his near death experience to mean he should and try and win a dance competition. This naturally led to hysterical failure, but now he’s beginning to realize he has to change his life, something he had a lot of trouble grasping in the afterlife.
Of course, there are signs that this could fail spectacularly at any moment. For one thing, in order to Michael to get this the work, he’s had to make multiple, unauthorized trips to Earth, violating the Judge’s strict rules. And now, its become clear that Michael’s bosses have found out about what he’s done, and are planning to upset them. Welcome back to the program, evil Adam Scott.
What none of this can really adequately express is how funny all of this is. Ted Danson has always been remarkable, but now that Michael has begun to evolve, he gets to deal with more comic personalities. His return to Earth gave him attempts to alter his personality significantly. (My favorite stint may have been when he visited Tahani as a billionaire liberal.) And the comic subversion can be wonderful and subtle. The Judge, for example, has just finished binge-watching 300 episodes of NCIS, admitting that the only way to catch up on that show would be in eternity. And there are so many good subtleties from the entire cast, from Bell and Harper, down to the scene-stealing D’Arcy Carden as the eternal Janet. (Another great line from here discussing Chidi and Kate’s potential offspring: “They would be pretty enough to win on The Bachelor and intelligent enough never to watch The Bachelor.)
The Good Place isn’t just one of the funniest series on television, it’s one of the most imaginative and daring series on all forms of medium — yes, even at the level of Atlanta and The Good Fight. My one fear is that NBC, which has after nearly two decades eclipsed CBS as the Number 1 watched network, will decide that it no longer has room for the indulgences of lower-rated, but critically acclaimed series that it did when it was closer to Number 4. I really hope not. Any network executive who cancels this series deserves to go straight to The Bad Place until 9 billion.
My score: 5 stars.