It's rare to find a comedy that genuinely loves its characters.
Most comedies seem to thrive on humiliating their cast. Think about the painful bedroom antics of Friends, or the colliding egos of Arrested Development. Much rarer - perhaps because it's so hard to get right - is a comedy that finds humour in sympathy. The Good Place achieves this happy medium so effortlessly that you could be forgiven for overlooking how revolutionary it is. It's a show where you laugh with the characters rather than at them.
So what's The Good Place about?
It's not an easy show to sum up. The basic premise is that, one day, the main character, Eleanor Shellstrop, wakes up in Heaven. The problem is that she has just about enough self-awareness to know that there's been a mistake. So, in order to avoid being sent to the 'Bad Place' she has to bluff her way through life in an idealised village full of do-gooders, all the time keeping her naturally selfish personality carefully under wraps.
That's the set-up for Episode One.
What really sets The Good Place apart, however, is the rapid pace of its plot. Most sitcoms exist in a semi-static reality where characters can develop slowly over time, but where the basic boundaries of the show are set in episode one. Not so with The Good Place. Although each episode is only about twenty minutes long, they pack in more development than most 'serious' dramas, and virtually every week ends with a cliffhanger. Even more astonishingly, The Good Place is not afraid to blow up its central premise, reinvent itself, and then hare off in a completely new direction without losing momentum, humour, or brilliance.
In other words it's very, very clever. And that's before you get to the fact that it regularly debates complicated philosophical ideas without watering them down. (The show's delightfully macabre take on the Trolley Problem really has to be seen to be believed). The main cast, meanwhile, are an absolute delight. Kirsten Bell brings all the pathos and charisma that made Veronica Mars such a success, nd pours it all into Eleanor Shellstrop, whilst Jameela Jamil completely nukes her T4 persona by being the best thing about the entire series - the kind but competitive rich girl, Tahani. More understated, but no less fantastic, is William Jackson Harper as Eleanor's supposed soulmate, Chidi, whilst the ever-dependable Ted Danson quietly steals every scene he's a part of in the role of the village's Architect, Michael.
In short, it's one of the best things on television at the moment. What more is there to say?
Oh yes, it's hilarious.
As in fall off the settee and cry on the floor hilarious.
Trust me, forget Game of Thrones. It's so last year. Open up Netflix and watch The Good Place instead.