Sitcoms have been around since the beginning of television, and the genre has continued to be stagnant ever since. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing for a sitcom because they focus on a close group of characters that are thrown into a different scenario every week. Every sitcom seems to eventually cover similar story paths. Watch The Dick Van Dyke Show, and it will share the same familiar sitcom beats like any other today. Seinfeld broke most of the rules of a sitcom while Friends began to give us these tremendous melodramatic cliffhangers with every season’s end. Scrubs rolled those two together in a medical setting with poignant resolve with each episode’s end. The problem with sitcoms is inevitably its expiration date. By five or six seasons every situation that could be thrown at these characters has been done. Even the reliance on running gags can’t save them. Seinfeld may be the exception to this as the sitcom could find a story in anything and also daringly going into the taboo with the episode about masturbation.
The Good Place puts a fresh perspective on the sitcom genre by actually feeling like the series has an ultimate heading. It feels like the show is telling one complete story that is broken up into smaller chunks. Each episode is titled as a chapter like a book, and like a book, each chapter has a mini-cliffhanger that forces the viewer to want to watch just one more chapter. So how can The Good Place seemingly redesign the sitcom? Simply, it takes place in the afterlife, and can, therefore, do anything with that canvas. The first episode shows a group of people being inducted into ‘The Good Place,’ that being a place with an architect played by Ted Danson, as heaven for these people. The problem is Kristen Bell’s character Elenor has been mistaken for someone else. Her character was a terrible person, lacking any morals. The show begins with her trying to keep her identity under wraps but develops quickly into a show sharing attributes from Defending Your Life with a sprinkle of Kafka. The kicker for her is how absurd and torturous the bad place is so she must wrestle with her moral compass to better herself so she can stay in the good place.
The Good Place shouldn’t be reviewed any further because it will spoil the story. I will say that even though each episode has a mini-cliffhanger, each season’s cliffhanger manages to flip the script as to where you think the show is going. The first two seasons are out now. If you’re an Australian resident, you can catch them all on Netflix. I hope this series concludes with five seasons and no more. The small episode count of each season helps not detract from the overall story with the usual filler episodes other shows endure. Ted Danson and Kristen Bell are fantastic, and their chemistry will keep you coming back for sure. Give The Good Place a watch!