Heaven and Hell with Kristen Bell

One doesn’t usually think the words religion, death, and sitcom can go together, but Kristen Bell’s new show, The Good Place, is an unusual combination of  these themes that seems to work. The show airs on NBC and runs for approximately 42 minutes every Thursday, with the pilot episode having premiered this fall. The show is about Eleanor (Kristen Bell), who died via shopping cart trampling, and her sudden journey within the afterlife, which is later discovered to be under false pretenses.

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When seeing previews for the show, I really wondered how the show would handle such a seemingly delicate topic such as religion and the afterlife, but after watching the pilot, the focus seems to be more towards the later. The only religious thing really mentioned in the pilot is The Good Place vs. The Bad Place and the fact that Kristen Bell’s character is now in the good place. The show seems to lean on the idea of “doing good” in order to become a better person, which leads to the concept of ethics weighing heavily in the series, but why not take it a step further and talk about the fact that she’s in an afterlife??  There is a brief mention in the initial dialogue of the show, about how all the religions of the world got it wrong, but that’s all the viewer hears of religion. I understand the sitcom is suppose to be funny and religion is a touchy subject, but it would be fascinating to see the show really dive into a comedic commentary/satire about religious values and even more so about religious culture. Why not be bold? or is there an unspoken rule that religion is a subject that can’t be touched?

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Screenshot: The Good Place– Pilot

I have yet to watch the rest of the season, but am very intrigued. I hope the show is bold, but I have a feeling it will just scratch the surface. (it is on NBC after all) :)

-Katie Nelson

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4 Responses to Heaven and Hell with Kristen Bell

  1. mediaphiles says:

    Questions of “boldness” are awesome, Katie. I think it’s really powerful that you brought this up, because while many TV shows ARE proving bold in the people, characters, and plots they’re incorporating, there definitely is still some hesitancy. I’m thinking of “Girls,” “The Office,” and “Orange is the New Black,” even, as having some inconsistencies in their boldness. This is a very intriguing topic to consider and certainly would be worth exploration. I’ll have to catch “The Good Place” soon! – Corey

  2. mediaphiles says:

    You made this show sound so interesting and I am definitely going to go watch it! To humorously address such delicate topics must take BRILLIANT writers so I certainly want to check out this show!

    Stephanie Rubin

  3. mediaphiles says:

    I think you’ll need to see more of the show before you can really say whether it is dealing with religion or not. One of the characters is pretending to be a Buddhist Monk. Other characters make oblique references to their religion. I think part of the reason they don’t full on talk about religion in the early episodes (there have been four if you count the two-part pilot as two) is they’re hooking the viewers. No way will they immediately alienate a section of viewers by saying how one specific religion has got things right or way wrong. By making blanket statements that all have about five percent right, they aren’t showing any favoritism. The other reason is that’s not what the show is about yet. Right now they’re planting seeds that the Good Place isn’t all it seems to be. To me, a lot of religion is about showing people how to live better lives and be better people, and an A or B plot of episodes two through four has focused on making Kristen Bell’s character a better person. I think they’re dealing with it in a sensitive way that won’t alienate any viewers. You should keep watching. – Max Dosser

  4. marymdalton says:

    Yes, like Max, I have seen all of the current episodes and find myself ambivalent about the series. It was a high threshold for me to cross to accept the premise, but I have warmed to it a little after the first couple of episodes. Still not sure whether or not I”ll stick with it for the long haul.

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