What happens when we die? It's a question humans have been asking since Eve bit into the apple in the Garden of Eden. See – there I go. Godless atheist that I am, I still fall for the psychological traps set in Sunday school. This is how it is in The Good Place, a highly original sitcom set in the afterlife.

Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristin Bell) and Michael (Ted Danson).

Photo: Supplied

When Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristin Bell) wakes to find she has died and is now in The Good Place, she is congratulated by the apparent boss Michael (Ted Danson) in a kind of "whole of life" performance review. Eleanor smells a rat. She knows she was a ratbag, an opportunistic narcissist who cared for no one when she was alive. (Embarrassing, hilarious scenes from her life are shown in elaborate flashback.) So what is she doing in this pastel paradise where the town square has a nauseatingly nice seafood chowder fountain, nobody swears and everyone is notable for their good works?

As with Lost, a show greatly admired by creator Schur, nothing in this series is what it seems. He and his writing team delight in ripping the rug right out from under you just as you think you know what the hell is going on. Is Michael God? No. Is Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson), his annoying, demanding and capricious boss, God? Probably not, though he is all-powerful and pretty good at smiting and such.

Ultimately, The Good Place is about redemption and salvation. Is it ever too late to wake up to ourselves, to be less selfish, less grasping? Are we who we pretend to be on social media, or is there another side for which we will ultimately have to pay a price? Facing up to the truth has never been so blithe.

To read more from Good Weekend magazine, visit our page at The Sydney Morning Herald or The Age.

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