The main character is annoying. The actress playing her either can’t act (Kristen Bell of Frozen fame) or she has been seriously miscast / misdirected. She has this annoying energy, like she’s performing for children on a live-action morning show. I’m not sure if this is a misguided attempt to be cute or satirical, or something, but it just comes across as patronising.
The concept – a sinner accidentally being sent to heaven – doesn’t suit the lowest-common-denominator television format. To pull it off, requires subtlety and attention to detail. Instead, it feels like the entire thing is phoned in. They have too much faith in the concept and it lacks the careful execution it requires.
The characters are so one-dimensional, I ended up hating all of them less than halfway through the first season. By the fourth episode, the show was already boring me.
The same thing keeps happening, over and over.
Eleanor (the protagonist) naively misinterprets minor good deeds for major spiritual revelations. Chidi (her reluctant ethical mentor) continues to react in exactly the same way. He is, seemingly, as shocked by her lack of moral fiber no matter how many times he encounters the same situation. In true cardboard cut-out fashion, he behaves as if he’s never met her before (and the audience has never met him). Chidi reacts to her misdeeds like a child stepping out into the world for the first time. He reacts as if he grew up in heaven (as opposed to Earth).
Tahani is awful. But (again) it’s not the character perse. The actress playing her (Jameela Jamil of T4 fame) either can’t act competently or (like Eleanor) she’s been severely miscast / misdirected. The only reason she annoys me less than Eleanor is: we don’t see that much of her. Otherwise, she is the worst character on the show.
Jianyu was great when he was a Buddhist monk. The idea behind his character is wonderful. A typically immoral self-involved moron is accidentally sent to heaven, in place of a spiritualist who has taken a vow of silence. There is a lot to work with there. But, the execution fails miserably. In the end, once the real Jianyu has been revealed, all we get is stereotyping and typical moronic sitcom dialogue.
The only characters I like are: the town’s architect, Michael (because Ted Danson is always pretty good, regardless of the material); and Janet, who serves as everybody’s all-knowing personal assistant. But, unfortunately, they’re not compelling enough to carry an entire show.
Finally, there’s the art direction. Heaven looks like a small town in a modern adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book, for some reason. Combined with the over-the-top acting, it makes the whole show feel even more patronising. Like, the showrunner thinks their audience has the sophistication of toddlers. Either that or the majority of the crew (set-designers, costume-designers, directors and casting directors) are all taking way too many psychedelic drugs.
I’d like to like this show. It is one of the freshest, most original, concepts I’ve seen on television in a long time. But, I can’t bear to watch another second of it. I’d rather not watch television, at all. I’d, honestly, rather watch nothing.
Not a good place to be.