The Best Food Show of 2018 Was 'The Good Place'
Nothing else on TV offered as many charming restaurant puns
This year had some really bright spots in food television. We got the endlessly charming and smart Samin Nosrat's Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, even more Great British Bake-Off with Noel Fielding, the gentle goth uncle we all need. And there was the debut of Ugly Delicious and The Final Table, Netflix's take on Iron Chef, just to name a few stand-outs. There were some really bad parts too, obviously—the tragic death of Anthony Bourdain and the continuous avalanche of #MeToo revelations against chefs and restaurateurs who had become familiar screen presences chief among them.
Among the tumult of everything 2018 had to offer, one of the very brightest, sanest corners of TV was The Good Place, the Michael Schur comedy about the afterlife that continues to be funnier every season. And though it has nothing to do with restaurants or chefs, The Good Place is so deeply a food show. It announced itself as one from its first season, with a version of heaven that had endless punny frozen yogurt shops (Yogurt Yoghurt Yogurté among them) and giant flying shrimp. In its most recent season, The Good Place upped the ante, with many very funny food jokes. There was a reference to Mario Batali's sexual harassment apology pizza dough cinnamon rolls (yikes) and a scene where Chidi goes completely off the rails and makes a giant vat of chili that includes Peeps and peanut M&Ms.
The Good Place is one of those shows that rewards multiple viewing, because there are a lot of intricate jokes set into the props that you might miss the first time around. This season, one of my favorite episodes was when the gang goes to an American-themed restaurant in Australia. It's both a send-up of and a loving tribute to chain restaurants—cheerfully bizarre, a little bit fever dream-ish. Judge Judy is on Mount Rushmore, and the menu includes a "Fourth of July" special consisting of half an apple pie blended with Southern Comfort and Coca-Cola, served in a Chevy hubcap. Yum. In another episode, there's a breakfast stand called "We Crumb from a Land Down Under." Please try not to be delighted.
The show's writers and prop stylists do incredible work that gamely nods at food trends while transferring to their own bizarro universe. It's a pleasure to watch, and it means that you get phrases like "Arizona shrimp horny," a personal favorite of our own Kat Kinsman, stuck in your head. Do yourself a favor, food people. Watch The Good Place.