NBC's "The Good Place"

Hi all! I'm going to try and keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but if you're at all interested in the content of this thread and have not watched The Good Place, I suggest in the strongest possible terms that you close whatever tab you're reading, call in sick to work/school/active military service, and marathon the entire first season (now streaming on both Netflix and Hulu).

That said, I'm putting this out there to see if Alastair (and we, his loyal listeners) would be interested in doing a one-shot or brief series on NBC's The Good Place, starring Kristen Bell and produced by Mike Schur (of Parks and Rec, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and The Office fame). I once joked in one of the DMP chats that I'd increase my Patreon pledge to whatever level it took for Alastair to do a Parks and Rec series, which he took with good humor and pointed out that the reason he doesn't do comedy series is because 1) it would immediately devolve into just quoting lines from the show and 2)  the twenty-minute episodic format doesn't lend itself well to the sort of narrative deep dive we enjoy here at Point North. (Alastair, I'm paraphrasing here, so if I'm misremembering your reasoning I humbly beg your forgiveness).

Both of those points are valid, and I accept them as reason enough not to do a series on Parks or any of its sister sitcoms.

But The Good Place is different.

Elevator pitch for The Good Placefor those of you who aren't familiar and for some reason neglected my stern warnings in the introductory paragraph:

Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) awakens in a room with the words "Welcome! Everything is fine." painted on the wall. She is immediately ushered into a well-lit office by Michael (Ted Danson), who explains to her that she, Eleanor Shellstrop, is dead. Her life on Earth has ended, and she is now in the next phase of her existence in the universe.

"...cool. Cool," is Eleanor's understated reaction.

 Michael, being a sort of immortal steward/warden/manager of dead souls, lays out the afterlife for her. Every soul is judged based on the actions they performed in their mortal life, by which they accrue points that determine their standing in the afterlife. Good actions earn points, while negative actions take them away: "Save Child From Drowning" is worth +1202.33 points, while "Tell a Woman to 'Smile'" detracts -53.85 points.

As it turns out, the point total required to earn your eternal salvation is incredibly high -no US president is in The Good Place, except Lincoln, who earned his way in via Emancipation Proclamation.

So where does Eleanor end up? As Michael assures her., "You're in the Good Place."

Michael takes Eleanor around The Neighborhood, a picturesque village that's equal parts European hamlet and California wine county. It is the residence of 322 perfect souls, perfectly calibrated for the happiness of its residents. He introduces her to her dream home, a tiny cottage in the Icelandic Primitive architectural style decorated with clown paintings, and to her soulmate: Chidi Anagonye, a Nigerian moral philosophy professor.

As soon as Michael leaves the two soulmates to begin their eternity of happiness together, Eleanor asks Chidi to promise to stand by her side no matter what and to never betray her.

"Eleanor," Chidi says, putting his hand on his heart, "I swear that I will never say or do anything to cause you any harm."

"Good," Eleanor says, "There's been a big mistake. I'm not supposed to be here."

(Chidi: "...wait what?")

Eleanor, as it turns out, was not a good person in real life. She was, by her own admission, an "Arizona dirtbag" who made a living selling placebo drugs to the elderly and pushing every person who tried to get close to her away. Realizing that she cannot reveal the truth to Michael without being sent immediately to The Bad Place, she enlists Chidi and his expertise in moral philosophy to try and teach her to be good, hoping desperately that it will be enough to fool Michael into thinking she belongs in The Good Place.

So begins the ongoing exploration of human morality, goodness, and empathy that is The Good Place. I can't really go into much detail about the plot since this show is surprisingly narratively tight and has a good number of twists and turns, but it is wholly unlike any other show on television past or present, and its central message is striking amid an age of grimdarkness and antiheroes: Goodness is not innate -it is a muscle that must be exercised and practiced, and that we cannot succeed on our own -we must put our love and trust into others, because only together can we overcome our own shortcomings.

The Good Place is thoughtful, charming, profound, and side-splittingly funny. The first two seasons are currently out with a third in preproduction. It is a rare show that makes you consider philosophy, morality, and theology without bludgeoning its audience with any sort of pretension to hubris or superiority. If ever there were a twenty-minute sitcom worthy of a Point North discussion, it's The Good Place.

(It's also worth noting that the cast is quite diverse; of the six main characters three are POC, none of whom conform in any way to racial stereotyping. Of the three white leads, one is Kristen Bell, one is an immortal angelic being who is routinely confounded by the complexities of inhabiting a humanoid form, and the third is a persistently cheerful female-presenting sentient computer who repeatedly corrects anyone who genders her with "I'm not a girl.")
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