“You, Eleanor Shellstrop, are dead. Your life on Earth has ended, and you are now in the next phase of your existence in the universe,” reveals Michael (Ted Danson) in the series premiere of The Good Place. The critically acclaimed show created by Mike Schur (Parks & Recreation and The Office) follows Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) as she enters the afterlife, and comes to realize that she doesn’t belong in the “Good Place”. With the help of moral philosophy professor, Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), Eleanor must learn to become a better person before it’s too late.
Although the show’s plot seems rather straightforward, the twist at the end of season one changes everything, making the viewers question all the events that had occurred thus far. Since then, the show has grown increasingly intricate, while continuing to explore the question of what it means to be a good person. The Good Place is masterful in a variety of ways, from the spectacular visual effects to the cleverly titled yoghurt shops.
But what I find to be most impressive is the seamless blend of complex philosophical concepts and humour. What other show offers extensive discussions about utilitarianism that transition into a well-timed fart joke? The Good Place remains accessible to those who don’t have a strong philosophical background, while also managing to avoid oversimplifying issues that have been plaguing philosophers for centuries. While my version of the “Good Place” involves endless episodes of this brilliant show, the fourth season — which premiered on September 26th — will, unfortunately, be The Good Place’s last.
What other show offers extensive discussions about utilitarianism that transition into a well-timed fart joke?
Fans of this beloved show may believe they’re in the Bad Place themselves after receiving news of its end —that was definitely my initial reaction. How could a show that is so appreciated by critics and audiences come to an end when second-rate shows seem to pump out an endless stream of seasons? Since Mike Schur made his announcement back in June, I have gone through the five stages of grief, and have finally settled on acceptance.
What the writers of The Good Place are doing takes an immense amount of integrity. There is nothing that is stopping them from continuing to write more seasons—their four Emmy nominations tell us such— and yet they have the necessary introspection to realize when the story has reached a natural end. Schur explains that they “don’t want to tread water just because the water is warm and pleasant.” All good things must come to an end, and it’s commendable that the writers taken control of that ending, rather than dragging out the show or waiting for its cancellation.
What the writers of The Good Place are doing takes an immense amount of integrity.
I certainly have experienced my fair share of disappointment at seeing a show I had previously loved be renewed for yet another season, when it should have ended years before. While shows like Supernatural and Grey’s Anatomy started off strong, their welcome has been severely overstayed with Supernatural finishing after 15 seasons and Grey’s Anatomy premiering its 16th season with no end in sight. These days, showrunners often focus on quantity and neglect their shows’ quality. This phenomenon produces television that is rife with nonsensical storylines and characters that eventually develop into completely contradictory versions of their fundamental selves. Creators of all sorts are increasingly producing mediocre content because they can, and, in the process, are ruining the fantastic material they had started with (cough, J.K. Rowling, cough).
Writers are trapped in a capitalist cycle where profitability is valued over meaningful work. As a result, they frequently lose sight of why they started writing in the first place. The Good Place has yet to fall into that trap, managing to produce a show that is both meaningful and successful. Of course, the stellar cast has helped with the show’s success, but the apparent integrity of every single episode is what truly distinguishes The Good Place from the rest.
Mike Schur has ensured that every storyline is thought out, that every character’s arc makes sense, and that every joke is told in a natural and non-forced manner. Ending the show after its fourth season perfectly aligns with everything the creators have accomplished thus far. As Eleanor Shellstrop learns, time and time again, doing what is right is never easy, but it always pays off in the end.
Ending the show after its fourth season perfectly aligns with everything the creators have accomplished thus far.
While this season will be bittersweet, I will watch it knowing that the writers and actors have — and have always had — the best interest of the show and its fans in mind. I have complete and utter faith in Mike Schur, and I know that whichever direction The Good Place goes, it will be the perfect ending to what is an almost perfect show. I just hope that what Schur has done with The Good Place will spark a new trend amongst TV executives, where narrative integrity is upheld and quality is not sacrificed for quantity.