"Who died and left Aristotle in charge of ethics?"
February 6, 2018 10:58 AM   Subscribe

"The Good Place" [spoilers for Season 2] (which has the best acting ensemble on TV), one of the best shows on TV right now and " something uncomfortably appropriate for our apocalyptic era"

(we're literally in Hell, but we can say it with a smile!) Imagines an Eternity of Ethics Lessons in an Antihero Antidote.

How a sitcom made philosophy seem cool, and showrunner Michael Shur expands on what inspired him ("driving around L.A. and observing the kinds of small bad behaviors that humans exhibit every day"), and gives us philosophy on TV, a Kantian comedy with moral complexity that goes beyond the 'trolley problem' and emphasizes the pitfalls of indecision



Are there any philosophy Easter eggs a more casual viewer might have missed?
So if you look at the names on the blackboards in the first season and the second season, it includes those names, but it also includes genuinely contemporary stuff: Philippa Foot, Judith Thompson. It occurred to me to wonder where they got all this from—whether the guy who’s writing the show was a philosophy student at some point, or had a roommate who was a philosophy student. I don’t know the answer to that question, though I know they have some kind of consultant.

It’s literally like watching a sitcom on TV and seeing the names of the guys you go drinking with every night on the blackboard.
'The Good Place' Finale Dares to Ask "Can Bad People Be Good (Again)?"

The Dead Do Not Improve: “The Good Place”’s Divine Justice System
posted by the man of twists and turns (132 comments total) 90 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Good Place on FanFare
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:59 AM on February 6 [7 favorites]


This is the best show and everyone needs to watch it and seriously, it is the BEST THING EVER.
posted by cooker girl at 11:00 AM on February 6 [18 favorites]


Also, The Good Place apparently takes place in the Parks & Rec universe, so...
posted by cooker girl at 11:01 AM on February 6 [11 favorites]


This is practically the only TV show involving Philosophy that doesn't make my wife & I (current and former philosophy profs, respectively) cringe. Also it's great. BLAKE BORTLES!
posted by dis_integration at 11:03 AM on February 6 [22 favorites]


I worry that it will end up being too ambitious to succeed, but for the moment it is knocking it out of the park every single episode, and knocking me off kilter at the same time. Hard to say whether it's funnier or more philosophical.
posted by wnissen at 11:08 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


Would it maybe be better to put the "(we're literally in Hell, but we can say it with a smile!)" line below the [more inside]? It's getting so hard to keep people from getting spoiled when recommending this show (and the reveal is one of the biggest pure joy moments of the show) and you can accidentally glance at that line on the front page easily.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:08 AM on February 6 [19 favorites]


Good news, it is 2 seasons of 13 half hour episodes... The first season is on netflix in its entirety. My wife loves the show so much though that we bought both seasons (apparently) on Amazon... The show is quick, tight and solid on humor. In perspective: Star Trek TNG was 22 episode seasons of an hour long...

It is serialized and one of the few that really really changes over the course of a season.

This show is to TV sitcom what Planescape was to CRPGs - it turns them all on their head and dares to ask what is the nature of man? For 2 seasons they've pulled off solid twists.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:09 AM on February 6 [6 favorites]


DEREK!
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 11:10 AM on February 6 [17 favorites]


[Temporary edit to put the spoiler below the fold - get in touch if you'd like me to change it, OP.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:13 AM on February 6 [8 favorites]


I think The Good Place is just ok, but their takedown of the trolley problem was great and the early episodes with the super chipper Michael were awesome.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:13 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Maximum Derek.
posted by Artw at 11:15 AM on February 6 [10 favorites]


Here's how much I love The Good Place: I thought something was wrong with my browser at first, but nope -- I have, in fact, already read every single article linked here.
posted by tzikeh at 11:16 AM on February 6 [46 favorites]




That one, too.
posted by tzikeh at 11:18 AM on February 6 [11 favorites]


I'm watching on Netflix so I now have to wait for the 2nd season to appear.
posted by that girl at 11:19 AM on February 6




The Good Place is the only TV show I've binge-watched. One kid was sick last week, and the other kid had a no-school day, so we sat on the sofa and watched the last five or six episodes of season one together. It was delightful (apart from the flu).
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:23 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Also, The Good Place apparently takes place in the Parks & Rec universe, so...

"Universe" doesn't seem like an adequate term here. Janet probably eats universes for breakfast.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 11:23 AM on February 6 [8 favorites]


Holy forking shirt I love this show. Like, multiple-rewatches in a week love it.
posted by anem0ne at 11:25 AM on February 6 [11 favorites]



Like, watch S1 on Netflix and S2 on Hulu while torrenting it and buying it on Google Play love it.

I'm not sure how that nets out in points but I think torrenting it can't be that bad because I'm sharing it with all of my online friends that I don't know, right?

Maybe? I don't know. My stomach hurts.
posted by anem0ne at 11:26 AM on February 6 [9 favorites]


There are many things so wonderful with this show (Michael Shur's positive worldview, the wonder that is Ted Danson -- in particular two brief bits from the season finale episodes - a five second acting masterclass in S1 and a beautiful return in S2, the effortless diversity, literally everyone in the cast).

But one thing I'd like to highlight that I've never seen before on a sitcom is how goddamn plot heavy the show is. Most sitcoms exist in a state of what I think of as "punctuated equilibrium" where every half season or so an episode changes the fundamental dynamics a little (most commonly: two characters get together or split up). This is even true for most dramas, especially procedurals.

For example, looking at Parks and Rec season 3, the first seven episodes are about the harvest festival; episode 1 sets off the arc, 7 pays it off with the festival, but episodes 2-6 are all preparing for the harvest festival and that plot could basically be viewed in any order, perhaps with a throwaway comment or two changed. (There are other plots on their own timelines; April and Andy are fighting to the end of episode 5, then dating episodes 6-8; Tom is part owner of the Snakehole from S2E17 to S3E13; etc.) And Parks and Rec seems plot-heavy for a sitcom.

But The Good Place is incredible -- there's maybe one S1 bottle episode that could be shuffled forward or back one place, but otherwise every episode needs to be watched in order, and half a dozen times a season (in 13 episode seasons) they blow up the status quo the way most shows do for a season finale. They destroy the entire world the show takes place in at the end of episode 10 this season -- and it's not even the finale!

If there is any justice, this show will stand on a pedestal when we look back at the "prestige TV" era 20 years from now.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:34 AM on February 6 [39 favorites]


You know that sound a fork makes in a garbage disposal?
posted by cooker girl at 11:36 AM on February 6 [15 favorites]


I love this show so hard, although I suppose it's bittersweet that I'm turning into a sitcom literally set in Hell to see something upbeat and hopeful.

My favorite part of the exercise is the uncertainty in it. Most shows that want to pitch 'here's how to be good' have one perspective about what's right and wrong, while The Good Place is entirely about the process of arriving there for ourselves. Everything is discussed, agonized over, debated, and we understand that not even the immortal arbiters of punishment and reward are entirely sure they're just. This places it in stark contrast with... just about every similar fictional exercise I've seen, and why it appeals to me so much.

This show is to TV sitcom what Planescape was to CRPGs

Agreed, and I say that as someone who will still talk the ear off any unwary passerby about how great Planescape was. (One of the key pieces of the game being that when it posed the question 'What can change the nature of a man?' it left the answer up to the player, up to and including 'nothing.')
posted by mordax at 11:36 AM on February 6 [4 favorites]


OMG, I'm reading the article that Artw posted, and I realized that I am a combo Eleanor and Janet. My antisocial personality is balanced by my helpfulness/"know-it-allness". (I hate hearing about people's problems, but I sooooooo want to give them advice on how to fix them)

....
I have new insight into my life right now
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 11:36 AM on February 6 [6 favorites]


There are many things so wonderful with this show (Michael Shur's positive worldview, the wonder that is Ted Danson -- in particular two brief bits from the season finale episodes - a five second acting masterclass in S1 and a beautiful return in S2, the effortless diversity, literally everyone in the cast).

As much as I love Danson behind the bar, his best turn in season two was at the end of episode one after the train left when he broke down in tears of relief and said, "You guys, I was so scared for you!"

I wanted to give him a hug right there.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:38 AM on February 6 [18 favorites]


Why the ‘Good Place’ Personality Test Is Better than the Myers-Briggs

The two characters for me? One is Chidi, but I'm having a hard enough time deciding between Janet and Eleanor that I'm now starting to think I may be a double-Chidi.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:40 AM on February 6 [29 favorites]


I totally scored as a Chidi and I'm OK with that. I am pretty much about option paralysis when asked where I want to go to dinner. Though at no point have I ever tried to rent socks!

All I know is Janet is the future of all voice interactions and she's ruined me for everything else.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:41 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


Any new Janet fact is always an episode highlight.
posted by Artw at 11:44 AM on February 6 [11 favorites]


We've been having a ball talking about The Good Place on FanFare, including finding out about Pater Aletheias's super-relevant doctoral thesis on moral formation, Sunday school, and communities of practice.
posted by brainwane at 11:44 AM on February 6 [17 favorites]


I would really like there to be a Better Off Ted reunion on this show at some point. Early on, it felt like a natural extension of the gang from Viridian Dynamics and they would totally sponsor restaurants in The Good Place.

Viridian Dynamics: We wrap things in lettuce. You're welcome.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:47 AM on February 6 [7 favorites]


One of the loveliest things about the show is seeing someone who reads as East Asian, for once, not portraying a super-smart asexual nerd, but rather a dumb bro who has an active romantic life.

We're not talking about average intelligence, I mean, actively dumb. "All we need is an offense, a defense, and some rule changes" dumb.

Which is why I like these interviews with the cast members, like Manny Jacinto, who got into acting because of a lack of representation and seeing Asians in America's Next Dance Crew.

And then you have the giraffe! Finally, on American TV you have a portrayal of an Asian Brit with the posh accent and what not. And to think that this is Jameela Jamil's first pro acting gig!
posted by anem0ne at 11:49 AM on February 6 [31 favorites]


"Universe" doesn't seem like an adequate term here. Janet probably eats universes for breakfast.

"I don't eat." [/janetcorrection]
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:55 AM on February 6 [35 favorites]


I wonder how complicated or expensive it would be to get D'Arcy Carden to do a Siri voice? Probably insanely complicated and very, very expensive indeed, but it would be worth it. I'd probably be able to put up with Siri's incompetence and incomprehension if it were Janet.

I loved this series so much that I was afraid of recommending it to anyone for a long time, in case they didn't like it, and I couldn't bear that. For the first season I was acquiring it by means that would give me a phenomenal points deficit, so I'm glad it turns up on Netflix in the UK now. And even gladder that so many people seem to like it as much as I do.

I hope they complete the story before they go on too long, but given their impeccable judgement so far, I have a fair amount of confidence that they will.

As far as characters go, they seem to split up into three pairs of active/passive (or more properly receptive) traits, though I'm not sure what those traits are - "good" and "bad" are too simplistic. Chidi is... passive conservative, perhaps, while Tahani is active conservative; Jason active chaotic, while Eleanor is passive chaotic. Again, the words aren't quite right, but you see what I mean - the conservatives grasp, and the chaotic break stuff. These outcomes happen with the actives because they do them, with the passive because they fail to stop them happening. Michael and Janet mediate between the two positions (Michael active, Janet receptive).

It's also the first situation comedy that can be filed along with The Divine Comedy and The Pilgrim's Progress.
posted by Grangousier at 12:01 PM on February 6 [13 favorites]


I love The Good Place a lot, and despite its setting and some of the darker underpinnings of the show, I still think it's profoundly optimistic. Honestly, there's some real, existential horror to be mined here: not only the specter of hell and eternal punishment, but the horrifying, ever more clear reality that there is no perfect justice in the world beyond, that life was unfair, and death was unfair, and the afterlife is unfair too.

But despite that, the thing I keep coming back to on the show is the sheer hope and beauty of the idea that these people put together for the explicit purpose of torturing each other have instead come to love each other. It reminds me of a quote from, of all things, The Adventure Zone podcast, the McElroy brothers' Dungeons and Dragons podcast:
Our capacity for love increases with each person we cross paths with throughout our lives, and with each moment we spend with those people. But, too often we neglect that part of ourselves in favor of others. And by the time we realize just how important it is, we find ourselves with fewer folks around to practice with. But the seven of you have something that nobody else ever had: time. All the time in the world. Time enough to grow indescribably close. Time enough to learn how to care for each other, how to allow yourselves to be cared for.
In a system designed and meant to set them against each other, after lives where they did neglect or fail to understand their capacities for love, Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason instead keep choosing to love each other, to stick together. Whatever thorny philosophical and moral questions the show asks, it always comes back down to that, and that, I think, is the most profound and beautiful thing about the show, under all the hilarity. That, I suppose, is how you build a heaven out of hell, or how you try to, at least.
posted by yasaman at 12:01 PM on February 6 [16 favorites]


I would really like there to be a Better Off Ted reunion on this show at some point

You've opened up a can of worms in my brain and now all I want is for the Season 3 finale to reveal that the show is now a reboot of Herman's Head.
posted by rhizome at 12:03 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


As soon as I heard about that personality test I knew, in my bones, that I’m a Tahani-Micheal
posted by The Whelk at 12:04 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


I thought I was a Tahani-Chidi, but by the end of the article I settled on being a Jason-Michael. Which is fine.
posted by rhizome at 12:11 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


"I don't eat." [/janetcorrection]

I feel like I always understand about 20% of what's happening.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 12:13 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Pretty sure I am an Eleanor/Janet, might be an Eleanor/Michael.
posted by jeather at 12:14 PM on February 6


One of the loveliest things about the show is seeing someone who reads as East Asian, for once, not portraying a super-smart asexual nerd, but rather a dumb bro who has an active romantic life.

I started watching this show since the first episode aired, back when it was just a fun sitcom and not, like, the most important thing ever in my life. I liked it well enough because hey, Kristen Bell and Ted Danson are great and the concept is fun and unique, but I remember being super disappointed that they cast a Filipino to represent someone from Taiwan. I was just going to roll with it in that annoying "well, that's Hollywood casting" because I was still enjoying almost everything except that.

But the show won my undying love forever with that "Heaven's so racist" line (ep 4? I think?) and I've never looked back.

It's been So. Much. Fun. watching people get into this show over the past few months, thanks to the first season being uploaded to Netflix, and biting my tongue the entire time so see their reactions to everything as they discover the twists for the first time.
posted by paisley sheep at 12:20 PM on February 6 [16 favorites]


So I just posted this over in FanFare in our discussion of the finale, but I think it fits equally well with the broader discussion of the entire show that's going on here:

I know this is an oversimplification, but take a look at our Core Four at the start.

Jason lacking a brain
Tahani lacking a heart
Chidi lacking courage
and Eleanor lacking a home (even though she'd never admit to it in most of S1, and then again wouldn't for most of S2)

Plus, The Wizard turns out to be a fraud, and he doesn't actually know how to grant their wishes after all.

(This moment in "Somewhere Else" was what made me think of it.)
posted by tzikeh at 12:26 PM on February 6 [45 favorites]


Love this show. For what ever reasonI avoided it when it came on first. Probably not actively, it just didn't penetrate my brain space. When it showed up on Netflix, I binged it in 2 days and then I had to fight myself to wait on season 2 so I could do more bingy stuff cause I literally feel the need to inhale this show.
posted by drewbage1847 at 12:27 PM on February 6


How are people watching the first episodes of S2? We binged S1 on Netflix, and then tried to watch S2 on Hulu a couple days, but were foiled by them only having the last few eps.
posted by joyceanmachine at 12:29 PM on February 6


Wow. I was avoiding this because it's network TeeVee with commercials. Even though I love Kristen Bell. Thanks, blue.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 12:30 PM on February 6


I love this show, and remember when NBC was promoting the hell out of it during the summer Olympics. The trailers made it look so bad I never watched a single episode until it hit Netflix, even though I was a huge Veronica Mars fan.
posted by skewed at 12:31 PM on February 6


This show is really great. Watched S1 on Netflix and trying to patiently wait for S2 so we can watch with subtitles for my wife.

And yeah, I need a Janet mode for Google Home...
posted by thefoxgod at 12:36 PM on February 6


Also, random note, after watching this video of the cast learning about the twist at the end of the first season enough, I finally noticed Kristen Bell's little chuckle (she's the one filming them).
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:39 PM on February 6 [7 favorites]


D'arcy Carden's Reddit AMA from last week.
posted by Talez at 12:39 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


joyceanmachine: How are people watching the first episodes of S2? We binged S1 on Netflix, and then tried to watch S2 on Hulu a couple days, but were foiled by them only having the last few eps.

Several possible ways:

1) Sign in to NBC's website where they have all of S2 available if you sign in with your cable provider info.

2) Buy them on Amazon.com for $2.99/episode.

3) Cheat. (Warning: this may bring down your point score, or it might end in a wash if you buy the DVDs or the digital season later.)
posted by tzikeh at 12:40 PM on February 6 [4 favorites]


I'd probably be able to put up with Siri's incompetence and incomprehension if it were Janet.

I don't think Janet would want to take Siri's jobs, them being friends and all.
posted by solotoro at 12:45 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]



/janetcorrection

I'm working that into everyday life.
posted by MrGuilt at 12:48 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


It's also the first situation comedy that can be filed along with The Divine Comedy and The Pilgrim's Progress.

So, The Divine Sitcom then?

...I'll show myself to The Bad Place.
posted by dannyboybell at 12:51 PM on February 6 [4 favorites]


my dumbass self who didn't double-check:

(This moment in "Somewhere Else" was what made me think of it.)

Nope, that moment was mid-"Burrito." Ah, the joys of multiple ways to access footage!
posted by tzikeh at 12:52 PM on February 6


The Entire List of Actions and Their Scores On “The Good Place”

According to my calculations, if you drive to an out-of-state disaster site and help with a relief effort 17 times, you'll get slightly more points than you'd get for ending slavery
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:01 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


yasaman: there is no perfect justice in the world beyond, that life was unfair, and death was unfair, and the afterlife is unfair too.

"'Fair' is the stupidest word humans ever invented. Except for 'staycation'." -- Shawn
posted by tzikeh at 1:16 PM on February 6 [8 favorites]


I enjoy Jason so much. His level of calm and positivity is something to aspire to. I hope he comes out okay.
posted by heatvision at 1:36 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]


Professor Anagonye probably will not talk about "Mothering versus Contract" by Virginia Held, on understanding our responsibilities to each other as, often, involuntary, unequal, dynamic, fuzzy and multidimensional, in a future ep of The Good Place. But if he does I will scream.
posted by brainwane at 1:56 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Also solving problems with Molotov cocktails DID work out that one time.
posted by Artw at 1:57 PM on February 6 [8 favorites]


Uproxx has an article up about Twitter finally noticing the Parks/TGP crossover Easter eggs, and ends with "Look, Michael Schur has given us a ton of great television (I haven’t even mentioned Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Office) and one great blog (R.I.P. Fire Joe Morgan), but he’s not allowed to go to the Good Place until he answers these questions.

Or at least lets Andy Dwyer and Jianyu meet."

Which A. would be awesome and B. we already know from Schur that Pratt would be ideal for Jason's best friend from third grade.
posted by rewil at 2:12 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


Janet repeatedly giving Michael cacti after her reboot in "Most Improved Player" is my favorite joke on television ever (displacing the 30+ year-old "Who are you and how did you get in here?" "I'm a locksmith, and I'm a locksmith" from Police Squad!)

P.S. I am Chidi-Eleanor.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:25 PM on February 6 [10 favorites]


Season 2 is available on Netflix for me. Episodes appeared a week after premiering in the US. Maybe a Netflix Netherlands thing ? It's also the way I watch the Flash, Arrow, Super girl and Black Lighting.
posted by Pendragon at 2:37 PM on February 6


I don’t know which one I am. I just know that if Janet didn’t like me I would die.
posted by middleclasstool at 2:43 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Season 2 is available on Netflix for me. Episodes appeared a week after premiering in the US. Maybe a Netflix Netherlands thing ?

Very likely a distribution licensing thing. S2 is on Hulu in the US, but only the last five episodes.

You see this kind of dickish fuckery with things like Star Trek: Discovery--it's on Netflix everywhere except US/Canada, where you have to fork over money for a shitty fourth-rate streaming service that barely works to see it if you want to.

Or you pirate it.

Whoever came up with that fuckery for CBS is definitely going to the Bad Place, where they definitely shove hot dogs down people's... throats.
posted by anem0ne at 2:45 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]


Did Susgivery I ended up getting the CBS Amazon channel, because at least that way the interface for cancelling the order is readily reachable when I am done with it.
posted by Artw at 2:52 PM on February 6


Janet repeatedly giving Michael cacti after her reboot in "Most Improved Player" is my favorite joke on television ever (displacing the 30+ year-old "Who are you and how did you get in here?" "I'm a locksmith, and I'm a locksmith" from Police Squad!)

P.S. I am Chidi-Eleanor.


I agree with this entire post aside from Janet giving cacti being a close second to that same Police Squad! joke.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:02 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


I CANNOT BELIEVE we have to wait most of a year to see how the hell either a) Jason is getting to Australia or b) Tahani is ending up in Jacksonville.

(Also I'm not entirely sure how Jason is getting pushed out of suffocating in a safe.)
posted by maryr at 3:14 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


We have a dual-band router, and our networks are named "Derek" and "MAXIMUM DEREK"
posted by tzikeh at 3:43 PM on February 6 [40 favorites]


I’m so glad Mindy finally got her sex and cocaine.
posted by middleclasstool at 3:52 PM on February 6 [15 favorites]


Here's Jameela Jamil, pre-first-acting-job-ever, doing a Comic Relief Great British Bake Off. Her co-bakers in tent are David Mitchell, Sarah Brown, and Michael Sheen.

(She was known in Britain pre-Good-Place as a TV and radio show presenter and personality.)
posted by tzikeh at 4:02 PM on February 6 [10 favorites]


The cool thing about this is that Michael unexpectedly devised a system in which an awful person was suddenly highly motivated to become a good one, thus proving that a person can improve after death--they're not frozen. As the New Yorker article said, "They're locked in an evil system gone accidentally right."
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:14 PM on February 6 [8 favorites]


If you have the ability to do so, make sure you watch the "extended cut" versions they sometimes have available on Hulu. It's an extra 1-2 minutes of content that was clearly cut for time and not because of quality.
posted by Sibrax at 4:42 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]




Nothing has ever made me want to write fanfic as much as the thought of the Parks and Rec gang going through an afterlife journey similar to Team Cockroach.

Also while I want that article's take on Mr. Gergich's fate to be exactly right (I think his extra special heaven would be just Pawnee and Muncie and connecting routes between and it would be Gergich paradise), they are forgetting that scene where Jerry talked to Ann about her milk coming in and mimicked a baby looking for the nipple AKA the most unforgivably disturbing thing ever that I'm kinda glad I can't find a YouTube link for.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:14 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


It is just kinda huh that the Parks and Rec connection only blew up today when it was there for all to see in s1.

But anyway it's already doubly on the record Leslie Knope’s probably a shoe-in for the Good Place.
posted by rewil at 7:21 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


How are people watching the first episodes of S2?

Binged S1 and S2 on Netflix Japan. For once we get something promptly so I didn't have to Torrent so I could look at the Internet without spoilers..
posted by Gotanda at 8:41 PM on February 6


Oh, probably Eleanor-Michael here.
posted by Gotanda at 8:43 PM on February 6


Jason lacking a brain
Tahani lacking a heart
Chidi lacking courage
and Eleanor lacking a home (even though she'd never admit to it in most of S1, and then again wouldn't for most of S2)

Plus, The Wizard turns out to be a fraud, and he doesn't actually know how to grant their wishes after all.


And Janet is the ruby (silver) slippers.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:44 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


My Hot Take on "The Good Place": Jason is TOO GOOD FOR TAHANI from the good folks at LadyBusiness blogging collective.
posted by foxfirefey at 8:48 PM on February 6 [5 favorites]


I think I'm Eleanor-Chidi. I can decide a lot more than Chidi can, but inside my brain sounds a lot like him. (I do also have times where I just can't decide anything else, like which jam at Safeway, and just go home, without jam.) And me attempting to get along with people sounds far too much like Eleanor not getting along with people. (Really identify with her judginess and fear that she's inferior.)

I really like this personality "quiz" and the insights I've gotten from which characters my spouse and child chose for themselves.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:51 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Chidi's problem is not indecisiveness. It's the self-centeredness of his preoccupation with always doing the right thing. He cares more about being right than he cares about the world (and the people in it) that are worth being right about.
posted by straight at 9:10 PM on February 6 [22 favorites]


I like to think that the big reveal in season one will be a storytelling example used for years, it so perfectly played with expectations (that a network sitcom wouldn't upend the premise like that, that that specific twist would come off as cheap or cheesy and this show seems smarter than that [and the subversion of that particular expectation is brilliant, turns out the show is even smarter than you thought, smart enough to make it work]) and it built so many high stakes for characters you cared about under the false premise (you're so genuinely invested in the fight to stay in heaven, invested in the false narrative) that even though you likely considered the idea that this could actually be The Bad Place at some point while watching, it could still genuinely surprise you.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:17 PM on February 6 [5 favorites]


I'm still fuzzy about Jason's "real" problem, meaning the sense in which he was becoming a better person by being brought together with the others. It's got to be more than just stupidity. How has he changed for the better?
posted by straight at 9:18 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


jason_steakums, I would add one more important triumph to that good list. There's a particular way The Good Place beautifully subverts the conventions of sitcoms.

We're told that this is a perfect place inhabited by Very Good people. But then there's these "jokes" about Tahani being full of herself and Chidi is insufferably indecisive. But the convention is that we overlook that stuff because of course a sitcom is always gonna play fast and loose with its premise for the sake of a joke.

But then the finale of Season One swoops in and says. No. It mattered. We actually care about all those "little" things. They weren't just jokes to us. Tahini and Chidi aren't just jokes, they're people whose character we are taking seriously.

And that is beautiful. I can only think of one comedic work that achieves a similar shift in perspective from seeing characters as mere jokes and caricatures to people whose life, love, and suffering matters. It's a somewhat obscure fantasy novel; I can't decide whether to name it or not.
posted by straight at 9:33 PM on February 6 [15 favorites]


Chidi's problem is not indecisiveness. It's the self-centeredness of his preoccupation with always doing the right thing. He cares more about being right than he cares about the world (and the people in it) that are worth being right about.

When you're at the store and trying to decide between organic and regular jam, jam made in France, local jam, jam so natural looking you wonder if it also tastes good, wondering about which would be fair trade. Finally think, hey that one, only to realize it's made with high-fructose corn syrup, and the sugar ones are probably better for you. And you can't figure out what the right decision is. So then you go home without the jam that your five-year-old wanted for toast.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:42 PM on February 6 [7 favorites]


I'm still fuzzy about Jason's "real" problem, meaning the sense in which he was becoming a better person by being brought together with the others. It's got to be more than just stupidity. How has he changed for the better?

He's got a selfish and lazy side and of course a criminal streak, but I think his most interesting aspect in relation to the big questions of morality is how he seems so crazily empathetic and caring and will move and change for good or bad depending on the actions of the people around him. Not in a doormat way but out of a genuine trust and love and need to support them! He's there for Pillboi and he's there for Team Cockroach and the results are wildly divergent. He's the case study for some really tricky ethical dilemmas about judging individuals vs groups, and how to weigh circumstances and intentions.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:45 PM on February 6 [12 favorites]


Oh also that link foxfirefey posted above really digs deep on Jason's character and it's super good! This is about a perfect take on Jason:
Overall, he's bad at social rules, but good at personal rules: he doesn't have a very good understanding of what society at large considers good or bad and why, but he has a keen understanding of goodness and badness on the personal scale. That doesn't mean he's always good to everyone around him, but he truly values niceness between people. He's childish and reckless and doesn't think about consequences, but that's largely another problem of scale: he's concerned with the immediate effects of his actions on the people most proximate to him, but doesn't really consider how these ripple out beyond his immediate circle and affect or are affected by society at large. Framed this way, I think Jason makes a lot more sense, and also fits very neatly into the carefully constructed quartet of human that the show has set up.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:04 PM on February 6 [9 favorites]


In a blink-and-you-miss-it bit of brilliance, Tahani's paper on moral particularism is titled "Moral Particularism: And other things I learned from Claire Danes' father-in-law." Danes's father-in-law is Jonathan Dancy, leading philosopher of moral particularism. And not only do they get in this utterly brilliant bit of Tahani name-dropping, but then the very next episode, Eleanor cites Dancy (which she read!) when talking to Chidi on the train to convince him that in this particular situation, it's okay to lie to the demons.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:15 PM on February 6 [37 favorites]


You also may have heard about Jonathan Dancy and moral particularism on a late night chat show.
posted by Banknote of the year at 10:33 PM on February 6 [7 favorites]


I, too, feel that I'm a Chidi-Eleanor and I have a hard time figuring out how that makes sense. I try to rigorously restrict myself to pre-Good Place Eleanor, and I still feel like I identify with her even though I don't act like her. She was often malicious (though in a weird, off-hand way) and that's not me. But something about her colossal (and tragic) indifference to other people resonates.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:56 PM on February 6


Oh, the re-watch!

Michael: Generally speaking, in the afterlife there's a good and there's a bad place.
[Danson flicks a perfect micro-second twinge of the lip that looks like the beginning of his smile when you hear the next words, but now on re-watch... oh god he's good]
Michael: You're in the good place.
posted by Thella at 10:56 PM on February 6 [9 favorites]


This is practically the only TV show involving Philosophy that doesn't make my wife & I (current and former philosophy profs, respectively) cringe.

Did... did you meet at a philosophy seminar, you know, like a normal person?
posted by Justinian at 1:15 AM on February 7 [27 favorites]


1) I'm 40% Bad Janet, 60% Chidi
2) I love all of you freakin' nerds.
posted by DigDoug at 5:02 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]




My greatest regret is that Shawn turned out to actually be called Shawn and not a fancy way of pronouncing 'Satan'.
posted by lokta at 5:24 AM on February 7


I'm a Chidi-Jason. It's as awful as it sounds.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:56 AM on February 7 [7 favorites]


Chidi-Michael. Generally unsure of whether I'm doing the right thing, but after years of cynicism at least I'm trying.
posted by solotoro at 6:49 AM on February 7


I was scanning the airbnb thread and actually started thinking about Chidi's initial assumption that he'd ended up in the Bad Place because he drank a lot of almond milk. Even though they went with "Chidi's reluctance to make a bad choice, aka ANY choice, ruins his friends' lives," I do wonder how the Good Place scoring system approaches airbnb/Amazon/meat-eating type issues. In the modern world, we're constantly making tradeoffy purchasing decisions. Do you lose extra points when you KNOW doing these things are bad and do them anyway? You have to intentionally do good -- is it the same for doing bad? I mean, maybe that's why they wrote Jason in the Bad Place...to establish that ignorance of the law is no excuse.

(Or do we call bs on the whole idea of points as something Michael came up with to torture Tahani, and nothing more? Certainly the judge seemed to immediately know where everyone fell on the Good Place/Bad Place axis even before she gave their tests...Eleanor and Tahani were the only ones who got proper tests.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 7:23 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


I missed something...why are they called team cockroach?
posted by Grither at 9:13 AM on February 7


Demons view humans as being as important and significant and charming as cockroaches.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 9:20 AM on February 7


And they're determined to survive
posted by drewbage1847 at 9:41 AM on February 7


From Marc Evan Jackson on twitter:
Fun/not fun side effect of playing Shawn on @nbcthegoodplace: People now walk into rooms or restaurants where I am, see me, and visibly think to themselves,
"Oh, no. I'm in The Bad Place.
posted by jeather at 10:07 AM on February 7 [25 favorites]


See, all I can think of when I see him in other things is "Hey, it's Kevin!" (like when I went to see Jumanji last night and he popped up in that).
posted by protocoach at 10:11 AM on February 7 [4 favorites]


Grither - one of the first episodes of Season 2 the main four (Chidi, Tahani, Jason, and Eleanor) refer to themselves as Team Cockroach when discussing The Good Place with Michael. (keeping this as spoiler free as possible).
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 10:32 AM on February 7


Grither: I missed something...why are they called team cockroach?

Because in the episode "Team Cockroach," Michael compares humans to cockroaches. At the end of the episode, when he is trying to make the deal where they are all on the same side, Eleanor says they are willing to join forces as long as he attends Ethics classes with the rest of "team cockroach."
posted by tzikeh at 10:33 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


refer to themselves as Team Cockroach when discussing The Good Place with Michael. (keeping this as spoiler free as possible).

Huh - I assumed that since Grither said they "must have missed something," that meant they'd seen the whole show and couldn't remember why the group is named that. My apologies if I spoiled you, Grither.
posted by tzikeh at 10:38 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Also, correct me if I'm wrong, mods, but my understanding of compendium posts about books, TVs, and movies on the Blue (like this one) are considered caveat lector, i.e. if a TV show has finished airing (post-season finale or post-series finale), those who have yet to see it click on the post at their own peril, knowing that everything that's aired so far is fair game for discussion and if they get spoiled, that's on them.
posted by tzikeh at 10:43 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


This post clearly says "spoilers for season 2" before anything else, so I don't think there's any reason to avoid them in the comments. The one spoily quote was moved inside the fold.
posted by jeather at 11:02 AM on February 7


See, all I can think of when I see him in other things is "Hey, it's Kevin!" (like when I went to see Jumanji last night and he popped up in that).

Marc Evan Jackson gets so typecast, but he's really great at that type. He does go outside of type on things like the Spontaneanation podcast and as Sparks Nevada on the Thrilling Adventure Hour, and it's great!

One thing I really like about this show is that it let Jason Mantzoukas get out of his TV typecasting rut! He doesn't get enough opportunity for that, everyone wants some crazily aggressive pervert character from him and he's got range. I suspect he's got a lot more range than we typically see.
posted by jason_steakums at 4:21 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


I'm a Chidi-Jason. It's as awful as it sounds.

What do you mean, dawg? That's dope!

Wait ...but what if it isn't dope? What if it's not dope at all?

Aw man.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:00 PM on February 7 [29 favorites]


I'm an Eleanor/Michael, which is oddly also my pairing of choice in fanfiction!

(JUDGE AWAY, BLUE-SERS.)
posted by tzikeh at 2:01 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]


Chidi-Eleanor, anxiously stubborn.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:01 AM on February 8 [4 favorites]


TVTropes has a recap collection for The Good Place, as opposed to their series page.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:09 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]


Just a tip if you're trying to get the last episodes of S2 and don't want to pirate it or mess with Netflix/VPN shenanigans.

You can sign up for DIRECTV NOW (AT&Ts video streaming service) and take the free 7-day trial. Then you can activate NBC's streaming using your DTV credentials. The NBC app has every episode available once you are in.

Just remember to cancel before 7 days, or else it's $35/month. DTV can be used to unlock lots of other streaming services (NBC, Nick, Bravo, CNN, Food Network, Freeform) that have no presence on Hulu or Netflix.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:22 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]


The Outline has a nice and thoughtful article that gets Pillboi's name wrong but a lot of other stuff probably right: Are you there, God? It's me, The Good Place
The Good Place has succeeded where so many other television shows have tried and failed: It has become a cultural phenomena for the way it depicts religion as surprising and commonplace, funny and human.
And you can poke around Nicole Cliffe's twitter for thoughts on how the Apostles were all basically Jason.
posted by rewil at 9:51 AM on February 8 [5 favorites]


One thing I really like about this show is that it let Jason Mantzoukas get out of his TV typecasting rut...everyone wants some crazily aggressive pervert character from him and he's got range

Sure, but Vincent Schiavelli is dead and Larry Hankin ain't no spring chicken. Hollywood has needs!
posted by rhizome at 10:03 AM on February 8


Mallory Ortberg's What Which Character You Think You Are On The Good Place Says About You.
I enjoy the television program The Good Place. The following is an indictment of myself every time I attempted to play the “two characters” game. Thank you for witnessing it.

[...]

You Think You Are Jason

No, you don’t, not really. You know better than that.
posted by jeather at 11:42 AM on February 9 [4 favorites]


You Think You Are Chidi

You think you have a single, defining character flaw, which you try to spin as excessive earnestness. You don’t; you have several, none significant enough to build a personality around. The worst you are willing to confess to is “buying too many books,” which you don’t actually consider a flaw at all – and know full well that no one else does either.
Well then. I'll just be over here in the corner listening to my mental fork in a garbage disposal.
posted by Flannery Culp at 12:01 PM on February 9 [6 favorites]


Mallory Ortberg's What Which Character You Think You Are On The Good Place Says About You.

Well that pretty much sets in concrete my assessment of myself as a Eleanor-Tahani.
posted by Artw at 12:02 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]



What do you mean, dawg? That's dope!

Wait ...but what if it isn't dope? What if it's not dope at all?

Aw man.


It's like this one time when me and my boy Ronnie found all this free meat in an unplugged freezer behind a Mongolian Grill that got shut down by the health department. We had this balling cookout with our dance squad and invited all the hot cheerleaders from the career center. It was gonna be an Epic Blow Out, but then it wasn't. Well, it kinda was, but not the way we were thinking. Then all these people with clipboards started asking me all sorts of questions and the hot nurse at the emergency room wouldn't even give me her digits.
posted by leotrotsky at 4:59 AM on February 10 [5 favorites]


I love this show.

I can honestly say that this is one of the few times a piece of pop culture has actually made me want to be a better person. I've been asking myself "Am I acting like pre-death Eleanor?" and making myself really consider my actions.

For what it's worth, I'm a mixture of Eleanor (bitter) and Chidi (worried about making the wrong choice).
posted by daybeforetheday at 8:44 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


The Good Place season one Gag Reel
posted by Thella at 10:53 PM on February 10


After BtVS, The Good Place is my favorite TV show ever. And Wizard of Oz is my favorite movie ever. Coincidence? I don't think so....

Thanks for this post! The links are awesome! (awesome said in my best Jason voice)
posted by pjsky at 5:30 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Ok fine I'll watch the god-damned show. You people.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:29 PM on February 12 [11 favorites]


After BtVS, The Good Place is my favorite TV show ever. And Wizard of Oz is my favorite movie ever. Coincidence? I don't think so....

As it so happens, I'm going to one of those parties where everyone has to give a three-minute PowerPoint presentation. Mine is about how The Good Place, BtVS, and Wizard of Oz are all pretty much the same story. Here is a (slightly redacted) peek at the cover slide.

I'm very excited about it.
posted by Superplin at 8:15 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


As it so happens, I'm going to one of those parties where everyone has to give a three-minute PowerPoint presentation.

I was not aware that this was a thing and I never expected to be excited by such a possibility, yet here we are
posted by middleclasstool at 9:18 PM on February 12 [9 favorites]


Possibly a sign that we’re living in a superficially charming but slightly unnerving experimentally designed hellscape, but yes they are! And I am all in.
posted by Superplin at 5:45 AM on February 13


jessamyn and I just started watching this, and we're trying not to binge on it, even though we want to. The characters seem to be developing and not static. And it's not wincey to me like Will Forte's character in Last Man on Earth. These characters are forced to address ethics directly, and make Big Decisions, which is something very few comedies would dare to do in fear of losing the yuks. They do it all well so far. It's a very funny, strange closed universe they've created for themselves.

I also didn't know I wanted a platform nook bed space until recently.
posted by not_on_display at 11:03 AM on February 13 [7 favorites]


My partner and I knocked over six episodes last night. Yep, it's pretty good. Prettay, prettay, prettayyyyy, pretty good.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:16 PM on February 14


D'Arcy Carden is pretty fun on twitter.
posted by jeather at 5:23 PM on February 14 [3 favorites]


The Good Place valentines by Carter Wright

"You are a person that is near me"
posted by mbrubeck at 9:06 PM on February 14 [9 favorites]


Jason can rest easy: the Jacksonville Jaguars have signed a three-year contract extension with Blake Bortles.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:34 AM on February 26 [6 favorites]


This show... I can't help but make predictions, but deep down I don't want them to be right since I have become so spoiled by the surprises... nevertheless! I do genuinely hope that if there is a capital-g god figure revealed at some point, please please please make be played by Nick Offerman.

ty in advance. kinda.
posted by Golem XIV at 11:35 AM on February 27 [2 favorites]


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