The Good Place…How many TV shows (network or otherwise, drama or comedy) actually get you to think about “Am I good person?” I would say out of the shows currently on TV, exactly one: “The Good Place.”
Sure, not everything featured on Michael Shur’s bananas-comedy (the wildest network show since “Pushing Daisies” and “Arrested Development” got cancelled) truly works, and some of the characters can be stuck in their own personal ruts. [Manny Jacinto’s Jason is the most unrealistically stupid character since “Parks and Recreation”‘s Andy.] But unlike other comedies, that’s also kind-of the point here. These characters are seemingly held hostage by their worst impulses, and you’re honestly rooting for them to break free, whereas most TV comedies (even Shur’s previous “Parks and Recreation”) are pretty content to keep things pretty much running on autopilot.
As if giving a comedy show several dramatic arcs weren’t reason enough to watch, I’m consistently dazzled by Shur’s ability to burn through plots in a single episode that most shows would take an entire season to fully mine. This recently-concluded second season especially seemed to have a break-neck pace: the characters literally burning through 800 variations of the season premiere’s premise by episode 2, Ted Danson’s charming demon Michael switching teams, espionage plots against The Bad Place, a visit to oft-feared The Bad Place, an episode with Maya Rudolph as a divine judge, and even a limited version reincarnation, where we’re asked the same central question “Can someone really change their worst instincts?” And deep meditations on self-sacrifice, moral philosophy, ethical dilemmas, and how hard it is to live a good life when being bad may feel more immediately satisfying. [This is easily the most cerebral comedy series since “Frasier” went off the air, making abstract concepts literal the way other shows do pratfalls.]
To me, too many of even the best cable comedies aren’t concerned enough with how likable their characters are. And I’m rooting for “The Good Place” central four, even if they may not deserve it. Then again, it’s a show that makes the viewer wonder if we would really deserve more chances either, and I’m willing to bet people are 100% nicer the few days after watching the Season 2 finale than they were the week before it. Grade for Season 2: A…Grade for Season 2 Finale: A+