Comedy After Death: 'The Good Place' Creator Michael Schur On Ethics, Afterlife
With David Folkenflik
“The Good Place” is an Emmy-nominated comedy about the afterlife. We’re joined by the hit show’s creator.
Michael Schur, creator of NBC’s “The Good Place,” a comedy about the afterlife and the path to becoming a better person. The fourth and final season begins next week. Co-creator of “Parks and Recreation” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” Proudcer and writer for the “The Office.” (@KenTremendous)
Kristen Bell, actress. She plays the lead character, Eleanor, in “The Good Place.” Nominated in 2019 for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Series – Musical or Comedy. (@KristenBell)
From The Reading List
Rolling Stone: “Goodbye to ‘The Good Place,’ TV’s Most Divine Comedy” — “It’s hot as hell on the set of The Good Place.
“The wickedly smart NBC comedy about a group of misfits struggling to make their way through the afterlife largely takes place in its own version of Satan’s domain. The show’s central neighborhood looks like a pastel paradise filled with punnily-named shops like Ponzu Scheme, The Pesto’s Yet to Come, and Lasagna Come Out Tomorrow. But it’s built on the Universal backlot in the San Fernando Valley, which can feel like the sun’s anvil as production hits the summer months. Between takes while shooting the series’ upcoming fourth and final season, leading lady Kristen Bell tries to explain the concepts of ‘swamp ass’ and ‘monkey butt’ — ‘It’s just a general stickiness’ — to legendary co-star Ted Danson, and each time a crew member orders the cast to step out of the sun, Bell and D’Arcy Carden harmonize on a lyric from Dear Evan Hansen about doing exactly that.
“‘It would be an accurate temperature in hell,’ Bell acknowledges later from the comfort of her trailer. ‘Maybe this is part of [Good Place creator] Mike Schur’s big plan. I wouldn’t put it past him.’
“Through its first three seasons, The Good Place has pushed the limits of where a sitcom can go — physically, metaphysically, stylistically, and philosophically. It began in what appeared to be an exclusive version of heaven, where four newly-arrived human dum-dums — selfish con artist Eleanor (Kristen Bell), panicky philosopher Chidi (William Jackson Harper), narcissistic philanthropist Tahani (Jameela Jamil), and ‘Florida man’ Jason (Manny Jacinto) — didn’t seem to quite fit, despite encouragement from gregarious celestial architect Michael (Danson) and chipperly omniscient artificial intelligence Janet (Carden). In a twist that was kept secret from all the actors save Danson and Bell — and that transformed The Good Place from clever sitcom to something addictive — they would learn that Michael was actually a Bad Place demon testing out a new way to torture souls, and would spend the ensuing seasons trying to save themselves from eternal damnation and figure out why the universe seems utterly broken. (A recent episode revealed that no one has qualified for the Good Place in centuries.) Silly as it can be, the series asks big questions about the best way to live, how to treat the world and people around us, and how to cope in a life that seems more profoundly unfair by the year. This ridiculous, surreal show filled with impossibilities such as lava monsters, genies, and giant flying shrimp has turned out to be an essential guide for staying sane in the age of Trump.”
Entertainment Weekly: “Inside The Good Place’s final season: ‘This will be worth it‘” — “Welcome! Everything is final.
“Just a time-knife’s throw from Ponzu Scheme, the stars of The Good Place have gathered outside a familiar frozen-yogurt shop to film one of their last-ever group scenes. It’s hotter than Hades (hmmm) on the Universal Studios lot, but a figurative chill fills the air as the cameras roll on yet another loaded goodbye for the series finale of NBC’s ambitious afterlife comedy. ‘I can tell you’re sad,’ dopey, pre-successful Jacksonville DJ Jason (Manny Jacinto) observes of Team Cockroach. ‘You have the same look on your faces that my teachers did whenever I raised my hand in class.’
“Creator and finale writer-director Mike Schur minds the minutiae, readjusting trays of oysters and a bong while tweaking punchlines involving ‘concussion sauce’ and ‘younger bodies.’ ‘There’s a lot of endings,’ he teases of the finale, ‘and there’s a lot of resolution to a lot of the characters’ stories in certain ways.’
“Schur certainly won’t reveal the fates awaiting our scrappy in-limbo souls—reforming dirtbag Eleanor (Kristen Bell), overanxious ethics professor Chidi (William Jackson Harper), self-consumed socialite Tahani (Jameela Jamil), and Jason—or humanized Bad Place architect Michael (Ted Danson) and ever-evolving database Janet (D’Arcy Carden). But there are scads of colorful clues on set: a mini football field; people in matching outfits; a hybrid tanning booth/karaoke machine (leisure activity? torture device?). Oh, and Shakespeare has done something dramatic that’s the talk of…wherever this is.”
Deadline: “‘The Good Place’ Preps Viewers For Its Final Season With ‘The Selection’ Digital Series” — “NBC’s The Good Place is offering up its own version of the Bardo in advance of its final season: The Selection, a six-episode digital series that will serve as a storytelling bridge between the end of season 3 and its fourth and final season, which bows Thursday, Sept. 26 at 9 PM ET/PT.
“All six episodes of the digital series are available by downloading the NBC App.
“The series features demon Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson) and his cohorts as they decide which deceased humans to send to Michael’s (Ted Danson) newly formed afterlife neighborhood to thwart his benevolent plan. The series is written by the staff that creates The Good Place series.”
Adam Waller produced this hour for broadcast.
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
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