Quick Reads

Emmy Awards series: The Good Place

An Indie Journal and CinemaAnd article series.

Credit : NBC

-Zeba Ali

The concepts of hell and heaven have always been fascinating to us. Even as a child, we did everything to make God happy just because our elders told us that it would send us to the heaven, where we could live the way we like and get everything we want. Back then a house of chocolate was all we all wished for! While the exchange of good deeds for heaven is still alluring, our adulting has made us sceptical about the idea of heaven. What if I told you there is a good place to welcome you in the afterlife? A place of comfort and happiness, a 24/7 sunny day with warm people, and all the things you wish for turns into a reality over there.

In the wake of modern life monotony, one thing became very clear for most of us, we visit our homes and friends occasionally but actually live in the office, so it’s time to find our ‘comrades’ in that space and move away from the gloss of spaces that remain aloof to us no matter how tantalizing or titillating. So we now have TV shows like The Office, Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn 99 and The Good Place clicking with people and they are all written by Michael Schur. 

Michael Schur is a name that remains to be anonymous for most casual TV viewers but somehow this writer, an alumni writer of the sketch comedy iconic show - Saturday Night Live, has been the most influential TV writer in America; to be counted amongst industry legends like Tina Fey (also a fellow SNL alumnus), Shonda Rhymes, Aaron Sorkin, David Simon, etc. 

The basic format of The Office, Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn nine-nine and The Good Place is the same, unlikely people finding semblance in their space of purgatory - a mixed group of individuals who would never be friends under normal circumstances are forced to work and banter together and their mishaps that cause humour and make life bearable in those unbearable moments of work-life drudgery. 

But here’s where 'The Good Place’ truly transcends the tropes of the regular sitcom, even by Michael Schur standards- as it literally deals with (spoiler alert) purgatory! And the importance of being good for the sake of being good and the various philosophies associated with ethical behaviour and the acute dichotomy of being alive in this pointless existence. 



Don't get scared because like all good things it starts out really simple - we meet the central character Eleanor played to perfection by Kristen Bell, as she wakes up in Heaven aka 'The good place' as the architect. There she is welcomed by Michael - a magical creature played by the Original- ‘Zaddy’ Ted Danson. He acquaints Eleanor with her brilliant neighbours and her only soul mate Chidi (William Jackson Harper) only to confess in secrecy that she is here by mistake and it's off to the races. On one side, she has Chidi, a literal philosophy professor whose every decision is imprinted by ethics and morals. 

And on the other side, Eleanor has Tahani Al Jamil (Jameela Jamil) - a hoity-toity fickle-minded freak who is soul mates with the silent monk Jason Mendoza, played by Manni Jacinto. Will her secret remain as she is in the company of Chidi - a know it all and Tahani - a nosy beautiful socialite neighbour while she is trying to figure out that something is strange in the 'The Good Place' neighbourhood as everything seems to be going horribly wrong, all form the rest of the story.



But the show is truly subversive because it constantly flips on its conflict- as it goes from survival to trickery, then learning ethical behaviour to practical implementation, a rehash of old tricks but with changed perspectives and worldviews as the characters take on and exchange the archetype of Jealousy, intellect, Pride, Greed and Shame. I can’t reveal who’s who in this because discovering those elements along with another million things that I have missed out on his part of the joy in watching this show. 

One of its most interesting and dare I say, important points are, in its attempt to showcase the value of actions and consequences as it tries to ask if people are generally good or bad? Can we be saved from our own fallacies and inadequacies in the face of existentialism? What if each person received the help they deserved, a helping hand, a guiding voice? What if we can transcend our biggest critics, our most heinous past, our most shameful actions, our deep and most unspoken of fears to become a much better person, the people we can all be, not in the absence of pain but despite its ever-lasting presence!



Another interesting aspect of the show is that it makes us question the very definition of "a good value" that supposedly will open the gates of heaven. In the ever-changing world and the associated everyday struggle, the line between a good deed and bad deed is blurring every moment. And one thing that we all must have experienced at least once in life, in the context of an event. In one situation when a particular act stands out to be virtuous, the same action is condemned in a different situation. Then, how to judge whether it is an honourable action or the call of the devil? With this ruckus in life, how shall we ever have a clear definition of a deed for a devil or for an angel? 

This American fantasy comedy series was premiered on September 19, 2016. The series so far includes four seasons with 53 episodes. It has been reviewed with 4 plus stars on every platform like Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB, etc.  The show has won hearts of millions of people and won several awards like American Film Institute Awards, Critics' Choice Television Award, Hugo Awards, NAACP Image Awards, Peabody Award, People's Choice Awards and Television Critics Association Awards. You can watch this marvellous show on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and NBC.com

On another note- the recent Television landscape is changing with streaming stepping up with huge production values, star cast, etc- but the audience has experienced great disappointment in the abandoned storylines or the lost potential of a great story of numerous shows and here’s where ‘The good place’ steps in. It’s not only about the ambition of an idea but also its execution and providing that satisfying conclusion as we expect from most of our TV shows, movies and stories in general with the help of interesting characters with genuine flaws, great performances, a good pilot episode, cliff-hangers at the end of each season, simple humour at unique places and a conclusion that leaves us sad but also happy and many more aspects that makes this show TV’s most exquisite yet attainable caviar, so do yourself a favour and just watch it and feel good about being good, especially given the times.