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Wednesday, December 02, 2020

TV Rewind | The Good Place: The story of karma

The Good Place, starring Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, D'Arcy Carden, Manny Jacinto and Ted Danson among others, makes you think about your life through the prism of morality.

Written by Sampada Sharma | New Delhi | November 21, 2020 9:57:14 am
the good placeThe Good Place is a clever mix of humour and positivity that leaves you with a good feeling.

During the coronavirus-induced lockdown, we have all had enough time to think about our life. While we have not been acing every department in life, we all understood our strengths and weaknesses a little better. It was during this time of introspection that I often thought about Michael Schur’s television show The Good Place that is loosely based on the theory of karma, which can be simply explained as something which rewards good deeds but punishes the bad ones.

What is The Good Place all about?

The Good Place opens with Eleanor (Kristen Bell) who is dead and has just opened her eyes in the Good Place, a heaven-like equivalent for those who have done good deeds during their time on earth and are now being rewarded in the after-life. Soulmates, picture-perfect houses, all-you-can-eat restaurants, and other perks that one would think they would need to live a perfect life are all there, but Eleanor knows she doesn’t deserve it. She should have landed in the Bad Place.

Soon after the premise of the first season is set, we meet her fellow Good Place cohabitants Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jason (Manny Jacinto) who (almost) believe they deserve to be rewarded for their time on Earth, until the finale of the first season rolls around.

The Good Place lasted for four seasons with each season following the moral progression of its four humans, the architect/demon Michael (Ted Danson) and even the android-like Janet (D’Arcy Carden). They go from being selfish and self-consumed individuals to being a better version of themselves.

What works for The Good Place?

The Good Place makes you think about your life through the prism of morality.

Created by Michael Schur (Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Office), The Good Place is extremely well developed in its emotional scale and uses humour to make difficult conversations palatable. Much like Schur’s other shows, The Good Place depends a lot on the relationships of its characters to take the story ahead.

the good place The Good Place became successful largely because of its ability to impart a positive and feel-good message. (Photo: NBC)

Its central focus remains on the core moral values that should ideally guide our actions. This makes watching the show a refreshing experience as it has an aspirational quality.

While this show could have easily turned into a moral lecture, the makers make sure that you are deeply invested in the story with a classic ‘hero vs villain’ angle at all points. This push-and-pull between the Good Place and the Bad Place keeps you engaged in the storyline without losing sight of the bigger picture.

the good place Ted Danson’s Michael is a delight to watch in The Good Place. (Photo: NBC)

The Good Place is also blessed with a great cast. Kristen Bell and Ted Danson lead the team and are a delight to watch. William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, D’Arcy Carden and Manny Jacinto make an impact in later seasons as their characters evolve in the series.

The best bits of The Good Place

The Good Place started as a show that was largely focused on the story of Eleanor, but as we moved on, Chidi became the voice of conscience for the viewers as well as the show. The episodes where he discusses The Trolley Problem, or where he devises a fairer way to get into the Good Place, or even when he discovers the truth about his existence, Jeremy Bearimy stands out because these are the moments when his beliefs are challenged, and he gets a chance to pick the morally superior side with a rational explanation.

The episodes featuring Maya Rudolph as the judge of the after-life were excellently done as the makers had to create the perfect fine line between the Good and Bad Place. Another episode that has to be one of the best of the entire series was Janet(s) where D’Arcy Carden played all the characters in the episode.

The introduction of Mindy St Claire’s Middle Place is another feather in the show’s hat as it tries to balance its good vs evil scale.

Ted Danson’s Michael is the spine of the show and his reveal at the end of the first season remains one of the biggest surprises that we have seen in a show in recent years. His character’s eventual transformation is noteworthy, more so because he does it for friendship, rather than a personal gain.

The finale of the show was an emotional experience that was enhanced by William Jackson Harper’s moving monologue.

Throughout its run, The Good Place was repeatedly praised for its implementation of philosophy and ethics, and its attempts at conveying them in an understandable manner.

Binge-worthy?

With only 53 episodes during four seasons, The Good Place is extremely binge-worthy because of its fast-paced storyline.

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The Good Place is streaming on Netflix.

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