The Good Place has shaped up to be one of my favourite sitcoms. I’ve always thought Community, Arrested Development and even the likes of The Office would remain consistent in the top spots of my favourite sitcoms.
But The Good Place has shattered my own perceptions of what makes a comedy, let alone a show, amazing.
For me, even above the amazing multicultural and diverse characters, the hilarious and funny situations of being in the after-life, the moments of tenderness shared between breakdowns of philosophical ideas, and the Jeremy Bearimy explanations, is that the show is never short of ideas.
Things that would take a lesser show 2 seasons to get through, the show runs through in half an episode. And the other half of the episode is dedicated to another 2 seasons worth of ideas. In a world where T.V shows like The Walking Dead seasons 7 and 8 can extend 18 24-page comic book issues into 32 episodes, the content can become saturated and just feel like another grind to get through each week. (Granted, Season 9 has done the Good Place Thing with Rick Grimes departure and the savior conflicts not being saturated for the season finale)
The Good Place makes each episode impactful, and even teases ideas for potential upcoming episodes and completely subvert expectations by going through a different route all-together (such as what happened in the middle of season 3). It’s the execution of this, dare I say, fast-paced idea mapping that really impacts. I bagged on The Walking Dead, but even Game of Thrones has suffered the reverse of this problem, specifically giving insufficient explanation to some parts in the last season. (Travel Times being the main criticism and limited development of some pretty major conflicts). Where The Good Place succeeds is making these ideas grounded in the context of their world and even if something may come off as generic, the writers know how to turn it completely on it’s head. See the example below if you’re up to date.
SPOILER FOR THE LAST EPISODE OF SEASON 3
I thought it was going to be a very bland plot-twist for what was an incredible show, regarding the possibility of people the gang knew from life coming into The Good Place. I thought Eleanor was getting a visit from an Ex but it turned out to be an Ex of Chidi which is that subversion of expectations. We thought four new people were coming which was enough material, but then we got the added benefit of realising Chidi will need to effectively reboot himself. This basically summed up Chidi’s character Arc but also gave the opportunity to reexplore and recontextualise such character growth.
This has helped me open my eyes for my own writings. Currently, in my novel, in parts where nothing happened and story lines dragged. I found the focus increased when I kept pushing the characters with new ideas rather than stagnating with current and older ideas. It provides a fresh look-at the story and that’s one of the ways The Good Place has managed to retain it’s freshness with me.
It does this because the show realises it doesn’t need to be static like sitcoms prior. I mention Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead because this show follows an evolving moral lesson rather than a static one-episode one that sitcoms prior utilise. The show has adapted to the format and expectations of an audience who desire serialised content, with a building moral lesson that adapts as wildly as philosophical concepts do.
You can catch ‘The Good Place’ in Australia on Netflix.