‘The Good Place’ is the most relevant comedy of our times
(Credits: Netflix)

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‘The Good Place’ is the most relevant comedy of our times

Sometimes things can be bleak, but sometimes places like Netflix hold an opportunity for us to hibernate from the cruel world outside.

Our economy is crashing, late-stage capitalism is ensuring that employers wring out the very last drops of labour from their employees come what may, there is a mental health crisis ongoing (shocker!), and the Earth is getting hotter than we can handle. In short, the world seems to be failing, and it feels like we are doing our last tango before it all crumbles to dust. We are just rolling with the many nihilistic absurdities of life at this point because, honestly, the human condition itself is absurd!

Art and entertainment are the only respites we have left. The only thing that can instil some hope and faith for our existence beyond the bullshit jobs, beyond the endless fight for survival, beyond all that is wrong with the world. And in this world full of mundane sitcoms with formulaic punchlines, Michael Schur’s The Good Place stands out. Why? Because it doesn’t just crib about what is lost but dares to provide a spectacular solution to it all to save humanity’s very fate. 

Schur puts it bluntly: “it cannot be done on Earth. We’re too forked up”. When survival itself becomes a Herculean task for most of the populace, making conscious choices also becomes far more difficult. The moral ramifications of our actions become but tertiary in the list of priorities.

The profoundly philosophical The Good Place’s main musings revolve around exploring these ideas of morality, productivity, and ethical consumption in a corrupt and collapsing society, and the toll it takes on us all. The brilliant show also raises relevant questions like, “How are the Nazis back?” and points out objectively hilarious factoids like, “You can’t become a demon before you become a social media CEO.”

It has so many layers of good vibes that it continues to be a must-watch even after going off-air four years ago.

What is ‘The Good Place’ about

In the words of Florida dirtbag Jason Mendoza, The Good Place is “Dope, dawg!” The series follows Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) in the afterlife, a non-religious version of heaven. After meeting a sad death on Earth, she finds herself in the titular Good Place, a seemingly idyllic custom-made paradise. There she is greeted by Michael (Ted Danson), the architect of this celestial realm, and Janet (D’Arcy Carden), an informational assistant—kind of like the opposite of AI because she genuinely knows everything. 

However, a metaphorical hell breaks loose when Eleanor realises she has been mistakenly placed in The Good Place and seeks to hide her morally questionable past. With the help of the ever-anxious ethics professor Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), the elegant Tahani Al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil), and the aforementioned doofus, Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto), Eleanor embarks on a journey of self-improvement.

At least, that is how the four come together before finding out they are really in the Bad Place and that eternal being Michael is a demon (well actually a fire squid) in human disguise. All’s not lost. Michael’s many failed attempts at innovating torture end up in a great experiment of its own. The four humans, one rehabilitated demon, and a not-a-girl-or-robot discover that the points system needs an upgrade. In essence, they need to make The Judge understand that “There are no fixed rules that work in every situation,” and redesign the whole afterlife while at it.

The world has become a far more chaotic place, where even simple deeds can have monumentally catastrophic repercussions. You might think that you are just buying tomatoes, but you could be unwittingly contributing to the exploitation of labour and global warming. 

But is this hellhole that the world has become the only thing standing in the way of human beings being better? Even though that is the conclusion that Michael and the team arrive at in the first three seasons, Brent’s character in the fourth one emphasises otherwise. 

The life lessons in ‘The Good Place’

Having all the privileges of the world and getting handed everything you ever wanted isn’t really the big solution. In that case, Ken Little Lord Fuckleroy and his merry band of Shiv and Roman would not be the bitter pills that they are in Succession. In fact, the real people the Roys are based on, the one per cent, are proof that the question is not about boundless resources but their ethical distribution based on the principles of equality and equity. That is the only way for humanity to thrive as a community.

What Brent needed was a mirror, not more mollycoddling to truly improve as a person. And the gang figures it out eventually with the help of Chidi’s philosophy lessons, from Immanuel Kant’s moral objectivity to John Dancy’s moral particularism, to Søren Kierkegaard’s “teleological suspension of the ethical”. These lessons help them once they find their way to the Good Place. 

Finding joy in being nerdy helps them solve the great dilemma of complacency and boredom that comes from perfection. So like kintsugi art, the gang takes the broken pieces of paradise and heals it with the purest of intentions, leaving just enough cracks for whatever lies beyond—perhaps a final nothingness or a big pool of souls in stasis, blobbing around together till the next adventure beckons.

The Good Place gives us the lowdown on philosophy’s greatest debates while intertwining the heaviness of it with the wittiest banter and the goofiest comedic infusion. By integrating ethical and moral quandaries into its narrative fabric, The Good Place transcends its role as mere entertainment, becoming a vehicle for introspection and contemplation. It invites viewers to ponder radical questions about love, morality, personal responsibility, and the nature of being. All the while making us chuckle quite like Quvenzhané Wallis and Stephen Hawking discussing Tahani after they made up in some dimension (possibly).

The NBC sitcom The Good Place is currently streaming on Netflix, so go catch your daily dose of ethics!