The Good Place

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the first sea­son of nbc’s the Good Place, the sci-fi com­edy from Parks and Recre­ation cre­ator Mike Schur, ended with a shock­ing twist: Our self-cen­tered hero­ine, Eleanor (Kristen Bell), was not sent to non­de­nom­i­na­tional heaven by mis­take when she died; she was sent to the Bad Place. It turns out, she and her sup­posed soul mate for eter­nity, phi­los­o­phy and ethics pro­fes­sor

Chidi (Wil­liam Jack­son Harper), were test sub­jects for a new form of

tor­ture in­vented by a demon named Michael (Ted Danson).

Michael has a thing for screw­ing with peo­ple, and for tem­po­ral switcheroos. In one Ground­hog Day–es­que episode in Sea­son 2, he erases and re­boots the mem­o­ries of Eleanor, Chidi and their friends Ta­hani (Jameela Jamil) and Jason (Manny Jac­into) 802 times. The in­ten­tion: trick­ing Eleanor into think­ing she’s still in the Good Place. (He fails.)

Sea­son 2 ends with Michael un-killing the four friends, mean­ing the first two sea­sons never hap­pened; we’re back to 2016, on the day of the first episode. Un­charted ter­ri­tory, in other words—the MO of the show.

Lay­ered on top of those shift­ing time­lines are the in­ten­tional in­side jokes and hid­den mes­sages— known as Easter eggs—in­serted by Schur and his writ­ers. (Lost, with its sim­i­larly fan­tas­ti­cal premise, was fa­mously rid­dled with Easter eggs, so it makes sense that Schur has a bro­mance with Lost co-cre­ator Da­mon Lin­de­lof, who vet­ted the Good Place pilot; there are mul­ti­ple tributes to Lin­de­lof and his fol­low-up show, The Leftovers, in Sea­sons 1 and 2).

In an­tic­i­pa­tion of the new sea­son, ar­riv­ing Septem­ber 27, we asked Schur to ex­plain some of the more per­plex­ing as­pects of his com­pul­sively dis­sected com­edy, which ended Sea­son 2 with a 100 per­cent ap­proval rat­ing on Rot­ten Toma­toes. “I love that peo­ple care enough to ask about tiny de­tails,” says Schur, who’s as sur­prised as any­one by some of the fan the­o­ries.

On why, in the Sea­son 2 ɿnale, Chidi was speak­ing ʀuent English on Earth when he pre­vi­ously said the Good 3lace was trans­lat­ing his na­tive lan­guage, French, into English

There’s an ex­pla­na­tion for that about six min­utes into Sea­son 3, so I won’t spoil it. It’s very straight­for­ward and ba­nal. When I wrote the pilot, I thought that was a neat Tower of Ba­bel thing—some­thing you would need in any af­ter­life that drew peo­ple from all over the world. I never in a mil­lion years thought, We’re go­ing to do a whole chunk of Sea­son 3 on Earth. When we did flash­backs to Chidi on Earth—and I thought, Well, re­ally he should be speak­ing French, and we should sub­ti­tle it like Lost did—i re­al­ized that, ul­ti­mately, be­ing funny is more important than be­ing 100 per­cent world-build­ingly ac­cu­rate. But be­cause I’m a con­ti­nu­ity nerd and a sci-fi nerd, we had to add an in-show ex­pla­na­tion for it.

On the ac­tual time­lines of Michael’s failed 2 re­boots in Sea­son 2’s sec­ond episode, ţdance Dance Res­o­lu­tion”

The way that Eleanor fig­ures out that she’s in the Bad Place in the Sea­son 1 fi­nale is see­ing ev­ery­one fight­ing and think­ing, Man, this is tor­ture. So we tried to think up funny sce­nar­ios that on paper are beau­ti­ful but for Eleanor are tor­ture. Michael says that the long­est one is 11 months and the short­est eight sec­onds. We took a rough es­ti­mate of the me­dian length, and we cal­cu­lated that, in Earth time, it’s be­tween 250 and 300 years. We delve more into the na­ture of how time works in Sea­son 3.

On the re­boot that in­volved Eleanor hold­ing bal­loons in a cac­tus ɿeld, which be­came the Sea­son 2 poster That came from a very sim­ple idea: If you could take a post­card to ex­plain a scenario that is tor­tur­ous that would also make a beau­ti­ful im­age for key art, what would it be? Some­how, Michael cre­ated a scenario in which Eleanor had to get bal­loons from here to there—and oh, by the way, be­tween here and there is a gi­ant field of cacti. I re­al­ized the im­age was a per­fect sum­ma­tion of the show.

On the fan-fa­vorite re­boot, where Michael tem­po­rar­ily as­signs Ta­hani as Eleanor’s soul mate (in Sea­son 1, Michael declares that ev­ery­one gets a soul mate for eter­nity

Based on com­ments made through­out Sea­son 1, Eleanor’s sex­ual pref­er­ences are fluid. If you were Michael, try­ing 800 times to find the per­fect blend of hap­pi­ness and tor­ture for her, you might make [Eleanor’s] “soul mate” a woman in one re­boot. It’s amus­ingly pre­dictable that the in­ter­net would latch on to two at­trac­tive women be­ing soul mates. I don’t want to in­dulge what seems to be a lit­tle bit of gross ob­jec­ti­fy­ing there. To me, what’s more in­ter­est­ing is their friend­ship, and you see more of that in Sea­son 3.

On the sig­niɿ­cance of the show’s unusu­ally speciɿc num­bers— 2 re­boots, 322 peo­ple in the neigh­bor­hood, Chidi and Eleanor kiss­ing in Re­boot 11

The short an­swer is that they are just num­bers. Peo­ple think there is great sig­nif­i­cance in round num­bers, so to me the ones that don’t come with a pre­sumed sig­nif­i­cance are fun­nier. My friend Robert Car­lock [co-showrun­ner of 30 Rock] and I worked to­gether on Satur­day Night Live. We wrote a sketch about a guy—will Fer­rell—who was dig­ging to China. It be­gan with him dig­ging this hole go­ing, “999,999.” Then he put his shovel in again and said, “A mil­lion.” Then he put it again and said, “A mil­lion and one.” Did it again, “A mil­lion and two!” Then he went, “OK, a mil­lion and two, time for a break!” There was noth­ing else to that joke, it just made us laugh that you would stop at a mil­lion and two in­stead of a mil­lion. So 802 re­boots or Re­boot No. 119 is just weirder and fun­nier be­cause it’s ran­dom.

On why Janet (the hu­mans’ ar­tiɿ­cial in­tel­li­gence helper, played by D’arcy Car­den never pops up where you ex­pect her to We de­cided that in or­der to be ex­ces­sively po­lite, Janet would al­ways ap­pear on the op­po­site side of where

some­one is look­ing, so as not to alarm them. In the canon of Janet, she never pops right in front of some­one, she al­ways pops in to the side or be­hind them, and then an­nounces her­self with a very pleasant, “Hi there.”

On why ads from char­ac­ters that ex­isted on Schur’s Parks and Rec turn up on The Good Place

To be com­pletely hon­est, it’s eas­ier to make up a prod­uct for your ad for your fake magazine than to use ac­tual com­pa­nies, like AT&T, be­cause those need to be cleared. We thought it would be a fun wink to use Jean-ral­phio’s cham­pagne, or to say that a safe is from the Swanson Safe Com­pany. I’m not try­ing to im­ply that these shows take place in the same ex­act uni­verse, as some the­o­rize. How­ever, as you get deeper into Sea­son 3, you’re deal­ing with time­lines and mul­ti­verses, so I’m also not say­ing that’s im­pos­si­ble!

And yet, the Ler­piss fam­ily—that dy­nas­tic 3awnee fam­ily from Parks and Rec—is on the score­board that tracks ţgood per­son points”

Oh, right. [Laughs.] Well, Ler­piss is an ex­tremely com­mon last name. Like Smith. On whether the Good 3lace is an homage to The Wiz­ard of Oz

Some­one sent me an ar­ti­cle about the episode with the hot-air bal­loon [Sea­son 2’s “Best Self”]—“here’s the 76 ref­er­ences to The Wiz­ard of Oz that were in The Good Place last night.” How­ever, I can hon­estly tell you at no point in the en­tire his­tory of the show have we ever dis­cussed The Wiz­ard of Oz in the writ­ers’ room. Never! And yet none of the ref­er­ences were a stretch. Maybe it was a col­lec­tive un­con­scious thing—that story is ex­tremely ar­che­typal. Or maybe we all blacked out Fight Club–style and did a bunch of stuff we didn’t re­mem­ber doing.

On whether Schur has some­thing against fro]en yo­gurt, given it’s of­ten dissed on the show—and be­cause Ron Swanson once said on Parks and Rec, ţ%e ice cream or be noth­ing”

[Laughs.] I hadn’t even made that link un­til just now. But yes, ab­so­lutely, “Be ice cream or be noth­ing” is the correct way to talk to frozen yo­gurt.

On why Schur hates fro]en yo­gurt

I don’t hate it! I kind of like it. But when I was writ­ing the pilot, I thought, What is the per­fect food that, if you went to [fake] heaven and saw it, it wouldn’t ring any alarm bells, but also there’s a bet­ter ver­sion of it? Ice cream is bet­ter than frozen yo­gurt, straight up: It’s creamier, richer and more fla­vor­ful. Michael says it best: It’s so hu­man to take some­thing great and ruin it a lit­tle, just so you can have more of it.

ţit’s so hu­man to take some­thing great and ruin it a lit­tle, just so you can have more of it.”

A SCHUR THING Close view­ing of The Good Place re­veals ref­er­ences to Schur’s pre­vi­ous show, the crit­i­cally beloved sit­com Parks and Recre­ation.

RES­I­DENT E9IL From left: Your demon host, Michael (Danson), with Janet (Car­den), Chidi (Harper), Jason (Jac­into), Ta­hani (Jamil) and Eleanor (Bell) in a scene from Sea­son 2.

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