Mike Schur knows ‘Good Place’ to stick land­ing

The Korea Times - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - By Yvonne Vil­lar­real

As the cre­ator of “The Good Place,” Michael Schur has spent years hon­ing the art of brain teasers on morality and mor­tal­ity. That may ex­plain why death creeps into some of his thoughts on tele­vi­sion.

It comes up when he’s talk­ing about the par­a­lyz­ing vol­ume of TV: “We’re all go­ing to die with thou­sands of hours of un­watched tele­vi­sion on our DVRs.”

Or in try­ing to crys­tal­lize the fear of miss­ing out that’s piqued by re­ally good TV: “I met (’Break­ing Bad’ cre­ator) Vince Gil­li­gan for the first time be­tween that show’s split fi­nal sea­son. And I told him a true fact: When I was 24 and (“Star Wars: Episode I — The Phan­tom Men­ace”) was about to come out, I had a thought all the time, which was, ‘Please don’t die, just please don’t die.’ Be­cause it would be so sad if I got hit by car in May of 1999 and the last thought that went through my head was like, ‘I don’t know what hap­pens.’ …

“And I had that feel­ing again in the time be­tween the last two ‘Break­ing Bad’ sea­sons. It’s the most po­tent feel­ing a con­sumer of en­ter­tain­ment can have: ‘Please don’t die be­fore this comes out.’ … I had it most pal­pa­bly with ‘Break­ing Bad.’ But I had it with ‘Lost’; I def­i­nitely had it with ‘The So­pra­nos.’ I have it retroac­tively when I think about the ‘Cheers’ fi­nale. You feel sad­ness and re­morse and fear, but also you’re thrilled and it’s just such a rare thing.”

That’s just some of what came up in con­ver­sa­tion ear­lier this month at Schur’s bun­ga­low of­fice on the Univer­sal back­lot — a short walk from the stages that housed “The Good Place” dur­ing its four-sea­son run. The Emmy-nom­i­nated af­ter­life com­edy em­barked on its fi­nal sea­son Thurs­day, bring­ing one of TV’s most un­pre­dictable sit­coms to a close.

“The Good Place” is the third series that Schur, 43, has cre­ated. Since cut­ting his teeth as a writer on “Satur­day Night Live” in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s and, later, work­ing on the U.S. ver­sion of “The Of­fice,” Schur has be­come one of scripted TV com­edy’s most pro­lific cre­ators with shows like “Parks and Recre­ation,” “Brook­lyn Nine-Nine” (which he co-cre­ated with Dan Goor) and “The Good Place.” He also serves as an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer on shows such as Net­flix’s “Mas­ter of None” and NBC’s new Kal Penn-led com­edy “Sun­ny­side.” And his em­pire is only grow­ing. Schur re­cently re­newed his over­all deal with Univer­sal Tele­vi­sion — at a hefty price — just as many of his coun­ter­parts have fled for the deep pock­ets of stream­ing ser­vices.

Sur­rounded by framed posters of his TV im­print, Schur talked about aim­ing for sat­is­fac­tion — not per­fec­tion — with a series fi­nale, putting nar­ra­tive be­fore longevity, and the value he still finds in work­ing with a tra­di­tional TV stu­dio.

‘The only su­perla­tive it’s go­ing to be is the last’

I think when we were writ­ing the “Parks and Rec” fi­nale, it felt like peo­ple were ob­sessed with fi­nales in a way that I think is un­healthy. … “The So­pra­nos” fi­nale and the “Mad Men” fi­nale, the “Break­ing Bad” fi­nale and the “Lost” fi­nale — peo­ple wanted those shows’ fi­nales to be the best episode of any­thing that had ever hap­pened. And it’s just ask­ing too much.

For ex­am­ple, I think the best episode of “Break­ing Bad” was the one that was third from the end. It was the one that started with the shootout in the desert, and it was just one of the most riv­et­ing hours of tele­vi­sion I’ve ever seen.

I loved the fi­nale too. I re­ally did. I liked it a lot, but there were some peo­ple who re­acted to it like, “How dare you not be as good as the one that hap­pened two episodes ago.” Right? And so that just seems like you’re putting too much pres­sure on that thing.

And so when we were writ­ing the “Parks and Rec” fi­nale and break­ing the story, I was like, I can’t make this the best episode of the show. It’s im­pos­si­ble. There’s too much to do and it has to have a dif­fer­ent tone and a dif­fer­ent feel­ing. And so the word that I kept com­ing back to was “sat­is­fied.” I just want peo­ple to feel sat­is­fied.

Like, it’s not go­ing to be the fun­ni­est episode ever. That one prob­a­bly aired in Sea­son 4 or some­thing. It’s prob­a­bly not go­ing to be the most emo­tion­ally ful­fill­ing in some way, be­cause that’s prob­a­bly when Les­lie and Ben got mar­ried. So it’s very hard to make it any kind of su­perla­tive. The only su­perla­tive it’s go­ing to be is the last, right? So I just wanted peo­ple to feel like they had been on a jour­ney for 124 episodes and that at the end they felt like we did a good job in telling you how it all ends. Right?

So that was the goal for “The Good Place,” ex­cept this has a slightly dif­fer­ent el­e­ment, which is it’s in­cred­i­bly plot-driven. So it has this gi­gan­tic over­ar­ch­ing plot, but when we started break­ing the episodes this year, we had a sim­i­lar dis­cus­sion in the writ­ers’ room that was ba­si­cally like, “We can’t save ev­ery­thing for the last episode.” There’s just not enough time. It’d have to be a three-hour movie.

(Los Angeles Times/Tri­bune News Ser­vice)

Tri­bune News

Kris­ten Bell and Wil­liam Jackson Harper in “The Good Place.”

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