Skip to main content

Occasional Media Consumption: The Good Place (Spoiler Free)

"When we look at the ocean, we see that each wave has a beginning and an end. A wave can be compared with other waves, and we can call it more or less beautiful, higher or lower, longer lasting or less long lasting. But if we look more deeply, we see that a wave is made of water. While living the life of a wave, the wave also lives the life of water. It would be sad if the wave did not know that it is water."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddah's Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation

The elevator pitch for this show, according the showrunner and writer Mike Schur, was "dead people read philosophy". Which is a hell of an elevator pitch for a 22-minute, multi-camera network TV sitcom. Then again, Mike Schur also created the US version of the Office, Parks & Rec, and Brooklyn 99, all of which are shows that are smarter than their premises would seem to indicate. So someone somewhere was willing to take a risk on the show, which I imagine was FANTASTICALLY expensive to shoot, given that the number one and number two on the call sheet were Kristen Bell (of Veronica Mars fame) and Ted Danson (of, well, the entire last 30 years of Television?). Rounding out the rest of the main cast were D'arcy Carden, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, and Manny Jacinto. 

The amazing thing to me, however, is that this is a show that is not afraid to lean on the audience. The writing always assumes that the watcher is just a little bit ahead of the cast, and that means that it rewards the viewer for full attention and repeated watching. It's crisply and smartly written, and is never afraid to go for the obscure reference or clever gag; it assumes the audience will get there. At first, it feels practically cookie-cutter in the way it sets up the various characters and setting, and I was ready to be disappointed. But every time there's a choice between an easy laugh or a hard choice, the show makes the hard choice. Every time there's an opportunity to rest on its laurels and take its time, the show plunges forward, burning through twists and reveals, often taking just an episode to blast through a storyline that other shows would draw out for seasons. It's also a half-hour comedy, not an hour-long prestige drama, so it just tears through, often leaving the viewer absolutely convinced they've missed something (and, often, they have, because the screen and the dialog are stuffed, sausage-like, with in-jokes, easter eggs, and gags in literally every frame). 

A twist that another, more unsure show would use as a season-ending cliffhanger this show blows through mid-season, and goes on to build and blow through at least two other perfectly cromulent season-ending events before sticking the landing on a note that could probably have been a series ender, if they hadn't been greenlit for another season. And it was. In fact, it went for four seasons, and ended on the note the showrunner and writers wanted it to end on, completing the story without rush or extra padding. It is a brilliant show and the ending is so amazing I get teary just thinking about it. 

One of the regular guest stars was Marc Evan Jackson, whom if you haven't seen him in anything, you almost certainly have heard his voice in something. He repeatedly described working on the show as "the most unusual half-hour of network television ever made" and I can't think of anything better to say about it. It is amazing, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

The first three seasons are available on Netflix now, with the fourth season coming Soon (tm). Give it a try. 


Popular posts from this blog

Organizing And You: Lessons from Labor History

    I made a joke on Twitter a while ago: Do I need to post the Thomas M Comeau Organizing Principles again? — Jerome Comeau says Defund The Police (@Heronymus) July 15, 2021 and it recently came back up because a member of my family got their first union job and was like "every job should be offering these sorts of benefits" and so I went ahead and wrote down what I remember of what my dad told me. My father had many jobs, but his profession was basically a labor union organizer, and he talked a lot about the bedrock foundation items needed to be serious about organizing collective action. Here's what I remember.    The Thomas M. Comeau Principles of Organizing -- a fundamental list for finding and building worker solidarity from 50 years of Union Involvement. This list is not ranked; all of the principles stated herein are coequal in their importance. Numbering is a rhetorical choice, not a valuation. 1) Be good at your job. Even in an at-will

Money and Happiness as a fungible resource

Money really does buy happiness. Anyone who tells you differently has a vested interest in keeping you poor, unhappy, or both. I know this because I grew up on the ragged edge of poor, and then backed my way into a career in IT, which is where the modern world keeps all the money that isn't in Finance. So I am one of the extreme minority of Generation X that actually had an adulthood that was markedly more financially stable than my parents. And let me tell you: money really does buy happiness. To be clear: at 45 years old, I'm now in a relationship and a period of my life where our household is effectively double-income, no kids. I live in the city, but I own a house, and can only afford to do that because of our combined income. We also have two cars -- one new, one used (though neither of them is getting driven very much these days) -- and we have a small discretionary budget every month for things like videogames, books, and the like. What my brother used to call DAM -- Dic

Activision, Blizzard, Game development, IT, and my personal role in all of that.

 I'm pretty sure if you spend any sort of time at all on Twitter and/or spend any sort of time playing videogames, you are by now at least aware of the lawsuit brought forth by the State of California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing versus Activision Blizzard, Inc., et al. From this point on, I'll add a Content Warning for folks who are sensitive about sexual assault, suicide, and discrimination based on sex, gender, and skin color, as well as crude humor around and about sexual assault , and what the State of California refers to as "a pervasive 'frat boy' culture" around Act/Bliz, especially in the World of Warcraft-associated departments.   Just reading the complaint is hard rowing, even with the clinical legalese in place. The complaint itself is relatively short; 29 pages laying out ten Causes of Action (basically, "these are the legs on which our lawsuit stands"). I'm not sure I have the vocabulary to properly express how a