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Speaking of shows with vaguely religious/spiritual themes, The Good Place is a comedy about a not particularly "good" woman (Kristen Bell) who dies and finds herself in an afterlife identified as "the good place" where she feels somewhat uncomfortable. Ted Danson is the "angel" responsible for the clerical error. The basic assumptions of this series--that one's afterlife is based on one's deeds--are obviously not Christian, but match many other religions and general feelings, I suppose. I haven't seen it.

Writers are attempting to infuse both a continuing narrative, comparing the show to LOST.

All episodes are available for streaming via NBC.com

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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  • 3 months later...

Episodes 1-10 are available online at NBC.com.

I ended up watching this because--Kristin Bell & Ted Danson, mainly. I generally resist attempted representations of the afterlife on the assumption that any details we have been given in scripture are metaphorical for something more wonderful than we can imagine (and therefore "I cannot only imagine"). That said, the performances are good here, and the clash of perspectives/personalities, plus there's some pretty good discussions of ethics and morality for a 30 minute comedy. When the representatives of "the bad place" turn up (not much of a spoiler--surely that could have been predicted), there's some good natured humor based on expectations of what both heaven and hell may be like.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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  • 1 month later...

Remember when we had all that discussion about comedy and how under-appreciated it is? The Good Place s1 is streaming at Amazon & Hulu. It is so much better than expected and has been renewed for season 2. The show-runner was associated with Parks & Recreation. Give it a try and be ready for s2.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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  • 6 months later...

Since apparently no one watched this but me, because you're all only watching via antennae and various streaming options or something--I salute your stewardship--you can now watch season 1 on Netflix. Since each ep is only 20+ minutes, it will be a snap to binge and you will appreciate some comedy just now. I promise.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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Totally missed this last fall, so I've just begun Season 1 on Netflix, and am really enjoying it so far. Very funny, while also addressing fairly deep ethical questions, which is a tough balance to maintain. It doesn't feel irreverent to me, despite not really addressing religion itself.

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Just finished Season 1, and I gotta say, this is both a very funny and very complex/interesting comedy. I'm still a fan of Lost--even with its muddled later seasons and finale--and the parallels to that show are certainly apt, in terms of afterlife environment and flashbacks used for character development. It's not so much about religion and spirituality as it is about ethics and philosophy, especially the significance of human action and choices. Any show that can potentially help wake people up to better consider their personal decisions and treatment of their neighbors is laudable in our present political climate.

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  • 5 months later...

SPOILERS for season 2 of The Good Place, which has just finished airing, in this piece by D.L. Mayfield from Christ & Pop Culture:

Quote

While it is a truly funny show–full of visual gags (puns galore!) and quirky characters–The Good Place also takes ethics quite seriously. And while it’s veiled in humor, this exploration of moral philosophy raises series questions for anyone engaged with the central premise–especially those from evangelical backgrounds.

Michael Schurr came up with the idea of the show as a lark, but large swaths of Americans do believe in an afterlife which has direct correlations to how one acted in this world. While specific references to religion are sparse, instead focusing on general ethics/morality, it still manages to make pointed commentaries on the absurdity and horror of humanity’s attempts to grapple with what happens after we die.

S2 has managed to build on and twist S1 in even more surprising, entertaining, and educating ways. I don't know how long they can keep this up, but I'm about to consider assigning this show as a companion to Dante's Divine Comedy.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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On 02/02/2018 at 5:18 PM, BethR said:

I don't know how long they can keep this up, but I'm about to consider assigning this show as a companion to Dante's Divine Comedy.

I just received an acceptance email from an academic theology conference where I submitted a paper proposal with this title: "A Divine Comedy? Mortality, Morality, and Metaphysics in 'The Good Place.'" In preparation for presenting the paper, I intend to rewatch all of Seasons 1 and 2 and create a full reading list of all the philosophy books and ideas referenced or shown.

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  • 7 months later...

Joel, I would love to read your paper. Have you presented it yet?

Season 3 starts September 27.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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19 hours ago, BethR said:

Joel, I would love to read your paper. Have you presented it yet?

Season 3 starts September 27.

Thanks! I did present it, and a longer version of the original paper will be published as a chapter in an edited volume from the "Popular Culture and Philosophy" book series. I did create a handout with a list of every single philosophy/theology book mentioned or shown in Seasons 1 and 2, which you can see in the attached PDF. The small detail I enjoyed most was  how in Chapter 7 the title of Chidi’s sparkly-boot-wearing colleague’s course on the classroom blackboard is “Eschatology and Notions of the Apocalypse,” with books by prominent Christian theologians listed as assigned reading. It's probably the only time Jurgen Moltmann has ever been included in a TV sitcom. 

SST 2018 - The Good Place Presentation Handout.pdf

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Thanks for this list, Joel. I just looked at the series titles on the publisher's site--what an array! I worked with the editor of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy (2003) on another project, and I had no idea the series had gone in so many directions since then! I'll look forward to acquiring your volume eventually.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Because everything connects to medieval studies if you look at it the right way (linked article contains SPOILERS for seasons 1-3 of The Good Place):

The (Medieval) Saints and Sinners of NBC's The Good Place, by Matthew Gabriele

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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  • 1 year later...

I look forward to Christian's commentary on The Good Place, which ended (intentionally) this past Spring after four seasons.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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2 hours ago, BethR said:

I look forward to Christian's commentary on The Good Place, which ended (intentionally) this past Spring after four seasons.

Oh boy. The pressure! As with most of my posts on A&F, I ... I ... don't have much to say? Sarah and I finished Season 4 last night, and although we both cried through much of the final episode, my wife claimed that the show grew "more boring" during its final season. I, on the other hand, thought Season 4 coasted for a few episodes before getting more interesting.

I've tried across all four seasons to track with the show on its own premises (with which I largely disagree, but I knew I would going in). The characters' outcomes, and how the show accomplished them, was read by my wife as a metaphor for a certain controversial social issue, and that soured her on the show (which had, as mentioned earlier, already been "boring" her during Season 4). I, on the other hand, respected that Schur tried to create an endgame for the characters.

But enough about what I and/or Sarah didn't care for, or were, at best, ambivalent about. How 'bout that D'Arcy Carden, huh?? She was great in Season 4. I noticed recently that most of the cast has been Emmy-nominated this year. (Poor Kristen Bell was overlooked, and while she's probably my least favorite character, she gets a lot more interesting in the final couple of episodes, or so I thought. And as I've argued elsewhere during earlier seasons, Danson is the MVP of the show overall.) I hope they, and the show, and Schur, all win in their respective categories. This isn't quite on the level of the landmark comedies I most admire, but it's so much better than other TV shows - network or cable (admittedly, I don't see nearly as many shows as most folks do) - that I don't feel like knocking it for the few things I didn't care for or that underwhelmed me.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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