Good Place: Season 2
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The Good Place: Season 2

After the traditional introduction to television consisting of light, educational programming and cartoons, the first real genre the nascent audience member is exposed to is the situational comedy, commonly referred to as the sitcom. Ever since that glowing tube with lashing images supplanted the radio as the centerpiece of the living room as the focal point of the room and primary source of entertainment, the sitcom has remained a staple of family entertainment. as the name of the category implies, the humor is derived almost exclusively from inserting the principal characters into the highly contrived set of circumstances. Fundamentally, the main source of variation in the formula is mixing tropes and archetypes from a generally predetermined list, in many ways like that party game, ‘Ad Libs’. Development meeting would appear to be, "select a reason for association, family, co-workers or roommates. Then choose an underlying premise, suburban life, city living or starting a new phase of life. After the sections are made the writers turn the crank and out oops new sitcom ready for prime time. The results have planted the television landscape with hundreds of shows, some helping to define the zeitgeist of a generation, others relegated as footnotes in home entertainment history. over the decades, not a single TV season has passed without several new offerings added to the programming chart. After some fifty years of viewing the wide assortment of combinations, I understandably felt that there was very little that could possibly surprise me. Last year, a new series came on the scene that not only piqued my interest but instantly became one show I made it a point to catch each new episode. ‘The Good Place’.

That new series utilized several familiar plot points and archetypical characters but with an inventive slant adding the right amount novel twist to provide the unmistakable feeling of an original experience. In the rare cases in the past where a sitcom ascended to a level of greatness rarely have maintained this feeling into their sophomore year. The perennial difficulty present in transitioning a successful series into its second season, and beyond is the ‘Showrunner’s Paradox.’ They are under studio pressure to retain the aspects of their show that contributed to being a hit while infusing changes necessary to keep the story and characters fresh. Initially, these objectives appear to be mutually exclusive e, remaining the same all while making substantial changes. Few showrunners have risen to this challenge especially to the level achieved by Michael Schur. An indication that this eminently creative individual seen in his resume. Mr. Schur worked on several sitcoms hailed as influential in helping to redefine the genre. His first hit was bringing the widely successful British comedy across the pond, ‘The Office.’ Following this was his involvement in a show that served a,s the fertile ground cultivating a new generation of talent, ‘Parks and Recreation.’ Most recently he endeavored to revitalize the comic take on the venerable genre, the police procedural, ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine.’ A commonality seen in his works relies on gathering an ideal cast of actors and promoting the synergistic interaction moving the project into something special.

One crucial aspect of any sitcom is that it must be relatable to the audience on a very fundamental level. In the case of this series the premises based upon the question people have asked since the beginning of our species, "what happens when we die?" Those chosen few who have lived exemplary lives they get to spend eternity in the ‘Good Place.’ There you live in the neighborhood before eternity your experience nothing but happiness and want for nothing. The ceilings began with the recently deceased Eleanor Shell stop (Kristen Bell) meeting with the architect of the new neighborhood, Michael (Ted Danson). Throughout the first season, Eleanor is doing her best to hide the fact that in life she was not a very nice person. By no stretch of the imagination does she belong in a Good Place. To conceal her unworthiness in this the aid of her assigned soulmate, Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), who fortunately was a university professor of ethics in life. Each episode Chidi tries his best to teach her the basic tenants of empathy, civic responsibility and being a decent Tahani Al-Jamil human being. During the first season the next-door neighbors, global philanthropist (Jameela Jamil), his a soulmate. Jianyu LI (Manny Jacinto), a Buddhist monk was taken a vow silence. His name turns out to be Over the course of the episodes it turns out that Jianyu was a stoner from Jacksonville named Jason Mendoza. Like Eleanor’s presence in a Good Place with some cosmic mistake. Each episode focused on making some mistake resulting in cosmic repercussions threatening to destroy the neighborhood. The cliffhanger at the end of the first season was the revelation that before they were not in A Good Place but were really in The Bed Place. Michael was a low-level demon trying to impress his boss by devising new rates to torture humans for eternity. His novel concept was to, lead them to believe they were in a Good Place, subtly tortured on a psychological basis. Season two opens with Michael erasing the memories of the quartet of lost souls, rebooting the neighborhood with several changes he hopes will prove to be successful. This process repeated several hundred times as Eleanor always seems to see through the hoax figure out the truth.

The ensemble cast is brilliantly expanded with the inclusion of a few choice characters. Most important is Janet (D'Arcy Carden), an entity which provides an interface between the citizens and an all-inclusive database of all knowledge in the cosmos. Janet is the archetypical ‘all knowing ‘android or some cybernetic being. Each time Michel reboots his neighborhood, reinitializing Janet. During the first reinitialization, Janet falls in love with Jason. Between her lack of human experience and Jason’s naiveté, the clueless couple appeared to be the most blissful people in the world. To generate the requisite tension to drive a narrative, even if the targeted genre happens to be comedy some form of dramatic conflict is required. In the first season that was generated nicely by the circumstances constantly threatening to reveal a secret that she doesn’t belong. When the truth is revealed in the season one finale, that methodology was destroyed. Replacing it would require the substitution of something entirely unexpected. Mr. Schur demonstrated how important previous experience matters while a creative genius masters their skills. He was prominent on the writing staff of Saturday Night Live during one of its most well-received periods, the late nineties to after the new millennia. During his tenue the late-night cast included several of the most successful alumni in the history of the show, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Darrell Hammond and Jimmy Fallon. His ability to provide a fertile environment to showcase such amazing abilities properly was the reason this series was not only able to transcend the usual sophomore pitfalls but flourish in a substantial reinvention.

Initially, when the story resumed, Michael erased the memories of humans, rebooting the neighborhood. After over 800 tries Michael’s experiment continued to fail as each iteration terminated with Eleanor figuring out they are in the Bad Place. The stakes are life or death for Michael to have his idea work. He received an ultimatum from his demonic manager, Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson), make it work or face retirement. For an eternal being like Michael, this entails eons of unimaginable torture followed by utter animation. He forms a tenuous alliance with the for subjects to make it appear to succeed. Complicating matters further, the demonic actor who portrayed the ‘Real Eleanor’ in the first integration blackmails Michael. Unless he allows here to take control of the neighborhood, she’ll inform Shawn of tie 800 failed attempts. Before this can settle into the new premise, Mr. Schur tosses in another wonderful twist. Part of the deal to help, the humans demand that Michael take classes in ethics from Chidi. Since his only consideration of humanity for eons has been playthings to torment, concepts like empathy are impossible to grasp. Ultimately it is agreed that each of the four has made significant changes thanks to these lessons and experience, so a new plan is hatched, send them back to earth before their demise to see if they can change enough o no longer warrant the Bad Place.

It is nearly axiomatic that when such drastic alterations are instituted, especially at the change in the season, it means that the showrunner is making a desperate, Hail Mary, to save the project. What is brilliant is that the talented Mr. Schur planned this down to the minuscule details. The perfection of how the pieces fit, the degree of synergy induced by the flow of circumstances and character progression was too flawlessly joined. Not only is it extremely probable that a new viewer will escalate to true fandom after watching a couple of episodes, but you will also rank this as one of the unique and innovative shows of its genre. Sitcoms are typically among the most formulaic, predictable television series ever produced. Each episode brings twists and turns that provide a delightfully unexpected texture to the series.

Posted   08/18/2018

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