With the final season of NBC’s The Good Place wrapped, creator Mike Schur and the show's cast collected for their last Television Critic’s Association panel today in Los Angeles, California. Emotions were running high as the cast became teary-eyed at several points — and then the reporters joined them, particularly when Ted Danson broke up while explaining what a gift the last four seasons have been.
If you haven’t partaken in the whimsically deep series, The Good Place follows the afterlives of a collection of disparate, flawed humans led by Kristen Bell’s formerly awful (but endearing) Eleanor Shellstrop. Initially conceived by Schur around the conceit of there being an imaginary point system that calculates each human’s goodness on Earth that translates into their post-death existence, he admitted to reporters that that idea quickly presented itself to be finite when writing the series.
“I pitched the show as an investigation of what it means to be a good person and found that working with the writers, actors, and crew that it became an even more complicated question than I thought it was,” Schur said. He intended the show to hopefully guide audiences on how to follow a path to being a good person, not with specifics, but as a sort of a primer on how one can feel like they’ve led a good life.
“But at the end of the day,” Schur continued, “the objective shifted because we found as we wrote and executed it, smart people had very different opinions about that question. The mission was then less about offering a bunch of options of how to be a good person this way, or this way, or this way, but that what’s important is you try one of them. A huge part of the problem is that not enough people are trying. And trying is failing a lot; we fail all the time at this. But we all should try harder than we are, and as long as you are trying you are on the right path.”
While it surprised fans of the show this summer when NBC announced that the fourth season of The Good Place would be its last, Schur said he figured out where the story should end, and NBC and his cast all agreed. Bell said she found out in a call from Schur as she was driving home ... she had a sixth sense and knew what he was going to tell her. “He said, ‘I have done a lot of thinking about it, but I have an ending this story needs.’”
Danson received the news with surprise, but respect. “We have told this story the way Mike wanted to, and to pad out a story with such a specific message and morality tale would have been weird.”
When asked if The Good Place was the exception to the kind of show that TV broadcast networks usually make today, Schur disagreed and said that NBC never flinched at the show’s premise or execution.“The idea that networks don’t make challenging shows is disappearing,” he asserted. “The Last Man on Earth was on Fox, and I thought, 'If they can make that, I can do this.' And we’re done shooting the final season and we made every single episode the way we wanted to make it.”
Closing out the panel was Danson, who was asked about his long career of working on shows that came to an end, and what made The Good Place special. He teared up while offering, “Usually you’re informed by the network that the show is over or there’s some turmoil that it’s been taken away from you. But here’s the gift of this show, and we were all part of it, this was us, and it was ours and please enjoy."