As we await season three of The Good Place, it still feels shocking that this show exists. Because of writer Michael Schur’s success with Parks and Recreation and The Office (US version), NBC gave him the chance to make whatever new show he wanted. Realizing how rare an opportunity this was, Schur set out to make something “good” but also something daring that took advantage of this kind of creative freedom. Thus came a thought-provoking, wild, and unpredictable show that flipped everything we thought we knew about it on its head at the end of season one.
It was dizzying, thrilling, and totally insane that a network sitcom pulled off such a complicated and well-earned bluff. And somehow, season two kept things challenging and freshly thrilling by finding new and increasingly bizarre obstacles for its heroes to overcome. (DEREK!) And with both seasons of The Good Place now on Netflix, it’s easy to fall back in and binge and pick-up visual gags or callbacks you may have missed the first time. Because by Doug Forcett’s floofy hair, the makers of this show were meticulous in crafting their Good Place. And now you can get in on all The Good Place’s secrets with The Good Place Podcast.
Hosted by Marc Evan Jackson, who plays the head demon Shawn on the series, The Good Place Podcast invites members of the cast and crew to break down the magic of each episode from season one and two. Rather than a dogged deep dive about each TV episode, each podcast ep uses those shows as a jumping off point to explore unique elements of the series. For instance, the first ep features Schur himself, sharing the process from the first seed of an idea to the growth of the concept through the pilot to the blossoming brilliance of its finale.
From there, Jackson invites on the show’s casting directors, set designers, writers, producers, and stars. Each one brings fascinating nuggets about how The Good Place came to be. The outline of an oral history takes shape as one story builds on the next. Schur explains the detailed character breakdowns he gave casting director Allison Jones for the roles of Janet, Jason, Chidi, and Tahani. Jones picks up the thread in episode two and reveals that Jameela Jamil’s audition for the show was her first audition ever as an actress. In the next ep, Jamil concurs and confesses she took the audition purely because—as an aspiring writer—she wanted to meet Schur!
The development of Team Cockroach is also explored. Manny Jacinto shares some background on his history with dance crews, and writer Joe Mande explains how this helped shape Jason. But when it came to the not-so-silent monk’s deep love of the Jacksonville Jaguars, that was pure Mande, who fought hard for the first bellowed, “Bortles!” And never looked back.
I realize this podcast could sound unctuous in its self-congratulation, but this is not a show about ego or navel-gazing. Instead, it’s a group of artists across a variety of disciplines passionately discussing a project on which they are all clearly proud to be a part. They giddily share their contributions, but also vulnerably expose their struggles, be it Jamil’s nerves (which Danson squelched by on-set silliness), or the writers’ determination to make every episode count, or Schur’s self-doubt, or the production team’s challenge in building mind-blowing sets and whimsical visual effects in a handful of days. There’s a deep sense of the joy of creation and collaboration at play that makes The Good Place Podcast an absolute delight to listen to. Their verve and excitement is so contagious and inviting that you feel like you’re somehow a part of it too!
There’s a charming casualness to the conversation, whether Jamil talks about the surrealness of standing next to Ted Danson while a giraffe loped through the Frozen Yogurt district, or Ted Danson explains his first brush with Schur’s heady concept, or Kristen Bell admits she told no one about the big twist, not even her husband Dax Shepard. It feels like we’re sitting on the curb with them, enjoying fro-yo and laughing as Jacinto improvises a side-splitting dirtbag Jason line or D’Arcy Carden slays with the perfect Janet non sequitur. It’s like we get to be in The Good Place in the best sense. (They even censor out curse words with Bell’s delivery of their show alternates: forking, bench, bullshirt.) More than that, for those who love explorations of craft and want to grow as a storyteller, The Good Place Podcast serves as an accessible masterclass on how to challenge yourself, collaborate and strive for something truly bold and potentially stupendous.
And because this is the TV show that brought ethics philosophy into homes across America, the end of every episode features a moment to focus on “what’s good.” Jackson asks his guests, and they answer however they choose. They might share advice on how to learn more about ethics, or recommendations for charities, or—in the case of outspoken mental health advocate Kristen Bell—take the opportunity to speak to the value of self-care. So, it’s not just a show that’s fun and informative and inspiring. The Good Place Podcast is also good for you.
The Good Place Podcast is available wherever you download podcasts.
Header Image Source: NBC