NBC’s The Good Place, the heaven-and-hell-based comedy aired its final episode in January 2020. Michael Schur created the show, the same guy behind Parks and Recreation. (He also wrote on The Office and Saturday Night Live). A Daily Beast podcast recently had Schur on as a guest to talk about all of his work in television, but especially The Good Place. Schur revealed to the podcast host that the heavenly committee you see in the show is the writers’ room commentary on Democrats.
The Good Place committee was parodying ‘Democrats in Congress’, Schur says
On the Daily Beast’s podcast The Last Laugh, host Matt Wilstein discussed The Good Place with Schur at length. The conversation took a turn to politics when Wilstein asked Schur about the Good Place Committee. The committee is a group of characters (led by actor/comedian Paul Scheer) who represent the fictional Good Place in all matters.
Many of the characters on The Good Place have fairly liberal viewpoints, and the show tends to have a progressive lean overall. (The breakdown of the “points” system to determine Good Place or Bad Place placement can be read as a criticism of capitalism itself). However, Schur revealed that the committee was a political commentary on liberals.
“It’s not a mistake that they’re all dressed like hikers from Oregon,” Schur joked.
Where did that choice stem from, Wilstein asked?
“That was born out of a general frustration about people that you might consider progressive or liberal,” Schur explained.
Michael Schur says one episode of ‘The Good Place’ in particular hits the point home
Schur called out a particular line from a Good Place episode as an example. Something Paul Scheer’s character says during a negotiation with Sean, the head of the Bad Place, is one of Schur’s favorite moments of the series. In the scene, every counteroffer Sean makes is worse for the committee than the last.
Sean finally says, “I’m making an offer, you’re not even gonna negotiate?”
“You know, he’s right,” Paul Scheer as the head of The Good Place Committee responds, “the only reasonable thing to do is to keep giving up things unilaterally until this demon is happy.”
Schur went on to explain the significance behind this joke:
It’s the most overtly political that we’ve gotten and it’s just a straight-up frustration over what I see from Democrats in Congress and other local governments where it’s sort of like, ‘We’re not just going to be reasonable’–people should be reasonable, generally speaking–‘we’re going to overcompensate and just concede … a bunch of stuff.’
Schur explained why this frustrated him so much.
“That’s not being reasonable,” he said. “Conceding all the things…that you want to fight for unilaterally is not being reasonable, it’s being stupid. It’s betraying your own value system and it drives me nuts.”
Schur argues that liberals who concede too much in politics don’t help get anything done
The Good Place executive producer also used comedian Michelle Wolf’s White House Correspondent Dinner joke as an example. Her quip about Sarah Huckabee Sander’s eye makeup seemed to blow up the entire internet.
“In incredibly bad faith, Republicans made a big deal about it,” Schur said. “Meanwhile, there’s children in cages. It’s not an equal offense.”
But he was even more disappointed in the Democrats who agreed with those on the right and criticized Wolf. Schur explained:
There’s this weird impulse that progressives have sometimes of ‘let’s be not just reasonable but overly solicitous of the other side. And even when they’re very obviously saying things and acting in bad faith, let’s go along with it because that puts us on some sort of moral high ground.’
Schur said this is useless politics.
“It doesn’t help, it does not achieve anything,” The Good Place creator argued. “…You don’t get anything from it.”
As Schur explained, this strategy doesn’t mean that the opposing political side suddenly steps back and says “thank you.” They don’t become reasonable, all of a sudden.
“It doesn’t work that way,” Schur said. “It’s a one-way street. So the Good Place Committee is just my personal frustration with that aspect of progressivism.”