Credit: Justin Lubin/NBC)
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Figuring out which of the dozens of new shows to add to your DVR can be a form of hell. There is one new prospect, though, that seems to be heaven-sent. Because it is, actually. The brainchild of Parks and Recreation co-creator Michael Schur, The Good Place is set in the afterlife (take that, all you coffee shops, bars, and family living rooms!) and follows the adventures of the not-so-noble Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) is erroneously admitted into the next world, where she encounters Michael (Ted Danson), the kindly “architect” who designed the neighborhood in which she and 321 other people live, including her assigned soul mate, ethics professor Chidi (William Jackson Harper). But because Eleanor is not at the level of goodness of those surrounding her — not by a long shot — the magnificently manicured neighborhood starts to glitch, leaving Michael scrambling to determine the cause. Can Eleanor get a crash a course in morality and change her dubious stripes before it’s too late? This question and several hundred more will be tackled in the afterlife comedy. As NBC previews the first two episodes on Sept. 19 at 10 p.m. ET/PT before placing the show in its regular time slot on Sept. 22 at 8:30 p.m., allow Schur to prepare for you laugh after death.

On how he wanted to design The Good Place‘s paradise to look different than Hollywood’s previous depictions of the afterlife:

“We very consciously tried to avoid anything that smacked of another show or movie’s depiction of the afterlife. It’s paradise, so the general aspects of it you can get whatever you want kind of stuff is going to be fairly similar. In a lot of them, they’re always wearing white. That went out the window. We generally use green. White and black is a very old and probably somewhat racist idea of good and bad. So we go green and red, green is generally the color palette of the good place, and red is, not that you see it, but theoretically the opposite. For our costumer, we said the rule should be that everybody wears whatever they’re most comfortable in. Tahani [Jameela Jamil] has a giant party at her house in the pilot, and at that party if you look around, she’s in a beautiful flowing ball gown but there’s people in jeans and T-shirts because that’s what that person is the most comfortable in. We stayed away from any Christian conception of heaven — there are no harps, there are no halos, there are clouds only in the regular sky, there’s no iconography from any specific religion that permeates. You’re told that these are 322 people from all over the world, so in the pilot, you see a Sikh, and you see people who look like they’re from South America, from Africa, from Europe, from Asia, wherever. That also helps, because a lot of the depictions of heaven in American movies and TV are Christian heaven, and since we’re not doing that, we don’t really overlap that much.”

On the show’s concept of the afterlife:

“The idea is that everybody gets exactly what he or she wants. It’s very, very customized. They break them up into groups of 322 people. They’re taking all of humanity, and they’re making individual jigsaw puzzles. So they select the 322 people that will perfectly be matched individually because they each have a soul mate, but then also with each other as a group. So the idea is these 322 people, their idea of paradise is this exact idea of paradise, and if you went to another neighborhood it would be completely different. There are many aspects of the paradise I designed that for me would be awful. I hate bright sunny weather all the time. My neighborhood would be 61 and drizzling all the time. And there is a neighborhood where it’s 61 and drizzling all the time, and there are a group of 322 people who love that, and that’s their ideal weather. What you’re seeing isn’t just a one-size-fits-all conception of the afterlife, and we make that clear in the pilot. It’s only paradise for this group of people. That’s the key to the whole system.”

On the first season chronicling Eleanor’s struggle to change:

“The season is roughly broken into half, and I won’t say what it is that happens to kick off part 2. The first half of the season is her coming to grips with the fact that she wasn’t good enough to make it into this world. Luckily for her, she was paired with an ethics professor who knows a lot of good behavior and bad behavior. The whole first half of the season is her first convincing him to help her, and then once he decides to help her, it’s about learning pretty basic stuff, about different philosophies, conceptions of what’s good and bad and then trying to internalize those actions and that behavior. She is now aware that her bad behavior causes this perfect utopia to go haywire, so she knows she’s got to shape up. The change is slow and it’s gradual, but that is the thrust of the first half of the season. It’s her being confronted with this omniscient reality of ‘Yeah, you weren’t good,’ and in order to not get discovered, she has no choice but to try to become good. … Something significant happens about halfway through the season that kicks the show into another gear.”

On the level of serialization and mystery in the show:

“This is sort of the Last Man on Earth model. A lot of episodes pick up in the exact moment where the last one left off. It’s very serialized, and there is some mystery to it, but a lot of it is: We’re just trying to be funny. We’re trying to make a comedy show. It’s not really mystery stuff, it’s more like cliffhangers. She gets into a certain amount of trouble or a certain kind of threat emerges, and then it’s how she wriggles out. At one point I described her to the writers room as she’s like a comedy Vic Mackey from The Shield, where the walls are just closing in around her all the time, and she’s always having to figure out how to wriggle free.”

RELATED: Hear what inspired Mike Schur to create The Good Place

On what to expect from the slippery Eleanor in the early episodes:

“What’s fun about putting her in the situation that she’s in is that sometimes the answer is she has to create trouble as a distraction for something. She understands the tools that she’s working with, and one of those tools is that she knows that if she does crazy stuff, that crazy stuff will happen. I described the character to Kristen early on when I was pitching her the show, I said, ‘She’s like a scrambler. She’s always wriggling out of trouble, and she’s very self-possessed in the sense that she’s always been a survivor in her life so she’s constantly playing angles and figuring out how to get out of trouble and sizing up the situation.”

On whether her admittance to the Good Place really is an error or if it’s actually a test:

“Chidi brings that up: ‘Maybe it’s a test, maybe if you confess….’ That’s a question that’s raised. It is answered, you’ll know in the first season. He knows there is a problem, and whether or not he knows it’s her, that’s what we have fun with.”

On her dynamic with Michael:

“Michael is the wonderful benevolent architect of this paradise who knows there’s a problem, and he’s desperately trying to figure out what the problem is. All he wants is for this neighborhood to be completely perfect for the 322 people who are there. So he’s a father figure to the entire neighborhood because he created it, but obviously his relationship with Eleanor is a little bit tense, because he’s desperately looking for a problem and she’s the problem. He treats everyone with the same amount of serene kindness and benevolence, but she is the only one who’s searching for a way to stay hidden from him.”

On where the idea for the show came from:

“I started paying attention to small actions of my own and of other people that seemed like if there were an objective evaluation metric for point, like if we were all playing a video game, there started to be certain things where I would say to myself, ‘Negative seven points!‘ Just bad manners in traffic or being rude to a flight attendant and rolling your eyes at a crying baby. There was a moment when I was in a Starbucks and I got coffee and it was $1.70, and I was going to throw the tip into the tip jar, the 30 cents out of the $2 in cash, and I realized that I waited until the barista turned around. And I was sort of thinking to myself. ‘Why did I do that?’ It’s like, ‘Oh, I know why I did that. I wanted the credit.’ You want that person to see that you’re such an amazing benevolent person that you tip 30 cents into a tip jar, and it just sorts of struck me as funny that there were things that you just want credit for. You want to feel like you’re getting the points for your action. You feel like if no one sees it, it feels like it didn’t happen. And the truth is whether you get credit for it or not shouldn’t be the point of a good action; you should just do it because it’s good. It’s the points system of good and bad actions that you hope someone is keeping track of the bad ones and you hope that you’re getting credit for the good ones, especially when you’re doing this anonymously.”

Episode Recaps

The Good Place
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  • Michael Schur