This fall, there are a lot of good shows either returning to TV or making their debuts — I wanna watch The Witcher, Watchmen looks interesting, His Dark Materials could be fantastic, etc. But so far as I’m concerned, the fall TV celebration officially kicks off tonight, with the return of The Good Place on NBC.
The Good Place is like no sitcom you’ve seen before. A heavily serialized affair, it tells the story of four humans — Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), Tahani Al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil) and Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto) — who die and end up in heaven…only it’s not actually heaven, as we learn at the end of the first season in the first of many major, world-shaking twists. The show is terrific at balancing a genuinely involving plot with plenty of jokes, plus several helpings of moral philosophy lessons about what it means to be a “good” person.
When we left the gang at the end of season 3, they were ready to put everything they’d learned to the test and see if they could help four recently dead people become better human beings in the afterlife. That means an influx of new blood for the fourth and final season, as creator Michael Schur detailed to Entertainment Weekly. “We’ve had a lot of wonderful guest stars, like Jason Manztoukas playing Derek or Maribeth Monroe playing Mindy St. Clair,” he said. “There are people in the world who pop up and then they come back and they come back. But this year, there are new additions to the world who are fairly permanent — at least for the initial status quo. That was a new thing for us. We’d never really had characters besides the main six who we were juggling week to week, and now we have a bunch of new ones. So that’s the biggest change about this season.”
The tricky thing is that the four newcomers were specifically chosen by the higher-ups in the Bad Place (Hell, basically) to be as difficult as possible for our do-gooding heroes to deal with. Tahani must deal with John, a gossip columnist who skewered her back when they were alive, while Chidi is paired with his neuroscientist ex-girlfriend Simone. That was a particularly dirty trick, since it backed the good guys into a corner where they had to erase Chidi’s memory to ensure the integrity of the experiment. That also meant erasing his memory of his love affair with Eleanor.
“It’s not easy,” Schur said of Eleanor’s struggles with this. “One of the themes early on is the emotional toughness that she has to endure in order to just get through the day and do her job while this thing is happening right in front of her. That’s a big thing in the first two or three episodes of the season.”
So we know who Tahani and Chidi will be paired with. What about Eleanor and Jason? “The other two have specific relationships to Eleanor and to Jason, but not in the same exact, literal, one-to-one way that the first two did,” Schur advised.
If the fourth season goes like the last couple, the premise of the show will probably change partway through; The Good Place has never been content to get too settled. And at the end, we’re in for “the cameo of all cameos,” according to Jamil:
Jamil won’t say exactly who turns up, but admits to completely freaking out in their presence and that they “exist within the NBC family.”
Okay, so I’m just gonna assume that the gang meets God at the end of the show, and that He is played by an NBC star. Who could it be? Amy Poehler or Tina Fey? Nick Offerman? Steve Carell? Betty White? George Clooney? Lorne Michaels? Feel free to throw out your own suggestions, the weirder the better.
Jamil also said that Schur “ended it in the most perfect way” and that we “are going to cry so much.” The lead-up to the waterworks begins tonight at 7:00 p.m. CST!