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More "Good Places" To Explore

by Lacey Doddrow 2 months ago in tv

shows & movies perfect for fans of Michael Schur's philosophical afterlife sitcom

When showrunner Michael Schur announced his new project, a high-concept sitcom called The Good Place, fans knew it was going to be, well, good. Schur had helmed previous classics like The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Brooklyn-99, so he had a well proven track record of creating beloved characters and putting them in laugh-out-loud situations.

The Good Place ran for four seasons, and it did not disappoint. The show garnered millions of viewers, earned high praise from critics, and won a Peabody Award and three Hugo Awards in addition to over a dozen Emmy nominations and two Golden Globe nominations.

But now that this charming, quirky show is over, where can fans turn? Given how unique the show’s premise was, it’s easy to think that it was one-of-a-kind, and that fans of The Good Place won’t find a similar show. After all, how many television shows out there can provide the same sort of fast paced plot and fantastical setting combined with philosophical musings on life, death, and morality?

As it turns out: plenty! If you’re one of the millions of people who loved the antics of Michael, Janet, and “Team Cockroach” in The Good Place, here are some lesser known TV shows and movies that you’ll also like.

Nobody’s Looking

This Portuguese show is available on Netflix, with both an English-dubbed version and an option for English subtitles over the original Portuguese. Like The Good Place, Nobody’s Looking centers around supernatural beings whose job it is to manage and influence the affairs of humanity without being detected.

The main character, Ulisses, arrives on his first day of existence to discover that he is an Angelus, and his job is to look out for the specific human assigned to him each day. Soon, Ulisses begins to question the byzantine systems and procedures that dictate the work of an Angelus, and he goes in search of answers. Like every human being, this sitcom character also wants to know: Who is behind all of this? And why?

In many ways, Nobody’s Looking is a spiritual cousin to The Good Place. They both maintain a comedic magical realism that blends daily human struggles, like potholes and office politics, with bizarre realms full of magical hamsters and interdimensional pancakes. They’re also gently philosophical - never didactic or preachy, but always drawing viewers deeper in to serious questions about the nature of the universe and our place in it.

Miracle Workers

The Good Place launched a renaissance of sorts when it comes to comedy shows set in the afterlife, and Miracle Workers is a brilliant flower that grew from the soil tilled by Michael Schur and the rest of his team. Daniel Radcliffe stars in this mini series about Craig, an employee of Heaven who is tasked with answering prayers on Earth.

When he finds himself with a new coworker, the bold and aggressive Eliza, Craig can no longer stay stuck in his standard routines. After making a bet with God (played by a very in-his-element Steve Buscemi), Craig and Eliza have to figure out how to make some very difficult prayers come true by orchestrating a kiss between two awkward humans.

Like The Good Place, Miracle Workers humanizes the supernatural, bringing family drama, workplace rivalries, and even rickety office furniture into a world where God lounges around in a bathrobe and prayers are delivered through old fashioned pneumatic tubing. Both shows refuse to let viewers get too comfortable, constantly serving up new ethical and spiritual dilemmas to shepherd characters through with humor and wit.

Good Omens

Based on a novel by beloved authors Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, the Amazon mini-series Good Omens centers on an angel and a demon who team up to save the world from the coming apocalypse. They face down archangels, an army of “witch finders,” and some duck-faced aliens in their quest, ultimately allying with a brave hearted crew of children that happens to include the young Antichrist.

Good Omens doesn’t just share one of its titular words with The Good Place - it shares a narrative sensibility, with extensive worldbuilding that sparkles with detail, from an archangel’s gold tooth to a Richard Burbage appearance. Both feature multifaceted characters who grow beyond their initial ‘purpose’ to become well rounded beings - demons who learn to care for humans and the earth, and who transcend what they’ve been told about themselves.

Good Omens asks big questions about the world, and it’s also willing to try answering those questions. The importance of self determination and choosing one’s own path in the world is a major theme, but this also requires bucking tradition and questioning existing systems. As a philosophical meditation on what it means to be human, seen through the lens of a grand cosmic adventure, Good Omens is a perfect successor to The Good Place.

Dead Like Me

Any show that takes place with the afterlife must spend a lot of time addressing death as a central theme. The Good Place includes episodes about the neuroscience of afterlife experiences, and devotes a significant portion of its final season to considering what it means to have a good death. However, it doesn’t spend much time working with the topic of grief - all deaths are reversible, and all characters are ultimately reunited after various losses.

Dead Like Me is a show that takes a bit more a delicate and unflinching look at the reality of death and grief while still maintaining the comedic quirkiness that charmed so many fans of The Good Place. In the first episode, the main character dies - then finds herself assigned to work as a “reaper,” someone who helps other souls transition into the afterlife.

George and the other reapers face death every day, and must navigate their responses to it as well as other people’s, including loved ones they left behind. Though there’s a lot of magic in the show - I especially love meeting characters who died in other eras and bring an anachronistic sparkle to the show - but it uses that element to really reflect on life, death, and everything in between.

Wristcutters: A Love Story

Wristcutters: A Love Story is one of my favorite movies, but it can be hard to convince people to watch it, since the title can be off-putting. Although the movie technically centers around suicide - it’s set in an afterlife you only enter if you die by your own hand - it’s as sweet and lighthearted as a movie with that premise can be.

After killing himself, Zia ends up in a world where everything is just “kind of crappy,” where pizza is always cold and the stars never shine. While on a road trip through this strange pseudo-purgatory in search for his ex, Zia meets a woman named Mikal, who is convinced that something has gone wrong with her case and that she needs to speak to the “People In Charge.”

But who, really, is in charge? Just as in The Good Place, the characters in Wristcutters find themselves in a world where everyone is certain that things are working as they should be, but no one can explain exactly how the system came to be. The search for whoever is “in charge,” and the belief that we can alter our place in the larger universe through persistence and appeals to justice, will appeal to any fan of The Good Place.

Dogma

Despite having a star studded cast and being a cult hit, Dogma is one of Kevin Smith's most underrated movies - perhaps because it's so hard to find and watch online. But for fans of The Good Place, this blast from the past is perfect when it comes to angels, demons, and mysteries of the afterlife.

As in most of the shows and movies on this list, the God in Dogma is absent (in this case, comatose), leaving the characters to figure things out on their own amidst a messy world of rules, cultural pressures, and supernatural forces.

Whether you're a disgraced angel, an apocalyptic prophet, or just a woman trying to get by, everyone in Dogma has their own goals and agendas, which clash in humorous and sometimes gory ways. But this film isn't interested in identifying the "good guys" and separating them from the "bad guys." Like The Good Place, Dogma delves into thorny issues of moral relativism and theology, using poop jokes and practical effects to keep things entertaining.

Thinking deeply about the big questions doesn't have to be boring or dry. Even Chidi, the moral philosophy professor from The Good Place, considers writing a rap musical about Kierkegaard. If you're the kind of viewer who likes your ethical quandaries with a healthy dose of comedy, check out these shows and movies that can take you to even more "good places." I promise, you'll meet plenty of fascinating characters you'll grow to love even more than Eleanor Shellstrop loves shrimp.

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Lacey Doddrow
Lacey Doddrow
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Lacey Doddrow

hedonist, storyteller, solicited advice giver, desert dweller

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