Spoilers for The Good Place ahead, obviously.
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who think The Good Place is the towering pinnacle of the television and comedic arts, and people who are wrong.
At least, that’s how I felt until living in the aftermath of season three. And yes, we’re pulling gently into Spoilertown so opt out now if you haven’t watched this show yet despite it having existed for years and which is about to finish with the forthcoming fourth series.
The big reveal of this series – sorry, one of the many big reveals of the most big reveal-heavy show on television – was that no-one has gotten into the Good Place in over 500 years and that even the best person on the planet (according to the Good Place’s point system) didn’t have a hope in the bad place of getting in.
And this wasn’t because of a glitch in the system or because the Bad Place demons had corrupted the afterlife’s bureaucracy, but because life on Earth had gotten increasingly interconnected and complicated, making it impossible to do anything which is unambiguously good.
A call to your mum on her birthday uses a phone whose components are mined by slave labour. A visit to friends burns fossil fuels in a machine whose entire creation was an environmental nightmare. Everything has consequences which are not only unforeseeable, but unavoidable without making impractical sacrifices.
And it’s a great and complex idea – especially for a network sitcom – but also… oh god, they’re right. They’re so, so right.
I mean, I could go vegan, walk and cycle everywhere and spend all my spare time researching cancer vaccines – things which I have not even come close to achieving, to be clear – and I’d still be falling massively short, not least because simply by working a job and buying things I am contributing to an economic system which devours the planet to fuel endless growth.
And recognising it does nothing bar make me ruin things which might otherwise perk me up. “Oh, South Australia’s entire electrical grid was fuelled by wind and solar yesterday, huh? Great! That’s a whole lot of greenhouse gas not pumped into the atmosphere… thanks to rare earth metals open cut forcibly mined under dictatorships.”
So thanks a bunch, The Good Place. I can’t even curl up with a television comedy without being made painfully aware that even the act of doing increases the heat on Earth by a tiny by measurable amount.
Say what you will about The Big Bang Theory, it didn’t make its viewers think about that. Or literally anything else.