Television and Radio Criticism

The Good Place - Hashmi

I love The Good Place. It is the first sitcom in a long time that I actively look forward to. I watch it live and am sad at the end of each episode because I have to wait another week for another episode. Did I mention that I love this show?

The Good Place premiered on NBC in Fall 2016. That fall ended up being rough for some (many?) of us and this show was one of the bright spots in my life as winter approached. The show is about Eleanor (Kristen Bell) who was a deliciously awful human being while alive. So, when she is killed in an accident, she's surprised to find herself being ushered into the Good Place rather than the Definitely Not Good Place she thought she would wind up in. Being the smart, selfish, amoral operator that she is, she plays along. What follows is one of the most original explorations of human character and ethics on television today that is also genuinely funny.

However, what makes the show resonate with me is my identification with the characters, especially Chidi.

An incredibly nerdy (but good-looking because it is TV after all), anxious professor of Philosophy, Chidi is actually treated sympathetically in the show rather than being a joke. More so, the show actually spends a fair bit of time talking about concepts, theories, and problems from ethical philosophy! Greg Smith (2010) explains that television programs structure identification with characters in two primary ways: alignment and allegiance....

Pleasure in media texts come in part from feeling that the text is speaking to you. This mode of address can be structured by identification, but it comes more broadly from the perspective that is privileged in the text. For example, Ono talks about how Mad Men privileges a White perspective.

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