The Good Place, NBC’s upbeat, genial riff on No Exit, will soon be exploring the mysteries of the sitcom afterlife: The show’s upcoming fourth season will be its last. Showrunner Michael Schur, who made the decision to end The Good Place on his own terms, announced the news in a statement on the show’s Twitter account:
Castmember Jameela Jamil confirmed the news on Twitter, calling Schur “the classiest motherforkingshirtball ever”:
It’s always controversial when a television showrunner makes the decision to euthanize a seemingly healthy television show, but it isn’t always unethical, as a simple thought experiment makes clear. Imagine lavish box sets of the hypothetical fifth, sixth, and seventh seasons of The Good Place were tied to a trolley siding, arranged in such a way that they were unlikely to survive an encounter with the trolley. On the main track, someone has arranged equally lavish box sets of the hypothetical first, second, and third season of a different show Schur would make in the time it would take to produce three more seasons of The Good Place, plus lavish box sets of the first, first, and first seasons of the three one-season shows NBC will air in the slot that would normally be occupied by The Good Place in the network’s 2020, 2021, and 2022 primetime schedules (Supertrain 2020, America in Crisis, and The Great Patriot Farmers’ Mandatory Sketch Comedy Revue). The trolley has no brakes and is barreling down the main line at an unsafe speed. Worse still, someone has spray-painted the words “CLIMATE CHANGE” on its side. So far, it’s just your basic allegorical trolley disaster: Fun to think about, but not very useful when it comes to making network television programming decisions.
But now imagine Michael Shur is standing next to a switch that would send the trolley off the main line and onto the siding. From a utilitarian perspective, it’s clear that Schur should throw the switch, saving four television shows at the regrettable-but-unavoidable cost of three future seasons of The Good Place, plus whatever collateral damage ends up being caused by the shards of smashed Good Place Blu-ray discs sent flying through the air like a thousand knives, right into a crowd of gifted schoolchildren who had hoped to take that very trolley to the Museum of How to Someday Cure Cancer Assuming You Aren’t Cut to Ribbons by Shrapnelized Blu-Ray Discs Before You Even Go to College. Seen from this perspective, it’s clear that the end of The Good Place is just another reminder of the television industry’s deep and longstanding commitment to ethical behavior.
Here is Schur’s complete statement on the end of The Good Place:
“After ‘The Good Place’ was picked up for season two, the writing staff and I began to map out, as best we could, the trajectory of the show. Given the ideas we wanted to explore, and the pace at which we wanted to present those ideas, I began to feel like four seasons—just over 50 episodes—was the right lifespan. At times over the past few years we’ve been tempted to go beyond four seasons, but mostly because making this show is a rare, creatively fulfilling joy, and at the end of the day, we don’t want to tread water just because the water is so warm and pleasant. As such, the upcoming fourth season will be our last.
“I will be forever grateful to NBC and Universal TV for letting us make ‘The Good Place,’ and for letting us end it on our own schedule. I will also be forever grateful to the creative team, both on-screen and off, for their hard work and dedication to a very weird idea. We ask the question very frequently, on this show, what do we owe to each other? The answer, for me, is: I owe all of you a whole lot.
“We look forward to a great final season airing this fall.