If you follow me on Twitter, then you’re probably familiar with my weekly “THE GOOD PLACE [Sad Reaction Image]” tweet formula that pops up on Thursday nights. I started the show during the summer of 2018 and devoured the first two seasons in less than three days, which is extremely uncharacteristic of my uncultured-with-television self. I knew from the first few episodes, however, that The Good Place was no ordinary network sitcom. It’s been dubbed by many of its creators as the “smartest, dumbest show on TV”, which perfectly describes the show’s juggling of complex interrogations of morality, deep character studies, humane themes of life and death, emotional trauma, and self-improvement, all while maintaining a Spongebob-Esque absurdist but genuine sense of humor. It’s such a personal show to me that seemed to come at the right time. The first two seasons are masterfully written, and it would not be inappropriate to study the story beats and structure in a screenwriting class as the perfect model of set-up, pay-off, character development and everything in-between.
So of course, Season Three of The Good Place had a lot to live up to. Our starting point takes off where Season Two ended; an arrangement with the Judge (Maya Rudolph) had been made to give our rag-tag group a second chance to prove themselves as “better people” by preventing their deaths back on Earth. Michael (Ted Danson) and Janet (D’Arcy Carden), fully understanding of the gang’s positive group dynamic, decide to meddle further and reunite the humans together via a study on near-death experiences led by Chidi in Australia. I emphasize that this is only the starting point of the season – as you already might know, The Good Place is no stranger to the tradition of gigantic plot twists.
Here at Much Ado About Cinema, the focus tends to be on films – which is great, but that’s not all cinema amounts to. 2017 was also a great year for television, and there’s a lot of arguments to be made concerning the prestige of the format; with the popularity of netflix and the prominence of many highly-regarded directors flocking to the small screen, television is experiencing something of a resurgence in reputability. With this in mind, Much Ado will be incorporating more coverage of the medium as we head into 2018, and we thought we would begin with a look back on our favourite shows of 2017, from the surprising, to the disappointing, to the consistently brilliant.
To most, American Gods might seem no different than many other fantasy series that are on cable TV, or even the network: it has cool visuals, is based on a book series, and written in hopes of captivating its viewers via carefully crafted plot twists. Built on the already complex premise of Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name, creator Bryan Fuller and his team of writers manage to succesfully carry a transition between two mediums of storytelling by doing that one wouldn’t expect from such a genre, and focusing on the people that fantasy world rather than what makes the world a fantasy one. Of course, the fact that people are mostly the main reason that this world is magic does provide help on this subject to them, but even the visual work here is always about what it tells of instead of what it might show. Fuller might be best known for his visual perfection of Hannibal, but his work here can be even argued to exceed that. Eight episodes, each not longer than an hour, work as book chapters of their own — and they all have their own prologues in most cases, little, thematically coherent cold openings that tell smaller stories with little to no consequence, but are still able to create an impactful parallel with the bigger picture. When looked from afar, American Gods is a masterpiece of filmmaking and production — and that might even be enough for it to be considered as one of the best outings of the year: but the real present opens itself up when one begins to examine the work closely, and finds themselves in a labyrinth of significant questions abot love, life, belief and fate.