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Thursday, February 06, 2020

TV - The Good Place - The Final Chapter - Whenever You're Ready

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The Good Place
The Final Chapter - Whenever You're Ready
Season 4, Episode 13
January 30, 2020

Man, there are a lot of callbacks and references in this episode. Michael recording "attempt #803" was a silly fakeout, and his song lyrics go back to season one.

Doug Forcett replaced on Michael's wall with the four humans is a nice touch. So is having a few of the philosophy consultants for the show in Chidi's class.

Jeff the Doorman is much busier in the new system. Good running bit with him and the frogs in this episode. And there's a niednagel down below the bridge.

I see that they did eventually track down the Good Place Committee and one of them is Joint Council, but didn't get any dialogue.

Jason's story first. His goals to satisfaction were always the simplest. Perfection in his video game, reuniting his dance group and spending time with his friends. And we get young Doug Forcett, Donkey Doug and Pillboi. And the last time we get the full cast together...

Tahani had a lot more goals, but reached them eventually, while waiting to fulfill the most important goals with her family relationships. And then she finds something else to do. Plus we get quick bits with John, Brent, Trevor, Glenn and even Beadie, the Good Place architect who did Mindy's welcome video. Michael giving her his original bowtie and planning to brag about knowing her was the first time I teared up this episode.

Next is Chidi's passage. A few more returnees, with Simone and some of Eleanor and Chidi's Earth friends. This is quite a journey, especially the way it uses some different filming techniques to the standard for the show.  Listen to the podcast for a detailed discussion about the long shot following Eleanor from their house to Michael's office and back, including how they got Janet to appear without the usual cut or effects. Then a trip to Europe for some location filming. I have to skip the final Chidi/Eleanor goodbye most times because it breaks my heart.

Chidi's final scene with Janet is a nice coda, with the way he's immediately able to say he's ready. And bringing Jason back at this point is a masterstroke. It brings some needed levity to the story after some heavy stuff. "Kind of like a monk." "What do you mean?"

And then Eleanor tying up her loose ends. First with Mindy, which also gives us Maximum Maximum Derek, and provides a nice final look at Tahani and Shawn. Finally figuring out what Michael needs. Janet's farewell scene with Michael is a nice endcap to their story, going back to the classic "The reason is friends" scene years ago. And then Janet and Eleanor at the final door, with the scenes of Michael on Earth, appropriately ending with his guitar teacher Mary. And through the door...

Which leads back to Earth, and however you want to interpret the floating lights. A final goofy joke with Michael's human name, "Michael Realman", and a callback to season one and his joy at getting a rewards card, and the final line:

"I'll say this to you, my friend, with all the love in my heart and all the wisdom of the universe. Take it sleazy."

And the podcast is an appropriately long two-part three hour talk with Marc Evan Jackson (he played Shawn) talking with creator/writer/director Mike Schur and producer Drew Goddard. Fascinating stuff, especially on some of the things they took out of the episode or changed late in the production.

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Wednesday, February 05, 2020

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 51 - Patty

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The Good Place
Chapter 51 - Patty
Season 4, Episode 12
January 23, 2020

And we finally get to The Good Place (well, except for the mailroom visit).

Loved how casually Jason hides Michael's weed.

The Jason and Eleanor aspects of the party really do seem to overwhelm the more understated Chidi and Tahani elements.

Knew that Good Place Committee couldn't be trusted, but still surprised by what they did. Loved their whiteboard of ideas, especially "Giant Mini Donuts (not just regular donuts. Dave will explain)".

Lisa Kudrow was a pretty good guest star to pull at this point, especially for someone whose brain is a little mushy. Especially with the on-going joke about Michael's obsession with the show Friends.

And a final afterlife problem for our team to figure out. The solution and how it was presented have been and will continue to be debated for a long time, but after seeing the finale multiple times in the last week, I'm pretty happy with it. Part of me wonders what they would have done if they took a full season to explore and fix The Good Place, but that might have opened up all sorts of other problems.

A very satisfying conclusion to set up a very different denouement for the finale.

And on the podcast with Marc Evan Jackson is producer/director Morgan Sackett and writer Andrew Law (he plays Drew on the Good Place Committee).

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Monday, February 03, 2020

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 50 - Mondays, Am I Right?

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The Good Place
Chapter 50 - Mondays, Am I Right?
Season 4, Episode 11
January 16, 2020

And back to the Bad Place to begin training for the new system.  Didn't realize until I listened to the podcast that Megan was one of the demons they met at the museum back in season two.

Loved Jason's rattling off of his bizarre choices for "very best people", and Eleanor and Chidi's reaction to it. Interesting that "Wendy from Wendy's" was on the list and Michael later included the "Where's the beef" lady in a list of notable people who passed the test.

That training video, and then Janet and Michael singing... wow. Hope we someday see all the outtakes from that.

Vicky's entrance is great, and she really steals the show this episode.

"Chainsaw Bear!". That one really cracked me up the first time. And then smaller, more relatable Chainsaw Bear.

Jason fooling Chidi to apply his own logic on the Jason/Janet relationship to himself was wonderfully convoluted. "Chess... mate".

And then, the return of the golden balloon to the real Good Place.

Podcast has Marc (he plays Shawn) talking with D’Arcy Carden (she plays Janets), Tiya Sircar (she plays Vicky) and writer Jen Statsky (she plays Susan the restaurant cashier in season one).  Stories about the Janet/Michael song, Vicky's earlier singing number and a generally looser tone as they get close to the end, including a disturbing number of references to Marc as "daddy".

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Sunday, February 02, 2020

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 49 - You've Changed, Man

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The Good Place
Chapter 49 - You've Changed, Man
Season 4, Episode 10
January 9, 2020

Loved the various styles of Janet void, along with their individual computing systems (I'm not sure if any computer actually used 8-tracks like in the Disco Janet void). I'm not sure why NBC doesn't already have a Bad Janet Scarface poster for sale...

"I agree. Chidi should hook up with the Judge to get us out of trouble. I've done that a bunch of times. It's called a Jacksonville plea bargain."

Newly confident Chidi, with his many lifetimes fully integrated, is great. Especially his reaction to the Good Place Committee.  And of course we'll know why the Committee is so infuriating in a few weeks.

The Timothy Olyphant guest bit was pretty odd. Still not sure how I feel about it, but there are some very funny bits in there.

I liked Shawn finally, reluctantly, giving in to change.

"There are still some kinks to work in."
"Out. Sorry. Old habits."

Podcast has Marc Evan Jackson talking with Kristen Bell and writer Matt Murray about the episode and the show in general, including Kristen's directorial debut a few episodes earlier, plus the filming time lost thanks to Jason's delivery of the title line of the episode.

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Thursday, January 09, 2020

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 48 - The Answer

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The Good Place
Chapter 48 - The Answer
Season 4, Episode 9
November 21, 2019

Well, they definitely went into their final hiatus on a high note.

Getting flashbacks to Chidi's whole life is a great way to explain how he got that way, and presumably what he'll do in the few remaining episodes we have.

I liked the mix of old and new scenes from the past. Think they might have set a series record for callbacks.

"Esmerelda, you don't bring knives to a friendly game night. I mean, who does that?"
"The prepared."

How have they kept Esmerelda from us for four seasons? "These trivialities demean me. I must away and tend to my ravens."

The Chidi/Janet scene in the coda to the movie night from "Pandemonium" is just perfect.

And finally we get a new Chidi, a synthesis of 800+ lives and over 300 years. Only a few hours until we hopefully find out something about what that means, and the significance of the note.

If I hadn't decided to to a series rewatch, I probably would have watched this one at least a dozen times in the seven weeks they took off, instead of deliberately not watching it no matter how often I was tempted, whenever there was a previous scene they referenced in here. It's very tempting to make up for lost time and watch it 8 more times in the three hours until Chapter 49 starts...

Right now it looks to me like the series is pointing towards some sort of reincarnation scenario, with the emphasis on being able to do better tomorrow than you did today. On the other hand, given my track record of predicting where they're going to go, that might be the one possibility you can rule out.

And for the podcast, Marc is obviously joined by William Jackson Harper, plus editor Eric Kissack and co-producer Frank Sackett.

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TV - The Good Place - Chapter 47 - The Funeral to End All Funerals

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The Good Place
Chapter 47 - The Funeral to End All Funerals
Season 4, Episode 8
November 14, 2019

I hope for his sake Michael gets the hang of one devastating human comeback before the end. Seems to be a defining characteristic of demons that they can't figure those out.

Ah, the Good Place Committee. "We're willing to give up all of our leverage, compromise, and meet you halfway". Who does that remind me of...

Really liked that we had some reflective time with the main characters at their funerals before all the inevitable chaos breaks out.

Never quite sure what to make of the Judge, as she seems to go from being an ally to Team Cockroach to being the antagonist several times. Swings wildly into the antagonist side in this sequence, which kind of makes me think she'll end up being their main ally before the end. Kind of a Professor Snape thing.

And of course the revolution of the Janets, including Disco Janet.

On the podcast Marc Evan Jackson (he plays Shawn) joins writer Josh Siegal, actress Dana Powell (Paula of the Good Place committee), and set decorator Kimberly Wannop

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TV - The Good Place - Chapter 46 - Help Is Other People

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The Good Place
Chapter 46 - Help Is Other People
Season 4, Episode 7
November 7, 2019

And jumping ahead to the end of the experiment. Michael's obsession with stage magic and Jason being constantly impressed by it even in a place where magic literally exists is goofy fun.

Loved Simone's conspiracy board. Makes sense that she'd be the one to figure out something wasn't right.

I knew there would have to be a "This is the Bad Place" and devious laugh somewhere in here, and they didn't disappoint.

Marc is joined on the podcast by Manny Jacinto, writer Dave King, and production assistant Amanda Boisselle.

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TV - The Good Place - Chapter 45 - A Chip Driver Mystery

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The Good Place
Chapter 45 - A Chip Driver Mystery
Season 4, Episode 6
October 31, 2019

I liked all the bits with Michael talking to Bad Janet in the void.

But the more I watch it the less I like this episode overall. Brent is just so unlikable, and really John and Simone aren't that much better. I guess that's kind of the point of them, but it's a jarring contrast to the rest of the show. And it's kind of weird to see Chidi punch someone. I guess the whole think was needed to set up Bad Janet and the manifesto, but I think it could have been done better.

"Simone was very mean to me. Maybe even a little racist." Maximum Brent.

Podcast has Marc talking with Ben Koldyke (Brent), writer Lizzy Pace, and director Steve Day

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Wednesday, January 08, 2020

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 44 - Employee of the Bearimy

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The Good Place
Chapter 44 - Employee of the Bearimy
Season 4, Episode 5
October 24, 2019

Opening with Vicky, Janet and Shawn (and a Michael suit) was fun. "It's actually feels more like torture when you discuss your acting process."

Michael and Jason on the rescue mission is great. Jason getting his memories back, with the only thing that sticks being him tossing a Molotov cocktail in the Bad Place. Crashing Demon Con and the whole convoluted thing of Michael pretending to be Vicky playing Michael, Jason pretending to be Glenn playing Jason.

The storyline back in the neighbourhood didn't work as well, although I liked several of the scenes, including Derek rebooting himself, and Tahani's awkward closing of the curtains. In a lot of ways it really doesn't feel like they know what to do with Tahani in the big picture this season, so I hope she gets something big in the final few episodes.

Podcast for the week is Marc talking with Jameela Jamil and writer Joe Mande.

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TV - The Good Place - Chapter 43 - Tinker, Tailor, Demon, Spy

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The Good Place
Chapter 43 - Tinker, Tailor, Demon, Spy
Season 4, Episode 4
October 17, 2019

Focus returns squarely onto Team Cockroach for this episode, which pays off a lot of the preceding stuff in the season.

Really does keep you guessing who's on the level, in the best tradition of spy stories that they took the title from.

I like that Eleanor ends up going to Chidi for help out of her dilemma, even without his memory.

And Jason gets to solve the problem and be the hero of the day.

Podcast for this one is Marc talking with Josh Siegal (Glenn), Tom Zawacki from the props department, and writer Cord Jefferson.

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TV - The Good Place - Chapter 42 - Chillaxing

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The Good Place
Chapter 42 - Chillaxing
Season 4, Episode 3
October 10, 2019

Man, relaxed Chidi is something to see. Seems almost a shame to foist Jason on him.

It's interesting re-watching this and realizing that "Janet" is sabotaging Tahani's attempts to get through to John.

Pretty low key episode overall, with a cliffhanger ending of a mysterious figure approaching the neighbourhood. I missed it, but someone else pointed out that there was a starbucks coffee cup in the middle of the desert by the train tracks, a nod to one one the GAME OF THRONES goofs from last year.

For the podcast we have Marc (Shawn) talking with Brandon Scott Jones (John) and Anya Adams (director).

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TV - The Good Place - Chapter 41 - A Girl from Arizona Part 2

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The Good Place
Chapter 41 - A Girl from Arizona Part 2
Season 4, Episode 2
October 3, 2019

This one always feels a bit oddly paced. I'm pretty sure it was intended to be a double length season opener like they had in previous years, and split in two for some reason.

I liked the return of the chaos sequence, with a Brent flavour. And Brent's conclusion that he belongs in the Best Place is very on brand.

Janet did feel off in this episode, but now we know why.

Chidi getting a happy stomach ache at the information that he and Simone are soulmates is pretty harsh when you think back on what he said on their farewell date.

A heavy backstage look on the podcast this time as Marc Evan Jackson talks with costume supervisor Alexis Jacks, editor Matt Freund and writers’ assistant Dana Sayles.

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TV - The Good Place - Chapter 40 - A Girl from Arizona Part 1

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The Good Place
Chapter 40 - A Girl from Arizona Part 1
Season 4, Episode 1
September 26, 2019

And back for the final season. I wasn't as happy with the first half of this season on first viewing, although every episode had some great stuff. It's just hard to get into too much of a focus on the new characters when you want more of the old ones. I like it a lot more in retrospect and rewatching, as you can see what they're laying the track for.

I liked the contrast of the pep talks that Michael and Shawn gave to their people. And of course the "Shup up, Glenn" which would come back to haunt Shawn.

I know it's intentional, but Brent is hard to take on any level. I did like Simone assuming it was all a dying delusion and acting accordingly. We don't see too much of John in this one, but I generally like how his story went. The revelation about Linda was pretty sudden and funny the first time around, and of course now we know a lot more was going on than we saw.

Marc Evan Jackson is joined on the podcast by D’Arcy Carden, Kirby Howell-Baptiste (Simone) and writer Andrew Law.

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Tuesday, January 07, 2020

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 39 - Pandemonium

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The Good Place
Chapter 39 - Pandemonium
Season 3, Episode 13
January 24, 2019

This is a beautiful but heartbreaking way to end a season.

Michael's breakdown and Eleanor's quick thinking with her lies was fun. Especially when she realizes that having Janet be the architect might have made more sense.

Gee, I wonder how someone could make it seem that Tahani was shallow, jealous and "prone to fits of melodrama"?

Eleanor and Chidi's farewell still chokes me up every time, even a year and over a dozen viewings later. I'm glad it's followed up by Eleanor and Janet's long talk, which ends the season on a hopeful note.

And for the season finale we have the usual appearance by show creator and episode director Michael Schur joining Marc Evan Jackson, this time bringing along Ted Danson (he played Becker). Lots of talk about specific influences on scenes in this episode, what the various writers and actors bring to it, and also some of the inside jokes you might have missed.

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TV - The Good Place - Chapter 38 - Chidi Sees the Time-Knife

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The Good Place
Chapter 38 - Chidi Sees the Time-Knife
Season 3, Episode 12
January 17, 2019

Another one of those jam-packed quick moving episodes where you wonder how it all fits in under 22 minutes.

Loved Jason and Eleanor's high-five on the IHOP slam. Can't wait for a compilation of all the high-fives on the show after the finale.

So much weird stuff in this one, a lot of it enhanced by listening to the podcast and some of the other on-line extras, like the footage of Ted Danson practicing his "backpack kid" dance, or the niednagel, or the significance of the Entourage movie as Shawn's torture of choice for William Shakespeare.

Good to see Mindy again, and newly evolved but still deeply broken Derek.

Michael and Janet rebuilding their neighbourhood is touching.

Vicky impersonating Michael is great, especially knowing where that storyline ends up.

For the podcast, Jason Mantzoukas (he plays Derek) takes over to talk with writer Joe Mande, digital effects supervisor David Niednagel, and actor Marc Evan Jackson (he plays Shawn). It constantly threatens to go off the rails, as you'd expect if you're familiar with Mantzoukas podcasts, but is a lot of fun with a lot of details about writing, filming and special effects on this episode.

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TV - The Good Place - Chapter 37 - The Book of Dougs

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The Good Place
Chapter 37 - The Book of Dougs
Season 3, Episode 11
January 10, 2019

So, a bit of a bridging episode to the next phase of the show. Also the only episode set in part of the real Good Place and the first actual Good Place inhabitants we see (except, I guess, the woman in Mindy's welcome video).

Gwendolyn's relentlessly cheery and trusting nature is a bit ridiculous, but funny. The Good Place committee members are incredibly annoying as you realize that they're going to be completely useless in actually getting anything done.

I liked the Chidi and Eleanor plotline the most. There were a few funny bits in Tahani trying to figure out what to do with the Janet/Jason situation she finds herself in the middle of, constantly making things worse.

For the podcast Marc interviews  actor William Jackson Harper, Nicole Byer (Gwendolyn), and associate producer Matt Quezada,

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TV - The Good Place - Chapter 36 - Janet(s)

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The Good Place
Chapter 36 - Janet(s)
Season 3, Episode 10
December 6, 2018

Three weeks and mere microseconds later, we see Janet's void for the first time.

Just an amazing episode, maybe the only serious contender for knocking "Michael's Gambit" out of the top spot for series best. It's not only a testament to D'Arcy Carden's skill as an actor that she's able to play all the characters, but it really highlights how well the original actors and the writing staff have realized the characters over three years that she's able to pick up on all the little ticks and expressions.

"You're not Jason-Janet, you're Eleanor-Janet pretending to be Jason-Janet. That's so wrong and so confusing". That might be the master stroke of the episode, especially as it fits in so well with the series running gag of impersonators.

While it's overshadowed a bit by the virtuoso display of TV making in the void, the accounting department scenes are also really good, especially a few of the Janet/Michael scenes.

Podcast this time is Marc talking with, no surprise, D’Arcy Carden (she plays Janet. And Chidi and Eleanor and Tahani and Jason. And Bad Janet and Neutral Janet and Disco Janet) with writers Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan. Lots about that specific challenges involved in making this episode.

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TV - The Good Place - Chapter 35 - Don't Let the Good Life Pass You By

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The Good Place
Chapter 35 - Don't Let the Good Life Pass You
By Season 3, Episode 9
November 15, 2018

Loved the LOST tribute opening of this episode. And Michael McKean was a perfect choice for playing Doug Forcett.

Very fun episode that plays off the philosophy and romantic aspects of the series with the characters split in the first half, and then brings them all together to unexpectedly turn it into an action movie in the second half. I think that Janet fight scene might be the most I ever re-watched a scene of a TV show in the week after it aired. There are a lot of clever touches and jokes that I didn't get the first time around.

Loved Jason whipping out a Molotov cocktail when the demons show up, and Chidi's "how did you make that so fast" reaction.

And into the void, and for the original showing a long three weeks until the next episode thanks to holidays and football. Thankfully future generations won't have to deal with that.

Packed podcast this time with Marc (he plays Shawn) talking with Tiya Sircar (Vicky), Bambadjan Bamba (Bambadjan), casting director Ben Harris, and stunt coordinator Jeff Imada. A whole lot about the fight scene in particular this time, which was a real change of pace for most of the cast.

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TV - The Good Place - Chapter 34 - The Worst Possible Use of Free Will

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The Good Place
Chapter 34 - The Worst Possible Use of Free Will
Season 3, Episode 8
November 8, 2018

Bit of a change of pace episode. The opening gag of Eleanor's first hit of afterlife memories is a bit of a Looney Tunes gag that I'm not sure completely works on the show, but I did laugh at. Especially how Eleanor's head was still smoking after coming back from the title screen.

It was pretty nice to see the old neighbourhood again after so long away. There's a particular brand of visual wackiness that setting allows for that had been missing.

I still wonder sometimes if Eleanor's theory of mega demons and tarantula squids will be the ending, and how I'd feel about that if it is...

Podcast is Marc Evan Jackson talking with writer Jen Statsky and animal trainer Debbie Pearl. Very fun episode, as Marc seems very interested in the whole animal wrangling world.

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TV - The Good Place - Chapter 33 - A Fractured Inheritance

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The Good Place
Chapter 33 - A Fractured Inheritance
Season 3, Episode 7
November 1, 2018

It's good of them to mix up the groups in these episodes where they split up geographically, getting to work on some of the relationships in more depth.

I have to admit I'm still not sold on the plot contrivances they had to resort to in order to have a story with Eleanor's mom after previously establishing she was dead in season one, but I guess it was worth it for this episode. And plot contrivances like that are how we got Martin Crane on FRASIER after it was established he was dead on CHEERS...

Absolute highlight of the episode is the "ya basic" scene.

The Tahani/Kamilah relationship is my favourite of the earthbound relationships on the show, so it was good to see it have some focus and resolution. I don't know if any scene that used the word "wankers" so much was ever more heartwarming. Also loved Chidi's brief interaction with Kamilah, where we also learn Chidi's name means "god exists". I'm still about 10% sure that'll figure into the endgame of the series. Guess we'll know in under a month...

Podcast this time is Marc talking with Andy Daly (Dave), Rebecca Hazlewood (Kamilah) and graphic designer Graham Ratliff.

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Sunday, January 05, 2020

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 32 - The Ballad of Donkey Doug

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The Good Place
Chapter 32 - The Ballad of Donkey Doug
Season 3, Episode 6
October 25, 2018

The Soul Squad phase of the series begins. As usual, I expected it to be the status quo for much longer than it ended up being. You'd think I'd have picked up on the pattern by this point, right?

I always like Janet reacting to situations where she doesn't have her powers, this time by manually doing her own "bings".

The storyline with Chidi using a simulator to figure out how to break up with Simone had some funny stuff playing off standard sitcom/rom-com concepts in novel ways. The highlight was definitely Kirby Howell-Baptiste playing Eleanor impersonating Janet impersonating a simulation of Simone, especially after it pays off in a similar gag a few episodes down the line. This show does love people impersonating other people.

The Donkey Doug story of the title is quite a change of pace for the show, as we get our extended look at Jacksonville and the environment that created someone like Jason. Not entirely sure it worked, but there was a lot of funny along the way. I think my favourite bit was when they slipped into a Shark Tank pitch for their energy drink body spray.

Podcast this time is Marc Evan Jackson (he plays Shawn) talking with Manny Jacinto, Mitch Narito (he plays Donkey Doug), and writer Matt Murray.

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Saturday, January 04, 2020

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 31 - Jeremy Bearimy

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The Good Place
Chapter 31 - Jeremy Bearimy
Season 3, Episode 5
October 18, 2018

This episode is definitely the high point of the season to date, although it would get eclipsed soon enough.

Loved Michael attempting one final big lie to cover what the humans saw before Janet convinces him to confess everything.

The whole "Jeremy Bearimy" timeline explanation and Chidi's reaction to the dot on the "i" is a series highlight. His whole breakdown sequence, from the encounter with the drug dealer to the shopping trip to the classroom and rescue by Eleanor is great. "You put the peeps in the chili pot and you add the M&Ms"

Hm, Michael and Janet writing a manifesto. Wonder if that will wind up being important later?

"Why not try? It's better than not trying, right?"

Podcast for this episode is Marc talking with D’Arcy Carden, writer Megan Amram, and editor Eric Kissack.

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Friday, January 03, 2020

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 30 - The Snowplow

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The Good Place
Chapter 30 - The Snowplow
Season 3, Episode 4
October 11, 2018

Interesting episode, where they have to pack a lot in to get to the next phase of the story, so using a few montage bits to move it along.

"Everything here is in a... I don't know how to describe it. Like, a different zone of time. No, that sounds stupid. A different clock land."

And we finally meet Larry Hemsworth, the "non-famous Hemsworth brother" Tahani mentioned back in Season Two. He was a lot of fun, with his unearned lack of confidence. "Stupid Larry! Stop talking about rocks!". Jason had the best line for him, though, with "did Miley Cyrus write the song Wrecking Ball about Chris's brother Liam?".

Loved Eleanor's breakdown over the study being over, and then Simone's talking her down.

And that ending with them walking in on Michael and Janet and the door to the afterlife, that's a cliffhanger.

Podcast for this episode is Marc talking with production designer Ian Phillips and director Beth McCarthy-Miller.

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