This TV Tuesday post was originally going to be another rant about WTF is going on with NCIS (I held off on because I didn’t want to kvetch on Christmas). But then I had a really interesting thought about my other favorite (broadcast) TV show, The Good Place.
There’s an old joke about the philosophy professor who says, “Every time I think I’ve had an original though, it turns out some damned ancient Greek thought of it first.” There’s a more serious version in Ecclesiastes: “There is nothing new under the sun.”
It turns out I’m not the first, by a long stretch, to notice how The Good Place echos and references The Wizard of Oz.
In my defense, I never really cared for The Wizard of Oz. I’m not big on musicals or silly fantasies (not even as a kid). My sister really loved it, so we had to watch it every year.
I always found it kind of lame. The poor Wicked Witch can apparently never wash her hands, and who can blame her for being upset that Dorothy stole her sister’s magic shoes. It’s a pretty messed up story, generally speaking.
If you watch The Good Place and are as late to the light bulb switch as I am, check it out:
Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) is obviously Dorothy. Something catastrophic happens to her, and she’s whisked away to a magic land where she meets some friends and goes on a journey (of self-discovery).
Michael (Ted Danson), equally obviously, is the Wizard — someone powerful pretending to be someone they are definitely not. And someone who starts as nemesis and ends as friend.
Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), lacking in the courage to ever make a decision, is the Cowardly Lion. (And this Dorothy ends up cuddling with the Lion.)
Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto), the Florida numbskull, is certainly the Scarecrow. Both are total sweethearts. Who wouldn’t want to party with the Scarecrow or Jason?
Tahani Al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil), who has no heart (no authenticity), is the Tin Man. (Who was the taller one of the bunch!) In terms of jewelry and accessories, Tahani wears a lot of “tin.” In her ability to be cutting, she wields an axe.
Janet (D’Arcy Carden) might be Glinda, the Good Witch, but I think maybe ‘Gen , short for Hydrogen, played by the wonderful Maya Rudolph, might be better for that role.
Janet is more important to the main characters to be Glinda, plus she’s always around. Janet is a new addition, which seems appropriate, since she’s “not a girl.”
Sean (Marc Evan Jackson) and company all play the role of the very water-soluble Wicked Witch. Vicky Sengupta (Tiya Sircar), in particular, is a good bad witch.
It’s really all rather perfect, and — as with House, M.D. being a Sherlock Holmes analogue — is entirely deliberate.
For instance, at one point, they were all going to escape the place using a hot air balloon (if they could manage to pass the entrance test).
The show also has the very colorful look and the whimsical feel that The Wizard of Oz did.
On the other hand, no Toto.
While this seems like a light bulb that just went on for me, I think it’s more the case of something I’d read and forgotten that resurfaced.
In fact, when I searched for [The Good Place Wizard of Oz] and got a lot of hits (damned ancient Greeks), one of the links I followed and read seemed very familiar to me.
But from my perspective, I went from thinking about NCIS and TV shows in general (for this post) to thinking about how The Good Place was in its last season.
Somehow, I got to thinking of Chidi as the Cowardly Lion and click went the light bulb. All I can say is that it was fun apparently connecting the dots. It literally made me light up and Laugh Out Loud.
Now if only Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon factored in somehow…
[Many years ago, because the movie was airing, we tried this at a party. The music does, in fact, match the images. In some places, eerily so. Then we got bored, changed channels, but left the music going. And the music still matched. In some places, eerily so. The truth is, your mind matches the music with the picture — you make it fit.]
I do have to say a few words about the NCIS fall finale.
If you’ve read my last few posts about the show, this won’t surprise you: Simply put, for me, the show jumped the shark with the whole Ziva David plot line.
I was against bringing her back from the dead, and I still am.
Also, I don’t like terrorist stories — especially Middle Eastern terrorist stories — in my military-flavored homicide detective police procedural stories.
(That crap is a big part of why I stopped watching NCIS:LA.)
Nor do I want the dreary shoot-em-up action thriller stories. I’m beyond tired of gunfire in my entertainment. I am, in fact, kind of sick to death of it.
So this whole Ziva thing hit all the wrong notes for me, is what I’m saying. In my view, it’s everything NCIS isn’t supposed to be.
If I want that sort of thing, I’ll watch Jack Ryan or Homeland (or any of a myriad of other choices for that same old shit).
In fact, I watched both Homeland and Jack Ryan. I bailed on Homeland in the later seasons (7?) — combination of it getting stale and viewing habit changes (cutting the cable removed HBO and Showtime from my life). I can’t say I miss it.
I just binged season two of Jack Ryan, which was okay (a high Eh! rating). I did like the shift away from the Middle East to Venezuela. That’s keeping it fresh.
Anyway, a few grumps about the NCIS fall finale. [SPOILERS!]
Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) was said to be appearing in four episodes this season. The two-part season opener introduced and focused on her plot line. The fall finale is her third appearance.
One more will wrap it up, but I’ve heard rumors she might rejoin the show. It’s hard to see how she’d fit in, although they did seem to set up a possible exit for Eleanor Bishop (to the CIA).
It turns out Tony did know — but didn’t tell Gibbs. In fact, Tony is strangely absent from all their lives, considering they’re all family. The whole keeping secrets thing just annoys the shit out of me (in real life as well as in fiction).
If you can’t trust Leroy Jethro Gibbs, then you can’t trust anyone.
What happened to Gibbs’ famous gut? Just how checked out is he? (Is this what they’re going for? A guy falling apart or going through a major life change?)
Sahar used her son to get close to Gibbs? (This active terrorist is traveling around with her son?) She moved into a house across the street from Gibbs hoping Ziva might show up? Seriously? W.T.F!
And then there are the (pardon my language) fucking fans and all the speculative hand-wringing news articles that ruined any possibility of surprise.
I am not a fan of fans. (I’ll spare you the paragraphs of spittle-flecked ranting I just deleted.)
Thanks to a news feed headline I couldn’t avoid, I’m forced to know that Gibbs, indeed, (apparently) will pay for his behavior lately. So I guess we really are doing the Gibbs is breaking down thing. [sigh]
Loyalty has kept me with the show thus far, but that quality is increasingly strained.
(I do have a high loyalty quotient, but, as I think is typical for such as I, when it does break, it breaks in a big way.)
Loyalty is why I’m still watching The Blacklist, by the way. I’m pretty thoroughly lost plot-wise this season, and — a salient point — I don’t really care. I just watch for Spader.
Stay in a Good Place, my friends!
January 8th, 2020 at 12:52 pm
A nice thing about The Good Place is that it will only ever have four seasons, so it’ll be easy for people to watch the whole thing. I suspect it’s one of those shows where the appreciation for it will only grow.
January 9th, 2020 at 1:00 am
I’ve seen the third Ziva episode now, and it was largely the same ridiculous crap.
They’re chasing a Bad Guy through an alley and boom Ziva (who’s supposed to be on her way to Paris to see Tony) pops up in time to clothesline the guy. (Shot in that really stupid cliche way that makes it seem a person literally popped out of thin air.)
The whole thing was a cliched hackneyed mess. Gibbs is definitely off the chain — so much for all his discipline and fidelity, lost to plot demands. (Not to mention how his gut blindsided him.)
Tony was completely absent with a tease about not responding to her text messages but ultimately sending videos from the daughter. But still no word from Tony. Not even a text. Weird.
One more of these to suffer through, apparently. I guess, what, the brother of the guard who got Sahar pregnant with the kid is a hanging thread? Or will they at least try to slot her into a normal NCIS story?
I am really souring on this show…
February 29th, 2020 at 7:42 pm
The TV Sins YouTube channel did an episode from The Good Place. As usual, it’s a hoot:
February 29th, 2020 at 7:51 pm
The video has my favorite shot in the series: The moment when Eleanor figures it out and challenges Michael. It’s the big turn-around moment of the series when we first find out what’s really going on.
Ted Danson’s reaction — that evil grin that takes over his face — is just amazing. He really is a very good actor!
January 22nd, 2021 at 9:00 am
It has occurred to me that the one flaw in The Good Place (which I’m re-watching these days) is the same flaw that nearly ever after-life story has: it casts the afterlife as a kind of subset of humanity.
But, if the after-life exists, then it seems more likely to me that humanity is a subset of that greater metaphysics. But in most of our current views, we created the metaphysics — it’s a part of us.
Of course, how does a storyteller go about presenting something that is bigger than we can imagine?
It’s exactly why that TV show, Big Bang Theory never did anything for me (in fact, kinda turned me off). The writers weren’t as smart as their characters, so those characters came off as ‘pseudo-dumb’ compared to what they were supposed to be. This is almost always the case when a non-genius writer tries to write a genius character. (And those of us who actually are, literally by test, geniuses, can spot that shit a mile away. And it stinks.)
This whole line of thought occurred when I started thinking about how Michael is supposed to be an ancient super-being to whom humans are as “cockroaches” — but he acts like a dumb human. All the time. We never really see the ancient being part because no one knows how to write it.
All that said, The Good Place is still one of the best TV comedies ever done.
January 24th, 2021 at 12:22 pm
[…] Wager, Spinoza’s God (physics), and other metaphysical topics. Also quantum mechanics and The Good Place. And George Floyd. (Think he ever imagined he’d have a Wiki […]
March 30th, 2021 at 7:49 am
[…] The Good Place of Oz for how the show resembles The Wizard of […]
August 10th, 2021 at 2:43 pm
[…] fresh and engaging. I know of stories that explicitly raise moral questions (one of my favorites: The Good Place), but that kind of thoughtfulness isn’t common, at least not in most fare. (And often what […]
May 31st, 2023 at 11:05 am
Update: No longer watching either NCIS or The Blacklist. Ended my subscription to YouTube TV, so I only watch what’s on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.