TV is showing us the dark side of playing God

Source: The Washington Post

 January 5 at 6:00 AM

Kristen Bell stars in the comedy “The Good Place.” (Colleen Hayes/NBC)

Theologians and other thinkers have described God in several ways over the centuries. God is a stern father. He’s a mechanistic prime mover. He’s a watchmaker. And, most recently, in the NBC sitcom “The Good Place,” God is a television showrunner.

Several recent TV programs suggest that creating a television show is a lot like creating the world. Small-screen hits like “The Good Place,” “Westworld,” “American Gods” and “Blood Drive” tease out the idea that there’s something divine about television. They acknowledge that the idiot box has become an idol — for better or worse.

Now in the middle of its second season, NBC’s “The Good Place,” Michael Schur’s comedy about the afterlife, makes this dynamic particularly clear. Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) wakes up to find herself in heaven, or the Good Place. Though Michael (Ted Danson), the angel architect of the Good Place, thinks Eleanor is a selfless humanitarian who spent her life fighting for the poor and needy, she knows she’s there because of a glitch. (On Earth, she was a self-centered jerk who sold fake supplement pills to the sick and elderly.)

The first season of the show is devoted to Eleanor’s efforts to stay in the Good Place; she tries to become a better person by studying ethics with her maybe soul mate, the sweet, indecisive professor Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper).

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