We found a fun, family show that addresses my favourite topic – happiness. We are always trying to find great TV shows that we can watch together as a family. With two boys (13 and 10 yrs old), along with my husband and I, it is always a challenge to find something we all enjoy. My husband would prefer something sci fi, I like dramas, and the boys favour superheroes. While together my husband and I might choose shows like Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad, these just aren’t appropriate for the kids.
Invariably we land on a comedy series. Throughout the pandemic we have been thoroughly entertained by The Office, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Kim’s Convenience, and most recently, The Good Place.
When I first started watching The Good Place I thought it was cute, funny, but a little shallow. The show largely takes place in the afterlife of the main characters. The Good Place is where good people go when they die and the Bad Place is, well, you get it. Eleanor, the main character played by Kristen Bell, was a selfish person during her life and not fit for The Good Place, but the character Tahani apparently was. This bothered me. Tahani definitely comes across as a good person on the surface but the fact that she brags and does nice things for attention and recognition doesn’t make her much more deserving than Eleanor of being in The Good Place, in my humble opinion. Her qualities struck me as ego-based. Thus, it seemed a little superficial at the beginning.
Despite my initial skepticism, The Good Place turned out to be a great show. We ended up enjoying it on two levels. It was fun and entertaining but we also enjoyed it on a deeper level. I’ll explain.
Death gives perspective to life
Since the show takes place mainly after death, it’s hard not to think about life and death. Thinking about dying always provides an opportunity to contemplate life. A lot of Eastern philosophies use death as a meditation point. When I consider the finite nature of my life, it compels me to think about how I am spending the days I have on Earth. Stephen R. Covey walks through a powerful exercise that demonstrates this point superbly in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
The exercise goes like this . . . Picture yourself walking into a funeral home, there is soft music playing in the background. You look around and recognize most of the people as they quietly talk. The eulogy is about to begin and as you walk to the front of the room you notice a picture. It is you. You realize that this is your funeral. Now imagine what people are saying about you. What message are they sharing about your life and your time on Earth? What do you want them to be saying about you?
When I first read this book I was in high school. The exercise had a profound impact on me. I jotted down the things I wanted to be remembered for and the way I wanted people to feel upon my death. It gave me some guiding principles for my life. I realized I didn’t have to be many things. In fact there were a few simple qualities that stuck out for me. It wasn’t grandiose accomplishments that mattered to me.
I encourage you to take a few minutes right now to do this exercise. Take your time and visualize your own funeral. Make a few notes of what you want people to say about you.
Now, back to The Good Place.
The Good Place – going deep but having fun
While the show capitalizes on the unique vantage point of the afterlife, it makes it light and fun. It’s not easy to take a deep and spiritual subject that can be scary, such as death, and make it meaningful and digestible. It dishes up jokes so we can laugh at ourselves and the way we live. The frozen yogurt and Starbucks obsessions. The things we wait in line for, social media catastrophes and celebrity gossip. It allows us to look at ourselves from a different perspective. Using an outlook from a person that has already died takes the fearfulness away. It offers us a chance to examine our current life. The things we worry about on a daily basis can seem ridiculous when thinking about the end of our life.
What does it mean to be good?
The show also triggered some deeper and interesting conversations in our house:
“What activities would you choose to do for infinity if you made it to The Good Place?”
“What is stopping you from doing some of those things now?”
And then there is the topic of choosing to be good.
“If you knew you had no chance of getting into the Good Place, would you still choose to be good on Earth?”
“If you choose to be good, what is your motivation?” The answer, “To feel good” is insightful. Helping other people feels good, which makes me happy. So, if I help others now, I can be happy now, regardless of what I believe about my afterlife. This allows me to focus on the present moment. And as I have learned, this is the key ingredient to happiness.
In the end . . .
The Good Place accomplished something similar that I hope to achieve with the book Good Morning, Life! It gave me the opportunity to think about my life’s purpose and what makes me happy now. And it caused me to think about life from a different angle. But at the same time, it shows that life is meant to be enjoyable and fun. We can laugh at ourselves, at our egos, and our collective egos (in a non-judgmental way of course). We don’t have to take ourselves too seriously. Enjoy the frozen yogurt and ride all the waves on the surface of our lives. In the end, the waves return to the ocean. The awareness of this intersection gives us the ability to live a purposeful and fulfilling life while enjoying each moment. The Good Place is a family show that delves into happiness.
So, if you are looking for a light and entertaining show to watch with your family over the holidays, with an added benefit of having something deeper to ponder, I would recommend The Good Place. And if it’s a book you are looking for, check out Good Morning, Life!