The Good Place is a show about characters trying to figure out what they’ve done to be considered good people in the afterlife. By all accounts, it should have failed.
Despite the show’s critical acclaim and built-in cult audience who will follow creator Mike Schur (Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) wherever he goes, the show hovered toward the lower end of the ratings pool. The Good Place did better than Supernatural or Frequency on the CW, but still lost out to Chicago Med, Superstore, My Kitchen Rules and The Great Indoors on a weekly basis.
On top of competing with series like Grey’s Anatomy, Legends of Tomorrow, Life in Pieces and, of course, Thursday Night Football, it seemed like The Good Place was set to be a one-season show.
Still, Schur and his team beat all odds by getting a second season renewal. Like the first season, the second will retain a 13-episode format. Schur requested a shorter season because it would be more serialized than most other broadcast comedies, according to a press release from NBC.
The question is why NBC picked up The Good Place for a second season instead of taking a bet on another show that could perform better. There are a couple of reasons, but none as important as the critical acclaim The Good Place received and the desire to keep the relationship with Schur going.
Much Parks and Recreation, The Good Place wasn’t going to be a Big Bang Theory for NBC. Parks and Recreation always seemed to be on the verge of cancellation because of poor ratings, much in the same way Community was. It was such a constant conversation, that Schur eventually responded to the question of low ratings by acknowledging uncertainty bred better and more daring ideas.
“I’ve come to really enjoy the uncertainty,” Schur told HitFix. “I think it breeds good ideas.”
Despite the show’s future being questioned every summer — when networks tend to announce which shows are on the chopping block — Parks and Recreation managed to escape time and time again. Even though the show suffered from continuous losses in the ratings as it went on, NBC stood by it. It was the network’s commitment to the show — and to Schur himself — which led to the creator bringing The Good Place and his new show, Landlords, to NBC.
To better understand the type of relationship NBC has with Schur, you have to look at Shonda Rhimes and ABC. Much like Schur, Rhimes has a number of projects on ABC, including some of the most popular series on television today like Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder and Grey’s Anatomy. Also like Schur, Rhimes has proved repeatedly that her shows bring a devoted audience. It’s at the point where Rhimes has her own programming block on the network, referred to as Shondaland (also the name of her production company), and has helped other producers and actors on her shows get their own series on ABC.
Even if Rhimes had a bad series, ABC wants to keep that relationship blooming. NBC, as seen through its press release announcing the renewal of The Good Place, clearly feels the same way.
“Mike Schur has always had one of the most fertile and imaginative minds in comedy,” Jennifer Salke, president of entertainment at NBC, said, adding that the network was looking forward to keeping their relationship going.
Besides the behind-the-scenes actions of network executives, it’s important to note that The Good Place is a phenomenal show on its own. It doesn’t need to be rescued by NBC, as Community did. Instead, it’s one of the rare times that a network is placing a stronger emphasis on the critical success of the show rather than its ratings performance.
Even more importantly, much like Parks and Recreation, there’s a very good chance that The Good Place will find new fans through streaming. NBC sold the streaming rights to Parks and Recreation to Netflix, and the series found a new generation of viewers that weren’t tuning in on a Thursday night. It was through that breed of internet-savvy viewers, who referenced the show in a variety of memes and conversations on Twitter, that NBC found new value for the show.
Schur’s TV series are almost designed for a streaming generation, and it’s a wise decision on NBC’s part to continue hedging bets on The Good Place while opening up other avenues to watch them.
The Good Place will return for the 2017/2018 season.