Why Shows Like 'The Good Place,' 'Parks and Recreation' & 'The Office' Make You So Happy

It would be hard to find a Netflix loyalist who doesnt have

The Office on repeat
. The American adaptation of the British
cringe comedy went on to have unprecedented success, lasting for
nine seasons and giving us a meme for every occasion. The writing
and acting crew have been responsible for some incredible work
since then:
Steve Carell is starring
in one Oscar-nominated movie after
another;
John Krasinski is a new directing favorite
; and
Mindy Kaling has created shows
, written books,
starred in ensembles
, and kept her off-screen banter
with BJ Novak
alive. But one Office alum in particular has been
quietly, consistently working to create some of your favorite shows
on television.

Michael Schur may have been one of the many excellent writers on
The Office, but since then, he has become a showrunning veteran in
his own right. He co-created Parks and Recreation with Greg Daniels
and Brooklyn Nine-Nine with comedy writer Dan Goor; he pitched The
Good Place to NBC on his own. All three shows are critically
acclaimed and widely considered brilliant, but the popularity they
enjoy is a very specific type of cult fandom: The kind that causes

Brooklyn Nine-Nine fans to stage a massive cyber-protest
in the
wake of the shows cancellation at Fox, so NBC could swoop in and
save the sixth season. The kind that prompts fans on Reddit to go
all-out in studying philosophy in an attempt to predict The Good
Place’s next twist. The kind that will create an
Urban Dictionary entry
for a now-iconic phrase (“Treat yo
self”) in Parks and Recreation lore. The kind that spawns
endless Janet cosplay
, and “Leslie Knope for president” fan
art.

The fandom for Schur’s shows might just be the happiest group
online. So what is it about these shows that earns them such an
ardent following, and why is it that all of these shows are so
rewatchable? A simple social media search would indicate that fans
turn to these shows in moments of personal crisis to take a break
from the current political landscape or end-of-semester stress
levels with each of these series functioning as a refuge from some
of the harsher truths of the outside world. There’s something
inherently optimistic yet still insightful about all of these
shows. They provide an alternate reality in which the mundanity of
key facets of everyday life (usually the workplace, with the
exception of The Good Place) is played for laughs without
undermining the inherent goodness of the majority of the
characters.

It helps that each of these shows is centered around a
protagonist so sincere and authentically fleshed out that we cannot
help but root for him (or her). The Office’s Michael Scott just
wants to be loved by all and find true happiness in that
validation. Parks and Recreation’s Leslie Knope is a diehard
optimist, a believer in the system, and an active advocate for
administrative reform. Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Jake Peralta and
Raymond Holt are capable, disciplined cops who are good at their
jobs and make it look effortlessly cool and fun. And then theres
The Good Place’s Eleanor Shellstrop who, while not the nicest
person at first, learns the values of friendship and loyalty, and
discovers the power in goodness somewhere along that journey.

Mike Schurs characters are not steamrolling voices
screaming for attention. Theyre quietly working, improving upon
themselves and the world.

At a time when America is corroded by partisanship, the
socialist Democrat in Leslie Knope and the stubborn Libertarian in
Ron Swanson find common ground through friendship, mutual respect,
and government work on Parks and Recreation. When tensions between
private citizens and police forces are rife, we get the diverse,
queer-friendly, feminist 99th precinct in Brooklyn Nine-Nine. And
in a click-baiting world, when the more existential ponderings of
philosophy and morality are sacrificed for instant intellectual
gratification, we have four doomed characters on The Good Place
asking the enduring question: Is a do-over possible? Schur weaves
in these contemporary backdrops seamlessly, and in doing so,
manages the impossible. He responds to our innate desires and
queries as humanely as he possibly can, with a diverse group of
actors at the helm.

Unfortunately, most shows with diverse cast members often erase
the intricacies of their lived experiences, to an effect where the
representations feel shallow and incomplete. Feminist storylines,
queer characters, and characters of color are often emphasized for
an episode or two to satisfy a seismic shift toward the political
in television and then quickly dropped. Schur subverts this by
building storylines around a myriad group of people, each unique in
their own way.

In Schurs universe, women and characters of color are complex
people full of delights and faults, and rarely do they succumb to
the tropes that the industry imposes on them. Has any other show
ever had a character like Raymond Holt,
whos unabashedly queer, ambitious, and equally capable of deadpan
seriousness and cutting-edge sass? Then theres a Senegalese
academic in Chidi (William Harper Jackson), a hustling genius from
South Carolina in Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), a vapid socialite
from London in
Tahani (Jameela Jamil)
, and a caring mother-hen in Michelin-Man
Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews).

Schurs characters not only defy stereotypes, they also help
address televisions problem with token representation.
Stephanie Beatriz, who plays Brooklyn Nine-Nines badass, bisexual
cop Rosa Diaz
, commented on how surprised she was to be cast on
the show after Melissa Fumero had already been signed on to play
Amy Santiago. Even though they were up for two separate characters,
Beatriz was shocked that a mainstream show could have more than two
Latina actors playing central characters, a sadly still rare
occurrence in Hollywood.

Schurs television has given us powerful female friendships, too.
Theres Leslies undying adoration for Ann, Eleanor and Tahanis
fan-approved ship that never succumbs to a silly rivalry over men,
and the triumvirate of Amy-Rosa-Gina, which recognizes and accepts
each womans quirks. Schur’s shows have also given us groups whose
members are fiercely loyal to one another, whether that be Parks
and Recreations titular parks department, Brooklyn Nine-Nines
eponymous precinct, or the damned-but-hopefully-redeemed humans and
those who help them on The Good Place.

And then there are the romances, each of which is as complete,
endearing, and feminist as the next. The women in Mike Schurs
television shows are ambitious, flawed but ultimately courageous
characters who find their romantic partners at their own pace,
without needing to sacrifice their most innate qualities. In Parks
and Recreation, it is Ben Wyatt who makes space for Leslie Knopes
political career, just like Jake Peralta does for Amy Santiagos
disciplined rise up the ranks in Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The men are
never portrayed as dormant pushovers; they actively champion
women’s ambitions and emotional growth. Even in The Good Place,
Chidi remains Eleanors everlasting support, as they slowly and many
times over acquiesce themselves to each others eccentricities. No
one partner comes off shortchanged.

But no amount of careful considerations for inclusivity and
political correctness can guarantee a show its fanbase if its just
not good, and Schurs shows do all of this without compromising on
the humor. Schurs greatest skill as a showrunner is to take
relatable characters and place them in extraordinary circumstances
whether its the Heist episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine that become
increasingly absurd with each season or the literal fact that the
characters of The Good Place are dead and in heaven and still make
them hilarious. The humor is never alienating, because the jokes
never come at the expense of the misfortune of their characters. In
a sea of questionable television writing, to be able to watch a
show and not feel guilty for enjoying it feels like an undeserved
reward, like youve been gifted the precious secret to happiness as
the world burns around you.

Mike Schurs characters are not steamrolling voices screaming for
attention. Theyre quietly working, improving upon themselves and
the world. Theyre the unsung heroes, the good people. The ones you
champion, and want to be more like. And perhaps that’s why we can’t
stop watching Mike Schurs shows. We could all do with the hope that
it gets better.

Source: FS – All – Entertainment – News 2
Why Shows Like 'The Good Place,' 'Parks and Recreation' & 'The Office' Make You So Happy